Best Leadership Theories That You Must Know in 2021

Every organization needs good leadership that can make it successful. To be a great leader means to be able to handle your followers and motivate them to give the best outcome. However, sometimes it also means to bring out the best in people (followers) and to help them find their path. 

There is no correct definition of being a leader but there sure are some leadership theories that you should be aware of, especially in recent times. You may have the inherent quality of leadership or you might not, but learning never goes out of fashion. That’s why in this article I am going to provide you with a few of the best leadership theories you must know in 2021.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

What are Leadership Theories?

Leadership is the process of social influence, that optimizes the efforts of others to lead them towards their goal. We have leadership theories to study the qualities of leaders and based on that leadership styles are developed.

Leadership Theories are schools of thought that explain why and how certain people become leaders in their fields. It emphasizes traits and behavioral theories, that individuals adapt to increase their leadership quality. 

A few of the traits which leaders have in them and is considered important to are: 

  • Efficient Learner
  • Nurture employees’ growth
  • High moral standards and strong ethics
  • Self- organizational skills

These leadership theories explain how traits are developed and harness by leaders.

Types of Leadership Theories to know in 2021

There are different leadership styles which you must know in 2021 and these theories might be useful for you in your professional life. Let’s know a little in detail about the best leadership theories:

Behavioral Theory

The behavioral theories of leadership focus on the behavioral aspect of the leaders i.e, their actions or how they behave. In other words, this school of thought implies that leaders are not born but created by external factors or behavior they learn from. 

Behavioral theories of leadership suggest that the best way to predict leadership success is to look into “how leaders behave.” It focuses on the actions (what leaders do or how they tackle certain situations) rather than the qualities. The patterns of behavior are categorized as “styles of leadership” and that is why it is also known as the “style approach of leadership.”

There are many behavioral theories of leadership or I can say studies under this theory that strongly represent this idea approach. A few of them are Ohio State Studies, Michigan Studies, and The studies of Blake and Mouton. Moreover, “Ohio State University” and “The Michigan Studies” have identified two key behavioral categories: Orientation towards task and Orientation towards people.

Transformational Leadership Theory

This theory is one of the best leadership styles a person can adapt to become a good leader. It focuses on change in individuals and the social systems. The leaders inspire and encourage their followers to create a positive change within the organization. 

In this theory of leadership, leaders enhance the morale, performance, and motivation of individuals through various techniques. In this leadership style, leaders not only focuses on the end-goals but also their followers’ potential to be leaders. We can say that leaders with this style focus on meaningful change and sharpening the skills of their followers.  

Contingency Theory

The Fiedler Contingency leadership theory is similar to “Situational Theory”, it talks about the context of the leader. It says that there is not a particular style or way of leadership for leaders other than based on the situation they are in.  

In simpler terms, the approach of this theory is that a particular leadership style of a leader is applicable only till its fits the situation best. Once the situation is different leaders leadership style becomes different. It’s all about the situation, that leaders have to analyze and choose the best path amongst them to reach the end goal.

Transactional Theory

The Transactional Theory is also known as “Management Leadership” is unlike transformational leadership. It focuses on organization, supervision, and group performance. The leaders with this leadership style consider rewards and punishments as the leadership trait to motivate followers.  

This school of thought is based on the behavioral approach idea that people do things or get motivated just for the rewards and not out of goodness. There are few assumptions around this theory:

  • Obeying the commands and instructions of the leader is the primary goal of followers.
  •  Rewards and punishments motivate a worker
  • Employees perform the best when a chain of command is clear and definite.

Great Man Theory

This theory by Thomas Carlyle has come from the phrase “great leaders are born, not made.” The best examples for this theory if we look back are Alexander The Great, Napoleon, Elizabeth I, and contemporary leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. This theory tells that leadership qualities are inherited from generation to generation. 

The Great-Man theory states that some people are born with special traits or personalities which sets them apart from others from the start. These built-in qualities of leadership are what make some people natural leaders and are not trained to become one. The theory carries some credibility to the extent that leaders in general and great leaders, in particular, have a certain mystique about them and are viewed with awe by their followers.

Trait Theory

It is an extension of the “Great-Man theory”, it focuses on the inherited traits that are particularly suited for the leadership role. The Trait Theory approach is based on identifying different personality traits or characteristics (such as physical, personality, or psychological) to define the success or failure of a leader. 

Participative Theory

It is a style of leadership in which all the employees of the organization work together to make decisions and outcomes for the company. It is also called “Democratic Leadership”, as everyone is encouraged to participate in the workforce.

With such a type of leadership style, employees feel more motivated and engaged to work in an environment. It is one of the successful styles of leadership in organizations that have defined roles that needs little oversight or management.

Conclusion

I hope this article on best leadership theories helped you understand more about leadership styles. These are a few of the many theories of leadership, if adopted by the people make all the difference. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have their disadvantages or criticism faced by scholars.

Every leadership theories we have come across have their criticism to deal with, but that doesn’t mean they are not implemented or inherited by people in management.

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