Leadership Theories: Learning to Become an Effective Leader

leadership theoriesLeadership experts are developing new styles and theories at a break-neck pace. They claim these new insights into human nature can make the difference between successful leadership and failure. These so-called experts are only half right. Effective leadership is the key to success but their new insights are not really that new. Many of these self-pronounced experts are simply rehashing the lessons managers have learned through centuries of commercial interaction. In short, they are putting a new spin on old material.

Leadership is a natural quality that very few people possess. Natural leaders can use this ability more effectively by learning the different leadership theories and how they apply in different circumstances. People that do not naturally possess leadership can become adequate leaders through diligent training. There are two basic categories that all leadership theories fall into. While there may be slight differences between the hundreds of styles self-pronounced experts are promoting, they all fall into one of these two categories.

1. Trait Theory

There are certain characteristics that an effective leader must have. Trait theory attempts to identify and define these characteristics. Leadership characteristics are core values and behaviors that can be observed by other people. They easily translate into action. There is no exhaustive list of leadership characteristics. Some businesses prefer certain traits over others. Here are a few examples of identified traits:

  • Drive – A burning desire to accomplish the task or succeed at the mission. Leaders that possess drive are always moving forward. They face every challenge with optimism and have an uncanny ability to motivate employees.
  • Decisiveness – The ability to make tough decisions with confidence. Decisive leaders are able to face risk, develop a plan and executive. They are able to direct their teams through difficult situations without second guessing themselves.
  • Creative Problem-solving – The ability to think outside-of-the-box. Most problems do not have textbook answers. Effective leaders must understand the elements of the problem and be able to develop a solution without relying on conventional wisdom.
  • Self Control – The ability to control one’s behavior in any situation. Controlled leaders are not quick to anger. They stop and thing about the problem before rushing into it. They think before they speak and almost never harsh with employees.

Taking an online course can help you develop your leadership characteristics.

2. Behavior Theory

Effective leaders should be able to change their outward behavior depending on the situation. Understanding the situation is critical when developing solutions or dealing with employees. While this theory does not focus on leadership traits, it does require certain traits in order apply changes to behavior. Taking an online course can help you develop effective leadership habits.

There are four behavioral leadership categories:

  • Task Oriented – Organizing the team to achieve maximum productivity and achieve the organization’s goals. This is the most basic of the behavioral categories that every effective manager should be able to apply. Low productivity and failure to meet goals is typically not tolerated very long in any company. Situational leadership falls under this category.
  • People Oriented – Recognizing that employees are not just cogs in a machine. Employees are real people with real problems. Understanding human nature and developing empathy are key to applying this behavioral category.
  • Directive Approach – Centralized decision-making process that expect employees to simply follow directions. This style does not seek advice outside of the chain-of-authority. Employee opinions are valued by not actively sought after when making critical decisions.
  • Participative Approach – Decentralized decision-making process that actively seeks employee opinions when making critical decisions. Popular consensus is not the measuring stick used for decision-making. However, managers recognize that employees have unique experiences and can offer helpful insights.

Effective leadership is a commodity that is in short supply. Training yourself to become a more effective leader will open up many career opportunities.  You can be begin your leadership journey with Jack Welch’s Leadership in Action course.