Much has been written about leadership over many years. This section of SkillsYouNeed explains some of the theory behind leadership. This includes both leadership trait theory and the idea behind the development of different leadership styles.
New and existing leaders will find helpful information to explain how to develop their leadership, and ensure that they become even more effective in leading others.
The section covers:
What is a Leader?
Many people struggle to define leadership, and particularly to identify the difference between leadership and management.
Leadership may be both formal and informal. When we think of a ‘leader’, we often mean someone who holds a formal leadership position, which is recognised in their job title, or in how others regard them. But it is also possible to be a leader because of how you behave, or because of the position into which you are pushed by circumstances. Our page What is a Leader? explores some of these issues.
The other difficult issue for many people is to identify the difference between leadership and management. One distinction is that leaders use vision, while managers plan. Another is in the difference between innovators and administrators. Our page Leadership is not the Same as Management discusses this issue further.
Theories of Leadership
There are a number of theories of leadership that have been developed over the years.
Leadership Trait Theory was one of the earliest theories developed. The original form of the theory suggests that leaders require certain traits that are inborn. In essence, it says that leaders are born, not made.
Modern trait theory is rather more nuanced, and suggests that leaders are more likely to have certain traits than other people.
There are also many theories about Leadership Styles. One of the best-known and most supported by evidence is Daniel Goleman’s Six Leadership Styles, although there are many others. One alternative model, for instance, was developed by Richard Olivier based on Shakespeare’s Henry V.
Take our quiz - What Sort of Leader are You? to find out your preferred leadership style.
Improving Your Leadership
Becoming a leader is only the start. Leaders need to develop and learn, to improve the way that they lead.
Daniel Goleman’s Six Leadership Styles model suggests that we all have a default leadership style to which we tend to revert under pressure. But the very best leaders can, and do, use all six styles. Our page on Developing Your Leadership Style gives ideas about how you can improve all six styles.
Another important aspect of leadership is Ethical Leadership. More and more businesses are starting to recognise that the end does not always justify the means. Instead, they are looking for leaders with strong ethical frameworks, those who navigate leadership using a strong moral compass, or sense of right and wrong. This page discusses this concept, and how you can develop and become an ethical or principle-centred leader.
The Importance of Understanding
It is, of course, possible to lead without any understanding of the background or theories about leadership.
The general consensus about leadership, however, is that some understanding of alternative leadership styles supports learning and development, and will, ultimately, make you a better leader.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.
Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.