For years, people in the managerial position at work have striven to be good leaders for their teams and as a result, the study of leadership theories has emerged. There are various leadership theories that have gained recognition, but their application in real life remains debatable. Read on to learn about these theories and how they can be applied to improve leadership skills-
Trait theories such as the Great Man theory state that people are born good leaders: that is, they are born with certain traits that are perfect for leadership, such as possessing great decision-making skills, being charismatic and helpful, empathetic and understanding, etc. However, this thought has been countered as many successful leaders have proven that such traits can be developed with time and practice as well, they don’t have to be present since birth.
Behavioral theories of leadership advance the view that leaders can be trained and taught key skills and that leadership is defined further by what the leaders do- the decisions they make, the steps they take, rather than having certain traits present in them. Three styles of leadership are often followed under this set of theories- democratic, autocratic and laissez faire. Practically, the most suitable style out of these is the democratic style as the leader involves everyone in the decision-making process, whereas the laissez faire style sees hardly any participation of the leader and the autocratic style is too despotic.
By far the most widely practiced style of leadership is situational leadership, which comes under a contingency theory of leadership. According to these theories, the leader adapts his or her style of leading and decision-making according to the changing situation and needs of their team. This style is the most suitable in today’s world as well, since business scenarios, markets and other factors are constantly in flux and only a situational leader can handle such changes.
Power theories are based solely on the idea of using power and authority to assert leadership and get the work done. Most of the time, this kind of power may be legitimate power exerted by senior managers or bosses, but it is still not popular particularly among followers, as it is not a leader-follower relationship based on trust and sharing of opinion: rather it is a reward-punishment system. If the follower completes the work as desired by the leader, he or she is rewarded and if not, he or she is punished. While this is an effective enough style that gets work done, it is not at all viable if the leader wants to establish a good rapport with the followers and wants to be a compassionate leader.
Thus, it is evident that while each leadership style has its own use and effectiveness, good leaders are those who employ different leadership styles as and when the situation calls for it. Further, some leadership styles are applied more than others as they are more suitable, such as the contingency theories rather than power theories.
Leadership theories have gained huge importance as an increasing number of managers look forward to practically apply the theories for the betterment of employee-employer relationship, and the organization at large. Various leadership styles have emerged from the theories, and it is up to the leader to apply the right theory or style as per the situation.