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Some psychology experts believe that leaders are born, while others believe leadership is a skill that someone can learn. The study of the area of leadership concludes that there are four basic and classical theories of leadership. The theories cover the traits and characteristics of leaders and how leaders should behave.

Trait Theories

Trait theories cover the characteristics that great leaders possess. This theory was founded and researched by researchers such as Stogdill in 1948 and Mann in 1959. Early research states that leaders have traits such as assertiveness, the ability to motivate others and intelligence, which makes them innate and great leaders. While early research efforts focused on the traits and characteristics of leaders, other researchers found that there wasn’t any correlation between the traits and characteristics of leaders that were different from followers.

Behavior Theories

By the 1960s, researchers started focusing their research efforts on the behaviors of leaders. By 1968, the research led to the creation of the Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid. The grid groups work styles together to create four main working styles: “Concern for Tasks, Concerns for People, Directive Leadership and Participative Leadership.” These categories describe how leaders work and interact with followers to lead the followers to completing the tasks at hand.

Contingency Theories

Contingency theories focus on how leaders operate depending on which situation they find themselves. For example, a leader may emerge in a crisis but act differently as a leader in a day-to-day situation. Contingency theories state that the behaviors and traits of leaders change depending on the situation.

Transformation Theories

Transformational theories compare how leaders react in a transactional situation as opposed to a transformational situation. A transaction leader acts in a certain way as a tradeoff for a benefit-he acts in a small picture view rather than a big picture one. For example, a transactional leader may identify the benefits of a business reaching a certain goal. The leader then provides employee praise in exchange for the employee performing tasks to achieve the intended outcome. A transformational leader on the other hand acts from a big picture viewpoint. A transformation leader understands how all of the actions of the followers or employees help the business achieve a common goal. Not only does a transformational leader understand the goal from a big picture view, but the leader also educates the followers or employees on the big picture benefits that each small task accomplishes and motivates the followers in this way.


Other theorists say that with the right personality-a charismatic one-a leader can motivate followers to do just about anything. People tend to have a human nature of wanting to help, work with or follow the orders of people they like. Proof of this theory may play our best in cult and political leaders who can motivate their followers to act as the leaders say.

Source by Kristie Lorette McCauley