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Leadership Theories

Leadership Theories

Cynthia Estrada

Professor: Angela Charles

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Organizational Leadership

July 9, 2017


Leadership theories have been the core foundation of studies and explanations towards understanding the nature of leadership. It is therefore essential to understand that several theories have been brought forward through scholarly research at extensive levels. However, I believe three of the most profound leadership theories can be utilized to fully help us understand the nature of leadership at any given contextual setting.

Behavioral theory – This is a theory which offers a new profound perspective in understanding the nature of leadership. Unlike trait or the great man theories, the behavioral theory asserts that leadership is nurtured rather than taking it roots right from birth.

Contingency theory– This theory affirms that leadership cannot be explained through certain situations and events only, rather expresses leadership as a broad and taking many forms in different angles. This implies that certain leaders are able to perform tremendously under certain situations while unable to perform at a similar level when taken to out of their preferred elements (Fiedler, 1978).

Transformational theory– Leadership within the transformation context asserts that positive change can be brought about when the leaders rally their uttermost interaction with their followers to create a formidable trust. It is through this trust that leaders are able to gel well enough with their followers, ultimately influencing sense through motivation and flexibility.

The above theories have what it takes in understanding how leadership should be explained in both profound and modern way. Some of the most prominent leaders who can be identified as core subscribers of the three theories occupied political and managerial positions. Donald Trump, Martin Luther King Jr., Adolf Hitler, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are six of my chosen leaders who exhibited the stated theories throughout their lives.  Although all of the three great men are gone, the impact on the leadership style they left remains impactful to date.

Analysis of established theories

Theory review

A review of the three theories brings to our senses the correlation link which exists among them. Behavioral theory is among the core leadership theory that has become more dominant and sort after in almost every other leadership role. Contingency and transformational theories are essential, especially where change and certain goals have to be fulfilled. The underlying principles in the three theories are among others;

Change- The principle of change is dominant in the three theories. It is through change that these leadership styles become essential in influencing the required strides whether at a group or organizational level. Change is inevitable; therefore, the right leadership style is required in laying the platform for the change to occur. Certain aspects of the desired change can be subject to resistance from groups within the organization. To ensure that the change is not undermined through the creation of obstacles, it would take a leader who subscribes to either of the theories to avert the hindrance.

Inspiration- Any leader who is to make an impact among his followers has to inspire them in adjusting to the required context. As a core principle common among the three theories, inspiration serves to a greater extent on how things turn out at every stage of organizational operation. If the leader’s behavior does not conform to what other followers deem inspirational, then very minimal will be achieved.

Motivation- The principle of motivation remains relevant throughout the leadership style transformation. Here, the leader serves as an embodiment of the desires of the organization or group. Motivation has to accompany minimal criticism, exercise flexibility, and serve as an energizing factor to others.

If a leader is not motivating, inspiring, or doesn’t exhibit the qualities he looks for among his/her followers, then working to perfection within the organization could be easily derailed. The likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. exhibited inspiration well beyond their jurisdiction. In doing so, it can be quite an easy task to lead when the followers are moved both emotionally and motivationally towards achieving the qualities of their respective leaders. The principles stated above are essential in ensuring that followers continue to feel being part of the idealistic panel that is responsible for making decisions, even when the leader is in the real sense doing it. This promotes qualities like democracy and equality while ensuring the leader remains both an exemplary and inspiration to his/her followers (House & Howell, 1992).

Theory Critique

Leadership theories have been the shaping tool to organizational performance. There is no way a leader could thrive in the present day world without buying one of the theories in leading a group or an organization. The values enshrined in the stated theories cannot be undermined since the impact would be drastic and ultimately derail the leadership qualities. Establishing a leadership style governed by the three theories should always remain a strengthening factor ideal in promoting and formulating the right course in decision making and operations.

Although the stated theories have remained central to good leadership style, there could not lack some aspects which dent the three leadership theories. Critics of the theories have remained adamant that some concepts like motivation or inspiration can be fueled to incite negative perspectives among followers. A great example cited by the critics has to the current president of the United States of America Donald Trump. Although Trumpcomfortably won the 2016 general elections, it is of no doubt that the Republican president has stirred the issue racism and ultimately bullied his way to the white house.  However, this type of leadership can also be described as pseudo-transformational leadership, a behavior that appears genuine and altruistic at the onset but reveals the leader’s true nature and egocentrism directed toward a narcissistic objective.

Adolf Hitler is probably the best example of how negative perspective can be channeled through the public appeal.   Here again is an example of a dark leader.  According to (Krasikova, ,Green&LeBreton, a dark leader relies on charisma and manipulation to influence followers, whereby emergency situations are created that require actions to resolve thus securing the emotional dependence of the organization.  Furthermore, through his propaganda against the Jewish community and a notion that the Germans were the perfect race, Hitler gained massive support across the country, eventually leading them into the World War II (Yukl, 1999).

Application of the theories

The prominence of some political figures across the world goes well beyond the states or countries that they lead. Some of the leaders remain the embodiment of political reasoning and establishment of the very fabric utilized in the modern civilization. It is no doubt that a leader like Nelson Mandela and MLK Jr. set forth a solid platform for the future of the human race. Buying from behavioral theory, Mandela remains an example to how a leader should exhibit his/her behavior at any given situation. Even after being jailed for more than 25 years, Mandela came out of the prison believing the jailer was never wrong, rather the fabrics of our society needed to be adjusted beyond hate and segregation. On the other side, Rev. King was able to withstand a grueling society filled with racial standoff and call for dialogue aimed at creating unity. In promoting unity and calling for all of the humanity regardless of color or race, we canunderstandthat we are all but same humans. The actions of the two men are attributable for the peace we enjoy today (Bass & Stogdill, 1990).  Furthermore, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” was a vision and model that he led and inspire so many others to follow.  This model is like another model.  According to Kouzes and Posner (2008), “People first follow the person, then the plan” (p. 28). In their leadership model, Kouzes and Posner (2008) further assert that exemplary leaders consistently demonstrate the following five practices:

  • Model the way.
  • Inspire a shared vision.
  • Challenge the process.
  • Enable others to act.
  • Encourage the heart.

In a more similar but different context, I personally find Steve Jobs as a tech revolutionary leader who set forward the humanity in understanding the broader benefits of utilizing technology for the better of promoting humanity within the concept of globalization. Although others like Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates paved the way for the new age technology, it was Jobs who dedicated his life even at the very end of his life faced with a terminal illness to see how technology could bring people together through sharing of similar concepts. His leadership style can be aligned with the transformational theory, often by citing his willingness to involve his downward employees through freedom and flexibility in expressing creativity.

Anti-exemplary application of the theories

The above two examples of how leadership theories can be utilized for positive and mutual gains for both leaders and their followers remain contrary to the negative contingency theory subscribed by leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump. Although some of the issues the two leaders raised could be seen to be true on another perspective, it was through their hate-fuelled message that asserts their leadership style as unfavorable in today’s context.


The theories raised in this paper are ideal for creating the perfect leadership style. I personally conform to the behavioral and transformational theories as for the choice of my preferred leadership style. Organizations thrive well when the leaders in place are subscribers of the core theories. It becomes quite easy for them to assert control without exercising autocracy to their followers. Good leadership style is never hard to be detected, but it takes only the employee’s perspective to know how great a leader within an organization is or how unfavorable he/she remains. In this context, it is safe to say that leaders who ensure motivation, inspiration, and exemplary behavior prevail in an organizational setting are bound to getting their followers act in the right manner (Kouzes & Posner, 2010).


Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Handbook of leadership (Vol. 11). New York: free press.

Fiedler, F. E. (1978). The contingency model and the dynamics of the leadership process. Advances in experimental social psychology11, 59-112.

House, R. J., & Howell, J. M. (1992). Personality and charismatic leadership. The Leadership Quarterly3(2), 81-108.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2010). The truth about leadership. Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

Yukl, G. (1999). An evaluation of conceptual weaknesses in transformational and charismatic leadership theories. The leadership quarterly10(2), 285-305.

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