Theories & Styles of Leadership

Various theories seek to analyze the effectiveness of different leadership styles. The ideal leadership style results in an effective leader, satisfied followers and well-completed tasks. You can utilize these different leadership styles and theories in virtually any leadership role, whether you’re taking the lead in a group project at school, directing a play, coaching a soccer team, managing a store or holding political office.

1 Kurt Lewin's Leadership Theories

Kurt Lewin and other professors at the University of Iowa developed a leadership theory based around a continuum of control that focused on three specific leadership styles. Laissez-faire leadership, or delegative leadership, lets followers make all the decisions so the burden of control is removed from the leader. In this style of leadership, the followers simply do what they think is best. Lewin’s study showed this style of leadership resulted in low productivity and argumentative, demanding followers. At the opposite end of the continuum lies autocratic, or directive, leadership. Autocratic leadership involves the leader making all the decisions on his own and the followers doing precisely as they’re told. This leadership style shows high productivity results but low follower satisfaction. In the middle of the continuum, democratic, or participative, leadership seeks the followers’ input and the followers and leader share an equal role. This style saw slightly lower results in productivity than autocratic leadership, but had a spike in follower happiness, camaraderie and creativity.

2 Ralph Stogdill's Leadership Theories

Ralph Stogdill at the University of Ohio studied two different styles of leadership after being hired by the United States military to do so. Initiating structure leadership involved the leader organizing specific tasks and structuring work, and the followers doing strictly as they were told. Consideration leadership, on the other hand, involves the leader focusing on building a foundation of trust and respect with his followers and allowing the followers to participate in the decision-making process. Stogdill’s study came out inconclusive, as the different styles each seemed effective in different contexts.

3 Daniel Katz and Rensis Lekert’s Leadership Theories

Daniel Katz and Rensis Lekert of the University of Michigan studied two different styles of leadership as they pertained specifically to management. Production orientation leadership focuses on technical aspects of the work and views workers as nothing but tools to get the work done. Employee orientation involves the leader valuing the employees for their individual traits and uniqueness on a personal level. As with the Ralph Stogdill studies, the results were inconclusive, as the effectiveness of each method varied depending on context.

John Leonard is a freelance writer living in Maryland. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and has been writing Web content and travel blogs for over a year. He mainly writes travel articles for Trails or general articles for eHow.