5 Essential Leadership Theories For Today’s Executive

Ever heard the phrase “born leader?” While it might seem certain people possess the perfect qualities of leadership, it isn’t an innate trait. Using leadership theories, you can improve your leadership skills and become a better leader, boss, or manager. 

Being a good leader can help your team members enjoy their work more and perform more efficiently and effectively. Some people may be natural-born leaders or develop their skills while working up to a leadership role. And for others, getting promoted into a leadership position doesn’t always mean they have the immediate skills to lead and will need to learn on the job. About 58% of managers in the workforce have no formal management training. Many people in leadership positions are responsible for their leadership training and skills.

If you want to be an excellent executive, learning your leadership style and studying leadership theories will help. Below we’ll discuss leadership theory and help you gain insight into five theories you can apply to your work life. 

What are Leadership Theories?

Leadership can mean different things to different people. And it can look different as well. In many of these instances, it is not about your job or how loud you speak in a room. Leadership is about being able to successfully guide others toward achieving a goal. 

There are many different approaches to successful leadership, and learning multiple theories can help you adopt an adaptable leadership style. You might find leadership theories can help you work more effectively as an executive but also as a person trying to get a task completed in everyday life or work with a group of people. 

Leadership theory is the study of what makes someone a leader. This can be based on characteristics, skills, and behaviors. The study of leadership looks at successful leaders throughout history and tries to offer a cohesive explanation for how leadership works. 

1. Transformation Leadership Theory

The theory of transformation, otherwise known as transformational theory, is based on the relationship between executive and staff. According to this theory, the job of the executive is to inspire and motivate staff through positive examples. 

Higher morale can lead to higher motivation, and the positive effects continue. And it starts at the top, with the executive demonstrating how to work and how to work well.

This could be a constructive theory to learn from regarding remote work. With so many people working entirely or partially remotely, there’s a considerable need for self-motivation and prioritization. A leader using the transformational theory will provide a positive model to follow. And if you or your team are struggling with remote work, here are some excellent tips to help with productivity.

2. Theory of Situations

The theory of situations, like contingency theory, makes room for all possibilities. Using this leadership style means you are adaptable and flexible, adjusting your leadership style for the situation. 

For one project, it may be best to defer to the group and let other employees take the lead. And other days, it could be the opposite. This leader can look at the surrounding context and go from there. One skill a good leader needs is decisiveness. Being able to make quick and intelligent decisions based on the situation at hand is imperative for an executive in any company. 

3. Behavioral Theory

Some leadership theories focus on traits and specific innate qualities, but this theory looks at behaviors. What type of actions do you take when communicating with employees? How do you show your skills or explain a task? 

The job of a CEO or company executive is far from easy, especially in fields like tech, where you must constantly keep up with new trends and tools. There are tips to help you keep up, and there are also things you’re already doing that could motivate your employees.

Think of your skills within the context of your company. Then think of the skills you value in leadership. Do you have all of those skills? This theory is based on the belief that you can acquire specific skills to help you behave like a better leader for your team. 

4. Strength-Based Leadership Theory 

This theory relies on a leader’s top strengths to successfully lead a team. Make a list of all your strengths. You might be an expert communicator, incredibly organized, and able to network with anyone. Or you bring creativity to every project you manage and find ways to help everyone on your team, no matter the situation.

The strength-based leadership theory highlights your strengths and uses them to motivate others. It also involves helping others use their strengths to succeed. When you are coming up with a list of your strengths, think about those of your team as well. How can you use those together to accomplish your goals? 

This theory, developed by the Gallup Organization, places strengths into four categories: 

  • Relationship building
  • Influencing
  • Strategic thinking
  • Executing

This theory requires introspection from you as a leader and your team. But when you have assessed your biggest strengths, you can use those to help your team work more efficiently and effectively as a cohesive group. 

5. Servant Leadership Theory 

If you lead with kindness first and place listening high on the list of important qualities, the servant leadership theory might resonate with you. This theory involves a leadership style that puts the employees you manage at the forefront. How can you best serve them so they can excel at their jobs? 

 There are several key characteristics of a leader who demonstrates this style, including: 

  • Empathy
  • Building community
  • Conceptualizing
  • Awareness
  • Listening

If you need to build trust and respect within your company, this type of leadership may help. And while it might not work in all situations or structures, adding some of these skills to your repertoire as a leader can allow you to better understand and communicate with employees.

Turning Theory into Reality

There are other leadership theories, but not all of them are as useful. Some theories, like the great man and behaviorist theories, lean toward leaders being born with given talents. They posit that you either have what it takes or you don’t. But from a psychological standpoint, if you have a growth mindset, you can learn new skills and apply them to your work. 

These theories are useful whether you do remote work and see your employees over a screen or all work within the same office. Think of which theories you might already align with and if there are any that you could apply more readily to help your employees. 

A well-run company shares positive values with mutual respect among employees and executives. These theories can help you develop that respect and learn the skills to lead your company to even great heights. 

If you’re interested in learning how Chris Dyer can help you effectively grow your leadership as an executive, get in contact

Chris Dyer is a company culture and leadership expert and has worked with businesses like Ikea, Johnson & Johnson, and CitiBank. Learn techniques for leading meetings, creating company culture, dealing with change, creating a remote structure, and much more.