Classical Leadership: Theories, Overview

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  • 0:02 Classical Leadership Theories
  • 0:25 Trait Theories
  • 1:06 Behavior Theories
  • 2:01 Contingency Theories
  • 2:27 Transformational Theories
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shalisa Powell
In this lesson, you'll learn about the four classical leadership theories: trait theory, behavior theory, contingency theory, and transformational theory. In the end, you can test your understanding of these theories with a quiz.

Classical Leadership Theories

Age-old debates surrounding leadership posits questions like, 'What characteristics make someone a leader?' and 'Are leaders born or made?' There have been many theories concerning what makes a leader a leader - the most widely known leadership theories are trait theory, behavior theory, contingency theory, and transformational theory. Let's discuss these theories now.

Trait Theories

First, let's look at the trait theory. Some theorists believe that there are certain traits, or personal characteristics, that leaders have and that others do not. These traits include:

  • Charisma
  • Intelligence
  • Self-confidence
  • Determination
  • Integrity
  • Energy
  • Sociability

Trait theory is useful in identifying leadership potential in people. Many organizations also use this principle to help make hiring decisions; however, this theory has been highly criticized for its simplicity and exclusion of many other factors. Critics of the theory challenge the notion that people who have these qualities will make good leaders, and those that do not possess these traits cannot become effective leaders.

Behavior Theories

Behavior theories focus on what leaders do, as opposed to who they are. Leadership behaviors can be divided into two dimensions: task-oriented behaviors and people-oriented behaviors. One famous behavior theory is the managerial grid model developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in the early 1960s.

Its premise is that the extent the leader focuses on these dimensions determines his or her leadership style. Some leaders are more concerned with getting the tasks at hand completed successfully. Other leaders favor creating solid interpersonal relationships with their employees. For example, if you have a high concern for the task and achieving results coupled with little concern for maintaining relationships with people, you would be an authority-obedience manager. Consider a time when you were in a leadership position - what was your leadership style?

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