Six Leadership Theories that Every Manager Should Know

Man explaining leadership theories

Some people are born leaders, while others learn how to become one. Whether you are working as a manager or looking to change your career, there is always room to grow. One of the best ways to work on your skills as a leader is to know the styles of leadership theories. Each theory gives a different perspective.

This will help people learn their own leadership qualities.

Once you know the leadership qualities, you can use them to help you in your employment role.

If you want to learn more about the theories to help you become a better leader, keep reading!

What Are Leadership Theories?

Leadership theories infographic

Leadership theories focus on the traits and behaviours of people who shine. So, by using these traits and behavioural qualities, people can learn to be a great leader. Beyond behaviours and characteristics, these theories also look:

  • The type of setting
  • The actions they take
  • How they handle different situations
  • What decisions they make
  • How well they take advice from other people
  • The personality traits they have

The Professional Leadership Institute provides comprehensive leadership training with our Leadership Fundamentals Certification.

What Are Leadership Styles?

Leadership styles are the ways in which a leader works with their team members. Common styles of leadership are:


  1. The Visionary helps their team using motivation and encouragement.
  2. The Coach sees the strengths and weaknesses of each member. They use these to help their team grow. They also give advice to members to help them grow.
  3. The Bureaucratic uses hierarchal systems and expects members to follow their rules.
  4. The Democratic assigns tasks to members and offers little guidance or direction.
  5. The Hands-Off assigns tasks to members and offers little help.
  6. The Servant, who focuses on helping their team members.
  7. The Authoritarian does not consider the opinions of their team members.
  8. The Pacesetter has high expectations from their team and focuses on they perform.


6 Leadership Theories to Know

While each theory relies on a different school of thought, all six views can help you define what leader you are. These theories can also help you improve as a leader.

1. The Situational Leadership Theory


The Situational Theory says a good leader can change their style to situations. As a leader must deal with many problems, no one style works best across all environments. This theory focuses less on the style itself, but how the leader can be flexible.

2. The Transformational Leadership Theory

The Transformational Theory focuses on the relationship a leader has with their followers. This theory says that to be a good leader, one must be kind, joyful, and inspirational.


These types of leaders want to show their team how to do a task and the meaning behind it. Transformational leaders focus on the larger task at hand. But also helping each member grow to be the best version of themselves.

3. The Behavioral Leadership Theory

The Behavioral Theory focuses on the behaviours of the leader rather than traits. This theory says that good leaders have specific skills. Rather than being born a leader, the theory states that people can learn to become great leaders.

4. The Great Man Leadership Theory

The Great Man Theory states that people cannot learn how to be influential leaders. Instead, they are born natural leaders. This idea suggests that leaders embody different personality traits.


These traits include, confidence, charm, communication skills, and knowledge since they were born. This allows them to lead, compared to other people.

5. The Transactional Leadership Theory


The Transactional Theory focuses on the guidance, teamwork, and organization of leadership roles. This theory states that effective leadership occurs when performance results are met.


This idea also works around rewards and penalties while prioritizing order over creativeness.


6. The Trait Leadership Theory


The Trait theory focuses on the qualities and personality traits that make a good leader. This belief argues that those who can communicate and listen make fantastic leaders.


Those who are creative, smart, and responsible are seen as great leaders as well.

Is Leadership Fixed or Dynamic?

As noted above, each theory of leadership focuses on a different thought method. While some state that leadership qualities are fixed, this isn’t true. As leadership needs skills and traits, you can work on these qualities to be influential.

Professional Leadership Institute (PLI) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in human resources and leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional PLI resources below will be useful:

The Professional Leadership Institute provides comprehensive leadership training with our Leadership Fundamentals Certification.

  1. True Leadership Thinking
  2. Natural Leader
  3. Character Traits of a Great Leader


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