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What are leadership theories?

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Leadership theories attempt to explain why and how certain people become effective leaders. Eight theories have emerged to identify personality traits that make people excel at leadership positions.

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The great man theory states that certain individuals are born with characteristics that make them natural leaders, and trait theory explains that people inherit certain characteristics that make them better suited for leadership roles.

According to contingency theory, a combination of factors determines the success of an individual as a leader.

Situational theory suggests that leaders choose the best approach based on the situation, and behavioral theory proposes that skilled leaders learn to become great through observation and teaching.

Participative theory suggests that the best leadership style is one that incorporates the input of others. Such leaders encourage active participation and contributions from team members. They also make the members feel more committed and relevant.

Management theory is also known as transactional theory. It emphasizes the role of supervision and group performance. Under this theory, a great leader is one who effectively uses a reward and punishment system. This theory is often employed in business as employers reward employees who are successful and punish employees who underperform.

Relationship theory is also called transformational theory. It focuses on the connections formed between followers and leaders. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire followers by helping them find value in tasks. Such leaders often have high moral standards.

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