top of page

6 Characteristics of Leadership Theories


The trait approach to leadership emphasizes the personal traits of leaders. The underlying assumption is that certain people possess innate characteristics that make them better leaders than others. Theories included in the trait approach include the “Great Man” theory of leadership, Stogdill’s leadership traits, and the theories espoused by Maccoby, John Gardner and Jim Collins.


The behavioural approach switched the emphasis to observations of what effective and ineffective leaders do on the job, so this approach takes a more pragmatic application approach. Theories included in the behavioural approach include Mintzberg’s 10 managerial roles, Kotter’s leadership factor, Stewart’s three-part theory of management, Kouzes and Posner’s leadership challenge and Ulrich and Zenger’s Results-Based Leadership.


The power and influence approach studies the influence processes at work between leaders and other individuals, including those they lead. The theories included in the power and influence approach include “the two faces of power,” Winter’s theory of leadership, The West Point Way of leadership, social exchange theory, and the strategic contingencies theory.


The situational approach pays attention to the contextual factors and asks the question of how the larger contextual situation affects the leadership task by examining the nature of the work performed by leader and team, the individual characteristics of members of the team, etc. Theories included in this approach are Blanchard’s situational theory of leadership, House’s path-goal theory of leadership, Fiedler’s contingency model, Leadership substitutes theory, the multiple-linkage model, and the cognitive resources theory


The charismatic approach to leadership studies followers’ perceptions of the leader’s traits and behaviours, the situational context and the needs of the followers. Theories included in this approach are House’s theory of charismatic leadership, attribution theory of charisma, and the self-concept theory.


Finally, the transformational approach is viewed as a process by which leaders and their direct reports inspire each other to elevate moral conduct. The Warren Bennis theory of leadership, James Macgregor Burns’ theory of leadership, Bass’ theory of transformational leadership, Tichy and Devanna’s transformational leadership process and Schein’s model of organizational culture and leadership are all included in this approach.

We, at DigiEra Learning, agree with the theorists who believe that leaders are born with leadership traits.

We more strongly believe that these traits can be built on and developed through Personal Self Development.

Dare to amplify these traits that lie within you by registering for the Integrative Enneagram Coaching. Contact Rita Govender: +27 82 804 6391


bottom of page