Leadership Theories

24 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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This note summarizes several major theories of leadership. It is intended to provide a quick overview of the major concepts and points rather than an in-depth understanding of the theories. It includes the Great Man theory, charismatic leadership, and the approaches of McClelland, Winter, Bennis, Burns, Fiedler, Hersey and Blanchard, Path-Goal, Mintzberg, Kotter, Maccoby, and Schein.




Leadership has been widely studied over a long period of time, yet it remains an elusive phenomenon to understand and develop. This note offers an overview of some of the major leadership theories. The theories are grouped according to the research approaches that characterize them. The six categories are the trait, behavioral, power and influence, situational, charismatic, and transformational approaches. Simple direct statements of the main assumptions and conceptual points related to each theory comprise the bulk of the note.

Trait Approach

The trait approach—one of the earliest used to study leadership—emphasizes the personal traits of leaders. The underlying assumption is that certain people possess innate characteristics that make them better leaders than others.

The “Great Man” theory of leadership

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Keywords: leadership, management skills, managerial psychology

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G., Leadership Theories. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0379, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=910388 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.910388

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

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