I get asked this question daily. Leadership is open to widely different interpretations and full of confusing ideas and terminology. The descriptions, definitions and examples of leadership vary enormously.

We lead when we are first given a supervisory role at work, a monarch and president are both leaders. We lead our own children in rights and wrongs. Mother Theresa was a leader so is a ruthless dictator. We can find leadership everywhere! So is it no wonder that it is difficult to define and describe.

So is leadership a behavioral skill or is it a technical skill or is it more a style or philosophy?

Cutting through the mounds of Leadership articles, theories, models, and so forth can send you in a spin especially when you are looking to create Leadership capabilities/competencies or development programmes. So where do you begin? A good place to start is by using the three main conceptual view points or different aspect of Leadership. This will give some structure for exploring Leadership theories the three are:

  • Models
  • Philosophies
  • Style

Leadership ModelsProvides a process for learning, applying and adapting leadership

When we talk about Leadership models we can further break these down into the following:

  • Trait Based- such as Ralph Stogdill, trait theory and Kouzes and Posne’s top 10 Leadership traits,
  • Functional– John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership, Kouzes & Posner’s Five Leadership practices model
  • Integrated Psychological-James Scouller’s Three levels of Leadership Model
  • Situational – Hersey and Blanchard’s Situational model, Taunnernbuam and Schmidt’s Leadership Continuum model
  • Behavioural Ideals such as Blake and Mouton’s Managerial grid.


Leadership Philosophies- A way of thinking and behaving in Leadership 

  • Authentic leadership- Craig and George defining your true North
  • Ethical Leadership- centre for ethical Leadership
  • Values-based Leadership- Richard Barrett-Building a Values driven Organisation
  • Leadership power- French & Raven sources of Leadership Power


Leadership style- is a narrow and specific behaviour which may be influenced by the leader’s personality, aims of the leader and the relationship with their followers

  • Transformational and Transactional Leadership-James MacGregor Burns, Bernard Bass
  • Charismatic Leadership- James Scouller Three levels of Leadership
  • Narcissistic Leadership- Narcissistic Leadership Continuum, Michael Macocoby, Kets de Vries


The structure and categories do not represent a widely used established framework or the references to each category exhaustive. The article merely acts as a starting point to gather your thoughts around the vast Leadership theory subject.


If you would like to hear more about how `The Results Centre’ develop Leadership programmes using the above models, styles and philosophies call us on 01858 414 240 or email alan@alandenton.co.uk