It is agreed by everyone that not all managers can be leaders. But, are all the leaders the same? Research suggests a no. Every leader leads differently. While some styles of leadership are more accepted than others, the efficiency of a leader is based on their approach to leadership.

The leadership style adopted by the management also determines the culture of the organization. It helps to have a comprehensive understanding of various theories of leadership and their implications on the team and the organization’s culture.

leadership styles

Here are the different types of leadership theories you should know about in 2022:

Transformational Leadership

There are very few chances that you have never heard of Transformational leadership if you have been in the corporate world for a while. It is the most common, admired, and preferred style of leadership. It is inspiring, charismatic, and empathetic. This theory of leadership is also sometimes known as the relationship theory as it emphasizes the relationship between the leader and the team and encourages a strong level of collaboration between the team members.

Rather than being driven by performance, these leaders drive their team with a larger vision. They build a positive organizational culture and live up to the standards. In short, they do not do all the talk, they walk the talk. They set an example for the team and ensure a great camaraderie between the team members. Some well-known transformational leaders are Nelson Mandela, Indra Nooyi, and Richard Branson.

Transactional Leadership

This theory or style of leadership is often described as a ‘quip-pro-quo’ approach to leadership where the team or employees are motivated by rewards or incentives rather than the culture or values of the organization. Transactional leaders believe that leadership must drive the team towards goals, results, and structure. They prefer hierarchy over teamwork and order over creativity. This theory has no emphasis on teamwork or organizational culture. If considered from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, it only satisfies the physiological needs for motivation. Although less preferred, it is most commonly found.

The Great Man Theory of Leadership

This is one of the unique and earliest theories of leadership on this list. According to this theory, leaders are not developed, they are rather born naturally with leadership characteristics such as charisma, courage, intelligence, etc. The theory disputes that leaders can be made by learning and growing as they progress in their life. It presents leadership as an inherent trait. This theory isn’t a very popular one and most modern academics or theorists do not accept it.

Situational Leadership

This theory advocates that there cannot be a one size fits all approach to leadership. It rather suggests that a good leader adapts to the situations and behaves accordingly. It has started gaining popularity in recent times and strives to balance leadership through emotional intelligence. Its popularity also relates to the fact that no two persons behave the same way. Therefore, this theory suggests that the best leader is one who behaves according to the situation and the person.

Servant Leadership

As the world has been going through humanitarian crises over the past couple of years, organizations around the world have shifted their focus to addressing the needs of people with compassion and empathy. This has given an inclination to servant leadership in which addressing the needs of the team is of utmost priority.

In transformational leadership too, the needs of the team are addressed. However, transformational leadership outcomes are expected after fulfilling the needs of team members. In servant leadership, there is a selfless approach to fulfilling needs. Everyone is empowered to grow and fulfill their personal needs for motivation authentically. The advocates of servant leadership believe that it will lead to building a community that is empathetic, inspiring, and serves the holistic needs of everyone.

Laissez-Faire or Hands-off Leadership

Rather than a theory, this can be considered a style of leadership. In this, there is an emphasis on excelling with little to no supervision. Individuals are expected to be self-motivated, and tasks are delegated. This works best where a high level of creativity and innovation is needed. Team members also act as visionaries and take part in the decision-making process.

Contingency theory

This was developed in the 1960s and is similar to the situational leadership theory. It proposes that no particular style of leadership is suitable for all situations. It recognizes that there are several variables influencing the style of leadership. It also suggests that the best leadership analyses the team, and the situation, and reacts accordingly. However, the theory has also been criticized for being vague and not considering the psychological needs of team members.

Behavioral theory

This is in stark contrast to the Great Man theory. It proposes that great leaders are not born they are rather developed. According to behavioral theory, leadership is an acquired skill and one develops it through several learnings and experiences. There can be several styles of leadership under this theory. For example, one can either be a people-oriented leader, a coaching style leader, or a task-oriented leader. Whatever the style is, the behaviors are developed by the leaders as they progress.

Path goal leadership theory

This is similar to the situational theory but in this theory, the focus is primarily on balancing four styles of leadership to be successful. The four styles are directive, supportive, participative, and achievement-oriented leadership styles. Path goal theory proposes that a leader must play to the strengths of their team members and compensate for their weaknesses while balancing these four styles. Leaders are expected to be flexible to adapt to various situations in this theory.

Trait theory of leadership

Similar to the Great Man theory of leadership, Trait theory also says that leaders are born with specific traits like intelligence, charm, accountability, creativity, confidence, etc. One major difference between both theories is that the traits specified in the Trait theory are backed by research data, unlike the Great Man theory. However, both theories primarily focus on people being born with the traits required to be a leader.

Although this list identifies some theories to be more effective than others, the efficiency of a leader depends on many other factors. One of the foremost things a leader must identify is the team dynamics and the larger vision of the organization. Understanding team dynamics and ensuring that team members are motivated leads to success. Also, it must be noted that in changing environments, a leader cannot be fixated on one style of leadership. Efficient leadership also requires support from the organization at a macro level.