"There is nothing more practical
A theory is a set of propositions that explain how things are related and occur in the manner that they do. Such explanations enable understanding of how things work and often enable predictions. It also can allow us to manipulate certain variables to influence the outcomes.
Leadership theories are an attempt to identify the personal, organizational, and situational factors that enable leaders to rise, exert influence, and facilitate change. These theories help us sort out what to pay attention (and not pay attention) to, and explore how various factors are related. This information can help potential leaders learn how to develop important skills, position themselves to be selected as leaders, and perform more effectively in leadership roles.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds definitions of leadership, and nearly as many models or theories of how it works. This suggests that leadership is one of the more complex social phenomena we can study. Fortunately, each of these theories provides a different view of some aspect of leadership, and together provide a better, though incomplete, picture of what leadership is.
Different theories provide different perspectives: some deal with personal qualities and skills, other focus on how power and influence is used, and still others consider various combinations of situational variables for leadership under differing circumstances. The point is, different theories are like different tools-- you should have several in your tool kit.
In this course on leadership we will study several prominent leadership theories. For each consider the following study questions:
- First, what is your personal "theory" about how a person becomes a leader? What are your assumptions? What are the ket terms you use? How are your ideas related to each other and how do they develop? What evidence is available that your "theory" has substance? How could you refine and test it if you wanted to?
- For the other theories we will study: What is the emphasis of this theory? What differentiates it from other leadership theories?
- What are the key terms (concepts, constructs) it uses?
- In what leadership settings would it be most useful to use? With what kinds of problems, decisions, situations would this be a useful tool?
- What are its strengths? Weaknesses?
- What is a situation in which I can apply the theory and use it as an example of my understanding?