Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. A definition more inclusive of followers comes from Alan Keith of Genentech who said "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. Leadership is one of the most salient aspects of the organizational context. However, defining leadership has been challenging. 

The following sections discuss several important aspects of leadership including a description of what leadership is and a description of several popular theories and styles of leadership. This page also dives into topics such as the role of emotions and vision, as well leadership effectiveness and performance. Finally, this page discusses leadership in different contexts, how it may differ from related concepts (i.e., management), and some critiques that have been raised about leadership.


Theories of Leadership


Trait theory

Trait theory tries to describe the types of behavior and personality tendencies associated with effective leadership. This is probably the first academic theory of leadership. Thomas Carlyle (1841) can be considered one of the pioneers of the trait theory, using such approach to identify the talents, skills and physical characteristics of men who arose to power.


Behavioral and style theories

Main article: Managerial grid model

1.    In response to the criticism of the trait approach, theorists began to research leadership as a set of behaviors, evaluating the behavior of 'successful' leaders, determining a behavior taxonomy and identifying broad leadership styles. David McClelland, for example, saw leadership skills, not so much as a set of traits, but as a pattern of motives.

2.    Kurt Lewin, Ronald Lipitt, and Ralph White developed in 1939 the seminal work on the influence of leadership styles and performance. The researchers evaluated the performance of groups of eleven-year-old boys under different types of work climate

3.    The managerial grid model is also based on a behavioral theory. The model was developed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in 1964 and suggests five different leadership styles, based on the leaders' concern for people and their concern for goal achievement.


Situational and contingency theories

Main articles: Fiedler contingency model, Vroom-Yetton decision model, Path-goal theory, and Hersey-Blanchard situational theory

1.    The path-goal theory of leadership was developed by Robert House (1971) and was based on the expectancy theory of Victor Vroom.[19] According to House, the essence of the theory is "the meta proposition that leaders, to be effective, engage in behaviors that complement subordinates' environments and abilities in a manner that compensates for deficiencies and is instrumental to subordinate satisfaction and individual and work unit performance.

2.      Victor Vroom, in collaboration with Phillip Yetton (1973)[15] and later with Arthur Jago (1988),[16] developed a taxonomy for describing leadership situations, taxonomy that was used in a normative decision model where leadership styles where connected to situational variables, defining which approach was more suitable to which situation

3.     The Fiedler contingency model bases the leader’s effectiveness on what Fred Fiedler called situational contingency. This results from the interaction of leadership style and situational favorableness (later called "situational control"). The theory defined two types of leader: those who tend to accomplish the task by developing good-relationships with the group (relationship-oriented), and those who have as their prime concern carrying out the task itself (task-oriented).

4.   The situational leadership model proposed by Hersey and Blanchard suggests four leadership-styles and four levels of follower-development. For effectiveness, the model posits that the leadership-style must match the appropriate level of followership-development.


Functional theory

Main article: Functional leadership model

Functional leadership theory (Hackman & Walton, 1986; McGrath, 1962) is a particularly useful theory for addressing specific leader behaviors expected to contribute to organizational or unit effectiveness. This theory argues that the leader’s main job is to see that whatever is necessary to group needs is taken care of; thus, a leader can be said to have done their job well when they have contributed to group effectiveness and cohesion.


Transactional and transformational theories

Main articles: Transactional leadership and Transformational leadership


CROB's expertise


Members of the laboratory are distinguished academic faculty of AUEB and have developed cooperation with researchers and academic faculty specialized in Leadership. CROB’s faculty and researchers have been occupied professionally to various projects regarding leadership and developed strong research collaboration with CLI (Centre of Leadership Intelligence) whose members have been working on various leadership fields such as:

  • Leadership theories
  • Leadership performance
  • Philosophy and leadership
  • Leadership and emotionality
  • Leadership Skills
  • Organizational Culture and Leadership

The long lasting set of skills and competencies of the faculty and the experience they have obtained both professionally and academically through their careers, displays total fit with the psychological part of human resources management. Finally, all the members of the laboratory are characterized for their professional ethos and their research integrity from national and international partnerships and cooperations (universities, research centres, research projects, research partners-coordinators).


Leadership useful bibliography


  • Blake, R.; Mouton, J. (1964). The Managerial Grid: The Key to Leadership Excellence. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.. 
  • Carlyle, Thomas (1841). On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic History. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. 
  • Fiedler, Fred E. (1967). A theory of leadership effectiveness. McGraw-Hill: Harper and Row Publishers Inc.. 
  • Heifetz, Ronald (1994). Leadership without Easy Answers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-51858-6. 
  • Hemphill, John K. (1949). Situational Factors in Leadership. Columbus: Ohio State University Bureau of Educational Research. 
  • Hersey, Paul; Blanchard, Ken; Johnson, D. (2008). Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. 
  • Miner, J. B. (2005). Organizational Behavior: Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe. 
  • Spencer, Herbert (1841). The Study of Sociology. New York: D. A. Appleton. 
  • Vroom, Victor H.; Yetton, Phillip W. (1973). Leadership and Decision-Making. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. 
  • Vroom, Victor H.; Jago, Arthur G. (1988). The New Leadership: Managing Participation in Organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 
  • Van Wormer, Katherine S.; Besthorn, Fred H.; Keefe, Thomas (2007). Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Macro Level: Groups, Communities, and Organizations. US: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195187547. 


Journal articles

  • House, Robert J. (1971). "A path-goal theory of leader effectiveness". Administrative Science Quarterly Vol.16: 321–339. doi:10.2307/2391905. 
  • House, Robert J. (1996). "Path-goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory". Leadership Quarterly Vol.7 (3): 323–352. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(96)90024-7. 
  • Lewin, Kurt; Lippitt, Ronald; White, Ralph (1939). "Patterns of aggressive behavior in experimentally created social climates". Journal of Social Psychology: 271–301. 
  • "Leadership: Do traits matter?". Academy of Management Executive Vol. 5, No. 2. 1991. 
  • Lorsch, Jay W. (Spring 1974). "Review of Leadership and Decision Making". Sloan Management Review. 
  • Spillane, James P.; et al. (2004). "Towards a theory of leadership practice". Journal of Curriculum Studies Vol. 36, No. 1: 3-34. 
  • Vroom, Victor; Sternberg, Robert J. (2002). "Theoretical Letters: The person versus the situation in leadership". The Leadership Quarterly Vol. 13: 301-323. 



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