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Theories and Models of Leadership and Management


This page is designed to answer the following questions:

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In this article, I will discuss the predominant models and theories of management and leadership including Lewin’s leadership styles, trait theory and Belbin’s Team Roles.


Although this is primarily geared towards management and leadership in healthcare settings, the principles are universal and can be transferred to any management or leadership role.

Each theory concludes with some questions for you to reflect on – please don’t skip this as it will help to link the academic theory to your experiential practice, thereby aiding your understanding.


Although this is a useful overview of leadership and management theories and models, you will gain a more in-depth understanding by doing additional research. To assist with this, I have also included links to recommended publications for further reading. I have tried to locate materials that are freely available on the Internet, however, in cases where this is not possible I have provided links to the publications on Amazon – for transparency, Amazon may pay me a commission for anything purchased using these links.


Models & Theories

Leadership Styles (Lewin)


Kurt Lewin was one of the pioneers of research into leadership. His research team identified three leadership styles:

Autocratic (Authoritarian)


In this style, the leader dictates to the followers what should be done, with little room for discussion. Although this may seem like an outdated and negative method of leadership, it does have its advantages and is still used today in certain situations. The primary advantage is that decisions can be made swiftly. Therefore, it is useful in situations that are time-sensitive such as in an Accident & Emergency Department. The primary disadvantage is that followers can feel demotivated and less committed to their role because of their lack of involvement. There is a clear division between the leader and their followers, which can result in conflict over the longer term and group creativity can be stifled.

Democratic (Participative)


This leadership style is perhaps the most common and Lewin’s research also identified it as the most effective. A democratic leader encourages followers to participate in the decision-making process although they reserve the right to have the final say. This results in the followers feeling valued and involved, whilst also increasing their creativity and motivation. However, it can also result in the decision-making process becoming lengthier.

Laissez-Faire (Delegative)


In this leadership style, the leader tells the followers what needs to be done and then lets them get on with it with very little support or guidance. Lewin found that this leadership style is the least productive due to a lack of direction and clearly-defined roles within the team. It also resulted in more conflict. Although this may seem like a poor choice of leadership style, there are certain situations where it can be useful. This includes situations where the followers are highly competent, experienced and motivated or the followers are more knowledgeable than the leader. However, the leader must be confident that the followers are able to make good decisions and manage their time effectively. Laissez-faire leadership can result in improved personal growth and increased creativity. It can also speed up the decision-making process as followers have the autonomy to do this themselves – however, it can also result in slower decision-making (or decisions not being made at all) if the right people are not employed.

Each of these leadership styles was considered to be characteristic of the leader themselves – some leaders are naturally autocratic, some are naturally democratic and some are naturally laissez-faire. This ties in with Trait Theory (below) but conflicts with Situational Leadership (also below).



Which of Lewin’s leadership styles do you feel best represents your own style? Are you directive or laid-back? Do you collaborate with your team when decisions have to be made?


Further reading:

Ten Principles of Management (Urwick)


Lyndall Urwick was a management consultant who produced several publications related to management theory. Perhaps the most well-known of his writings is his Ten Principles of Management (1952).

  1. Objective: an organisation should have one overriding purpose or mission
  2. Continuity: provision should be made for continuous reorganisation
  3. Specialisation:  each group should have a single function
  4. Coordination: organisation to create a unity of effort
  5. Authority: there should be a clear line of authority
  6. Responsibility: managers may be held accountable for the actions of subordinates
  7. Definition: Jobs, duties and roles should be clearly defined
  8. Correspondence: all positions must have the necessary authority to fulfil their responsibilities
  9. Control: a manager should not line manager more than 7 staff
  10. Balance: groups are balanced with position and power


Do you agree with Urwick’s list of principles? Should any of them be removed? Can you think of any that could be added?


Trait Theory

Trait theory (based on Carlyle’s “Great Man Theory“) suggests that great leaders have inherent characteristics that cannot be learned. Each person is either a natural-born leader or they are not and this will not change throughout their life. Zaccaro, Kemp & Bader (2004) define the trait theory of leadership as “…integrated patterns of personal characteristics that reflect a range of individual differences and foster consistent leader effectiveness across a variety of group and organisational situations“.


An early proponent of trait theory was Galton, who hypothesized that leadership qualities were part of an individual’s genetic makeup.

Typical traits of successful leaders can include honesty, intelligence and innovation.


The purpose of trait theory is to predict how effective an individual may perform as a leader based on their core characteristics. This can be useful for organisations to plan their selection of individuals for leadership roles as well as inform their training and development. The trait theory of leadership was widely accepted from the 1800s to the early 1950s, at which time studies began to emerge that showed an individual’s personality alone was not wholly responsible for their efficacy as a leader – the situation the leader is presented with is also an important factor. Stogdill was one of the first researchers to publish studies that rejected the trait theory of leadership.



Do you believe that great leaders are born that way or that the skills to become great leaders can be learned?

Leadership Styles & Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)


Emotional Intelligence (EI) is an individual’s ability to recognise the feelings and emotions of themselves and others so that they can be managed effectively.

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman identifies 5 competencies that are critical to being an effective leader. They are:

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognise own emotions and how they may affect others
  2. Self-regulation: the ability to control or redirect disruptive emotions
  3. Motivation: the passion and drive to pursue goals
  4. Empathy: the ability to understand the emotions of others
  5. Social skill: the ability to build rapport and manage relationships effectively

He argues that whilst technical skills are important for a leadership role, EI is what distinguishes truly great leaders.


In his book, Leadership That Gets Results, Goleman also developed and extended Lewin’s leadership styles. Goleman’s six leadership styles are:

David Goleman's 6 Styles of Leadership - Affiliative, Democratic, Commanding, Pacesetting, Visionary, Coaching.

  1. Affiliative – Strengthen relationships and build a harmonious team. Manage conflicts and motivate the team.
  2. Democratic – Promote team engagement and collaborative decision-making (similar to Lewin’s Democratic style).
  3. Commanding – Directive and demands compliance. Used in time-sensitive situations or with problematic team members (similar to Lewin’s Autocratic style).
  4. Pacesetting – Self-direction from a competent and motivated team to achieve quick results (similar to Lewin’s Laissez-faire style).
  5. Visionary – Communicate belief in an idea and direct the team towards it. Useful for change management or when clear direction is required.
  6. Coaching – Forward-thinking – Development of the team for the future.


How do Goleman’s leadership styles compare with Lewin’s leadership styles? Do you think Goleman’s EI competencies can be learned or are they inherent characteristics (trait theory)?


Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow)


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory of motivation.

It is often represented by a pyramid, which describes the most basic needs at the bottom, with the complexity of needs increasing as the tiers are climbed. Originally, it was believed that a tier could not be actualised until the tiers below it had been fulfilled however, modern thinking provides more flexibility.


Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Pyramid ordered from bottom to top: Physiological needs, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualisartion.

Maslow’s hierarchy was originally written in the field of psychology however, it has been adapted for use in management theory because it can help managers to understand how to motivate their team members. Early management theory was concerned with technical operation, processes and efficiency but modern thinking recognises that there is a human element to management.

The bottom two tiers of the pyramid (physiological and safety) could represent an employee that turns up for work and does their job but offers little else to the team. Employees at the social level would feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback and those at the esteem level would feel valued and motivated. At the self-actualisation level, employees would demonstrate leadership skills and be able to motivate and inspire others.


By understanding the unmet needs of their team members, managers are able to support their subordinates to fulfil them, which can have a significant impact on their performance and motivation.



Think about some of the members of your own team. Where would you place them in the pyramid? Where would you place yourself?


Situational Leadership (Hersey & Blanchard)

The Situational Leadership Model was developed by Hersey and Blanchard in the 1970s. They argue that there is no one perfect style of leadership and that great leaders are able to adapt their leadership style to the situation that they are presented with.


For example, a leader may generally adopt a democratic leadership style but may switch to an autocratic leadership style when dealing with a problematic team member. If they have developed a highly committed and competent team that they trust to make their own decisions, they may switch to a laissez-faire leadership style to free up their time to work in other areas. Therefore, the best leadership style to use can be dependent on the task and the personnel.

Hersey and Blanchard’s model uses the leadership styles of:

  • Directing (similar to Lewin’s autocratic style) – used for an enthusiastic but unskilled new starter
  • Coaching – used for individuals that are competent but unmotivated
  • Supporting – used for individuals that are competent but lack confidence
  • Delegating (similar to Lewin’s laissez-faire style) – used for highly competent and highly motivated individuals

The diagram below indicates when each style should be used, depending on the follower’s competence and commitment.

Situational Leadership Model


Can you recall a time when you have adapted your own leadership style based on a situation or member of staff? If not, is it something that you would consider doing in future?

The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes & Posner)

Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge is the culmination of a mountain of research and identifies five practices that distinguish good leaders from great leaders. They are:

  1. Model the way – the leader acts as a role model for how they want their followers to behave
  2. Inspire a shared vision – the leader believes in their dreams so passionately and with so much energy that they are able to persuade others to join them
  3. Challenge the process – leaders are happy to take risks and innovate new ideas to achieve their goals
  4. Enable others to act – leaders encourage participation and empower their followers
  5. Encourage the heart – leaders celebrate wins and keep spirits high

Unlike Trait Theory, which hypothesizes that great leaders are born with leadership skills, the Leadership Challenge argues that these skills can be learned.

Team Roles (Belbin)

Belbin did considerable research into how high-performing teams work well, so that team performance could be predicted and poor performance could be remedied. The result of her research is the theory of ‘Team Roles’.

Belbin identified 9 Team Roles or individual characteristics that every high-performing team has access to. They are:

  1. Resource Investigator – Inquisitive and outgoing. May get bored easily.
  2. Team Worker – Cooperative and diplomatic. Great team-working skills but tends to avoid conflict.
  3. Co-ordinator – Clarifies goals and delegates work – may over-delegate and do little actual work themselves.
  4. Plant – Creative and thinks outside the box but may be absent-minded and become preoccupied easily.
  5. Monitor Evaluator – Logical thinker but can lack motivation and may be overly critical.
  6. Specialist – Has in-depth knowledge of a particular subject but has a narrow viewpoint.
  7. Shaper – Motivates the team and maintains focus but can be perceived as aggressive and offensive.
  8. Implementer – Provides planning and organisation but does not like change.
  9. Completer Finisher – Perfectionist with an eye for detail but can be worrisome and want to do everything themselves.

Belbin argues that high-performing teams have members that fulfil each of these team roles. However, this does not mean that you 9 team members because roles can overlap and a team member can perform multiple roles.

A manager that understands the roles of each of their team members is able to delegate tasks that play to each of their strengths.


Which of Belbin’s Team Roles do you feel best describes you? Thinking about your own team, which Team Role would you classify your own team members as?

Management by Wandering Around (MBWA)

Management by Wandering Around (MBWA) was popularised in the early 1980s by Peters and Waterman in their book In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.

The method involves managers taking the time to get out of their office and randomly wander around their organisation to observe processes and listen to employees. The expected outcome is that they will be better able to communicate their vision, energise and motivate their staff, improve productivity, become more approachable, understand the difficulties of team members, get feedback from their team about policies and practices, and tackle any issues swiftly.

It is important that the manager gets to know the staff on a personal level and listens to their concerns as well as commits to following up on any staff concerns that are uncovered.


Do you tend to manage from the comfort of your office, communicating primarily by email and telephone or do you take the time to spontaneously visit your staff and build a rapport with them? If not, would you have time to do this? Do you think it would be beneficial?

Final Thoughts

It can be useful to make the distinction between leadership and management.

Management tends to be task-oriented and concerned with processes and efficiency, whereas leadership is more people-oriented and concerned with motivation and communicating the vision. Managers are usually more technical and leaders are more creative. But it is important that both leaders and managers utilise skills from both roles.

When leadership and management theory was in its infancy, it was believed that leadership skills were part of an individual’s genetic makeup and that they were ‘destined‘ to lead. In the modern era, this paradigm has shifted so that leadership is thought to be a skill like any other that can be learned and developed.

Similarly, early theories postulated that particular leadership styles were inherent in the individual whereas later theories argue that a leader is able to adopt different styles depending upon the circumstances.

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