Leadership Theory

According to Lussier and Achua (2010), a leadership theory is an explanation of some aspect of leadership; theories have practical value because they are used to better understand, predict, and control successful leadership. Leadership theory classifications include trait, behavioral, contingency, and integrative (p. 16).

The four major classifications of leadership theory all represent a change in leadership paradigm. A leadership paradigm is a shared mindset that represents a fundamental way of thinking about, perceiving, studying, researching, and understanding leadership (p. 16).

  1. Leadership trait theories attempt to explain distinctive characteristics accounting for leadership effectiveness (p. 16).
  2. Behavioral leadership theories attempt to explain distinctive styles used by effective leaders, or to define the nature of their work (p. 16).
  3. Contingency leadership theories attempt to explain the appropriate leadership style based on the leader, followers, and situation (p. 17).
  4. Integrative leadership theories attempt to combine the trait, behavioral, and contingency theories to explain successful, influencing leader–follower relationships (p. 17).


Lussier, R. N. & Achua, C. F. (2010). Leadership: Theory, application, and skill development (4th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

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