Leadership Theory: How The Science Can Improve Your Leading

Eqautions on a lightboard

What is it?

Leadership theory seems like an alien concept sometimes. Leadership is such a primal, natural part of human behavior, that breaking it down into something academic and quasi-scientific seems a little out of place, like dissecting an ice cream sundae with an electron microscope.

But even though leadership is something so ingrained in the human experience, the study of leadership theory gives us a better understanding of the dynamic of leadership, which in turn makes it easier for us to be better leaders or team players.

The first step in the path to studying this field is the understanding of what the theory entails. It’s part social science, part psychology, and part organizational theory. It takes a little emotional awareness, and a little philosophical groundwork.

Some of the fields studied:

Sure, leadership is sometimes more art than science, but the science aspect can help us plan our development strategies more effectively. We can start naming our beliefs and premises and act according to guidelines rather than just intuition.

Here are some of the fundamental issues that are addressed by leadership theory:

  • What is leadership: It may seem like a simple question, but the number of different answers might surprise you. How you answer this question will shape how you grow as a leader.
  • Different leadership models: There are different approaches to leadership that offer different directions. They can help shape your outlook to particular situations.
  • The traits of leadership: Leadership theory can breakdown the psychological traits of effective leaders so they can be emulated.
  • The environmental components of leadership: Studying the dynamic of leadership with different conditions shows the relationship between the leader and his or her team, and also the way organizations and events shape to leadership strategies.

How to use it:

By breaking down the concepts that are used over and over in organizational development, and finding useful tools to study and categorize the field, we can start to plan our own improvement. Leadership can be approached from the top down, learning about the philosophies of what makes teams work and how to apply them, or from the bottom up, building on practical suggestions and methods up to a framework that fits a bigger model.

Either way, the ultimate goal is to build a solid understanding of theory that will shape decisions and growth. From there, one can build a toolbox that will be effective in different situations.

To do so, read as much as you can on both the practical and theoretical sides of leadership; begin assessing strengths and marking areas for improvement. Places like Leadership-Toolbox.com offer articles to help bolster those areas and develop a plan for becoming a solid leader.

The styles of leadership are a fundamental leadership theory. Read about them here.