Leadership: Definition, Factors, Theories, Principles

  • Post last modified:12 May 2023
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  • Reading time:17 mins read
  • Post category:Management

What is Leadership?

Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation. Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training and experience.

Good leaders are continually working and studying to improve their leadership skills; they are not resting on their laurels.


Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent.

Leadership is a process of giving purpose (meaningful direction) to collective effort and causing willing effort to be expended to achieve purpose.Jacobs and Jaques
Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation.Hersey and Blanchard
Leadership is defined as the process of influencing the activities of an organised group toward goal achievement.Rauch and Behling

Factors of Leadership

There are four major factors in leadership:

Factors of leadership


A leader should possess a sound knowledge of himself, the extent of his potential and how he can utilise this potential in the best possible manner. He must have the capacity to motivate his followers and gain their complete confidence. These followers should never doubt their leader’s capability.


People differ in personality, so they cannot be handled in the same manner. An efficient leader is one who considers this. For example, a new employee would need more guidance. A person who is a manager needs different type of motivation than one who is a supervisor.

A leader should be well aware of the needs of his people, so that he would have a different approach for individual requirements. This consolidates the bond between the leader and his followers.


A good leader guides his followers through communication, especially non-verbal. If he speaks and lacks conviction or his tone does not match his body language, then he will not be taken seriously. Therefore, his manner of communication matters a lot.


A leader encounters different types of unpleasant situations every day. Moreover, no two situations area like or have the same solutions. An efficient leader uses his judgment and experience to tackle these situations and make decisions.

For instance, if an employee is a habitual late comer, but an efficient worker, then the leader needs to consider very carefully what action should he take in order to make him punctual without demotivating him. Various forces will affect these four factors.

Examples of forces are your relationship with your seniors, the skill of your followers, the informal leaders within your organization and how your organization is organized.

Theories of Leadership

The appearance of leadership motivates during beginning of 20th century which focuses on qualities that differentiates among leaders and followers. There are eight major types of theories:

Great Man Theories

This theory believes that the volume of leadership capacity is based on in hesitancy. In this theory, the great leaders are posed as daring, mythic and give rise to leadership as required.

Trait Theories

Trait theory believes that people inherit many features and traits which can be suitable for great leadership. This theory feels that certain personality features are shared among by great leaders.

Contingency Theories

It is a leadership theory which focuses on desired variables which are based on environment that find out which style of leadership is best fitted for particular situation. In this theory the success is based on the amount of variables which will have leadership style, qualities of followers and characteristics of the situation.

Situational Theories

This theory allows the leaders to select the best course of action which depends on situational variables.

Behavioral Theories

It depends on the fact that great leaders are created and not born. The idea of this leadership theory is to en light the actions of leaders which are not concerned with mental or internal states.

Participative Theories

Such theory suggests that an ideal leadership style depends upon input of others. In this the leaders give confidence 179 while contributions from various group members thereby assuring members to be committed for decision making process.

Management Theories

Management theories (also known as transactional theories) focus on the role of supervision organization and group performance. This theory bases leadership on a system of rewards and punishments.

Relationship Theories

It is a transformational theory which explains about connections which originates among leaders and followers. In this, the leaders are motivated and will make the people inspired by way of helping certain group members by finding higher good of task.

Principles of Leadership

Following are the basic principles of Leadership:

Know yourself and seek self-improvement

Learning is a never-ending process. A leader should always strive to look at his areas of improvement and work hard to minimize them without any prejudice. These can be accomplished through self-study, formal classes, reflection and interacting with others.

Be technically proficient

A leader must be knowledgeable and efficient in his work. He must be also aware of the job responsibilities given to various employees.

Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions

After delegating work, a leader should be able to guide his team towards achieving the ultimate objective. When things go wrong, they always do eventually do not blame others. Instead of brooding over what could have been done, a leader searches for what should be done.

Make sound and timely decisions

Use good problem solving, decision making and planning tools.

Set the example

Be a good role model for your employees. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see. “We must become the change we want to see” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Know your people and look out for their well-being

If a leader genuinely cares for his people, they will certainly reciprocate.

Keep your workers informed

Know how to communicate with not only them, but also seniors and other key people.

Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers

This will ensure an increase in the efficiency of the employees. They will develop a positive attitude towards work.

Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished

Communication is the key to this responsibility.

Train as a team

Although many so-called leaders call their organization, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams. They are just a group of people doing their jobs.

Use full capabilities of your organization

A capable leader has the ability to bring out the latent potential of his people, This will definitely help the whole organization to progress.

Leadership Styles

Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans and motivating people. Kurt Lewin (1939) led a group of researchers to identify different styles of leadership. This early study has been very influential and established three major leadership styles. The three major styles of leadership are:

  • Authoritarian or autocratic
  • Participate or democratic
  • Delegated or free reign

Although good leaders use all three styles, with one of them normally dominant, bad leaders tend to stick with one style.

Authoritarian (autocratic)

Authoritarian leadership

This style is used when leaders tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished, without getting the advice of their followers. Some of the appropriate conditions to use it include the times when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time and your employees are well motivated.

Some people tend to think of this style as a vehicle for yelling, using demeaning language and leading by threats and abusing their power. This is not the authoritarian style, rather it is an abusive, unprofessional style called “bossing people around.” It has no place in a leader’s repertoire.

The authoritarian style should normally only be used on rare occasions. If 181 you have the time and want to gain more commitment and motivation from your employees, then you should use the participative style.

Participative (democratic)

Fig 1.10 Participative Leadership

This style involves the leader including one or more employees in the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it). However, the leader maintains the final decision making authority. Using this style is not a sign of weakness; rather it is a sign of strength that your employees will respect.

This is normally used when you have part of the information and your employees have other parts. Note that a leader is not expected to know everything – this is why you employ knowledgeable and skillful employees. Using this style is of mutual benefit – it allows them to become part of the team and allows you to make better decisions. 25

Delegative (free reign)

Delegative leadership

In this style, the leader allows the employees to make the decisions. However, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made. This is used when employees are able to analyses the situation and determine what needs to be done and how to do it.

There are certain ways and methods that can be employed to inspire workers that they put in their best effort and achieve their own and the organizational goals.

There are certain things that you must know and do but these things are not inherited, instead they are acquired with consistent effort and toil. Good leaders are continually working and studying to improve their leadership skills they are not resting on their laurels.


What is Leadership?

Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts toward goal achievement in a given situation. Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training and experience.

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