What is a Leadership Model?

Malcolm Tatum

Leadership models are structured approaches to providing effective guidance and decision making within an organization. Over the years, proponents of different types of leadership theory have developed programs aimed at categorizing different models, sometimes explaining when and where certain models are likely to function best for a given situation. While the names of these different leadership styles change from time to time, they all revolve around the key factors of decision making, recognition of the skills of team players, and the ongoing process of encouraging the development of future leaders for the organization.

Leadership models are used to bring effective guidance and decision making to companies.
Leadership models are used to bring effective guidance and decision making to companies.

While terminology will vary from one leadership training course to the next, there are three basic leadership types or models that are likely to be included. The first is often identified as situational leadership. With this leadership model, the emphasis is on identifying the immediate need in a given set of circumstances, and choosing actions that are the most likely to produce the desired result. This means that a manager employing this type of leadership approach may at times choose to keep communication on a one-way basis, providing instructions without seeking feedback from employees. When the circumstances change, the manager may shift to seeking an open channel of communication with others, and in some cases choose to delegate responsibilities to team members who have demonstrated the ability to effectively manage those tasks without direct supervision.

A second type of leadership model is known as transformational leadership. While this approach is still result-driven, part of the desired result is the steady and consistent growth of everyone entrusted to the leader’s care. A transformational leader places a great deal of emphasis on the needs and potential of employees, often functioning as both advocate and mentor to those employees. The goal here is to promote stimulation of both creativity and intellectual enhancement within the group, often by encouraging the sharing of information and experiences between all the group members. Transformational leaders know that achieving the goals of the company is more likely when employees are challenged, have opportunities to advance, and receive what they need to be successful as individuals as well as part of a team.

With the functional leadership model, the emphasis is more on form and function than on people. Here, the creation and establishment of policies and procedures is considered key to maintaining order and productivity. When employing the basics of this leadership model, the goal of the manager is to match the tasks at hand with the skill sets of employees, with an eye toward achieving the highest level of efficiency. From time to time, evaluation of policies, procedures, and position related tasks are reviewed, with an eye of improving the overall process. Since this approach is ultimately more concerned with how an organization runs than in who is running it, employees are more likely to be considered in terms of how well they fit into the current process than in terms of what they may offer to the company in the future.

It is important to understand there is no one right leadership model that covers all situations. Managers are often called upon to make use of a primary model of leadership, but augment that style with periodic use of approaches inherent in other models. For this reason, there are many different seminars, books, and training programs that include hybrid forms of leadership models that have their basis on these three basic approaches, but may incorporate elements of each into a new style designed to fit well into the culture of a given corporation.

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Discussion Comments


I believe in anarcho-syndicalism. In this system the people who contribute the most raw labor are the ones in charge of the things they produce. This means that the proletariat (working class) has a large amount of say in how things are run. Figureheads are unable to exert their own leadership prowess or "divine right" on the deluded masses.



That is a good point, there are people out there who may have specifically been gifted with the ability to lead well. These qualities require deference, however, and every leader must learn to serve the people they lead, or they are not efficient.



This seems to be the most efficient model of thinking, since nobody is good at everything and we all need each other. Nevertheless I wonder if there are certain qualities which fundamentally set someone apart to be a motivator for others. I think there is charisma and speaking abilities which may trump other abilities, and makes someone a good permanent leader, and a good recognizer of expertise in the persons he or she leads and serves.


A situational leadership model is a method of leadership which can require that a leadership may shift depending on the circumstance. For instance, if you have someone who is skilled in pottery, he will tend to be the leader in a situation where this expertise is necessary. If someone is gifted in speaking, she will probably work on instructing the group in her skills. Leadership can vary greatly in this model.

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