The Advantages of Emerging Leadership Theories

Updated March 23, 2017

During the first half of the 20th century, leadership theories focused on traits and skills that were inherent in leaders and assumed that leaders were "born, not made." Around 1960, new theories of leadership were developed that considered the impact of followers and tasks on leader effectiveness. These emerging styles, also called modern or current styles, include contingency models, situational and transformational leadership.


While scholars had been able to isolate traits of effective leaders, they had not been able to prove that these traits would influence followers in all situations. Psychologist Fred Fielder was the first to provide a predictability advantage by considering how situations affect leader effectiveness and then testing to determine if a leader was task-motivated or relationship-motivated. Fielder's Contingency Model, a current leadership theory, states that task-motivated leaders would do best in highly structured situations with clear instructions about the goal. By contrast, relationship-motivated leaders would do better in situations without firm structure that require creativity and group involvement as well as participation to complete a task. The advantage of Fielder's theory is that leadership effectiveness can be controlled by matching followers and task to a leader's style.

Flexibility with Precision

Situational leadership, another emerging theory, also focuses on the situation (as its title would suggest) but includes the needs of followers. However, unlike Fielder, situational leadership theory requires leaders to develop four different competencies (telling, selling, delegating and participating) and then adapt their style to the needs of the group. The advantage of situational leadership is that a leader can influence different groups by recognising the abilities of her followers and tailoring her style. This provides both flexibility and precision, since leadership style can be focused to group needs.

Lasting Motivation with Better Results

Early leadership research did not consider how to continue motivation and group results once the leader has been removed. Transformational leadership, another modern theory developed by scholar, author and expert James MacGregor Burns, provides the advantage of exponential results with increased group commitment by using inspiration, vision, shared values, identity, respect and charisma to reach a goal. In transformational leadership, both the leader and follower are changed for the better by working together. In addition, work continues without the leader standing over a group member's shoulder, and group members are inspired to reach higher levels of achievement.

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About the Author

Eryn Travis has over 15 years of freelance-writing experience. She has written for "Aviation News Today" and was the managing producer and host for the cable TV news show of the same name. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Maryland and is finishing up a master's degree in communication studies from West Chester University.