Leadership Models - An Overview

Providing an overview of existing models of leadership, which can mainly be categorised into 5 types: Trait-Based, Situational/Contingency, Behavioural Ideals, Functional, and Integrated Psychological.

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Leadership Models [edit]

For more than 150 years, researchers and thinkers have developed and proposed theoretical models of effective leadership.

Very many different models have been proposed, which has created a lot of confusion - especially for students seeking to learn, and for new leaders seeking to lead effectively.

This section aims to summarise the main types of leadership models in a way that can more easily be understood and applied.

As with any big collection of complex ideas, it is helpful to categorize and create sub-groups, which is the approach you will see below.

Categorizing the different models into sub-groups makes them easier to absorb, compare and understand.

Here are the sub-groups of leadership models:

The different types of leadership models


The oldest type of thinking about effective leadership. Logically, 'Trait-Based' leadership models focus on identifying the traits of successful leaders.

Behavioural Ideals

'Behavioural Ideals' leadership models concentrate on what researchers believe are the most effective behaviours as a leader. The notable model in this category is Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid.


'Situational' (or 'Contingency') leadership models are based on the idea that the leader's actions should vary according to the circumstances he or she is facing - in other words, leadership methods change according to the 'situation' in which the leader is leading. This category includes most notably: Kurt Lewin's Three Styles modelTannenbaum and Schmidt's Leadership Continuum model; the Fiedler Contingency model; House's Path-Goal theoryHersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership® model; and Bolman and Deal's Four-Frame model.


Functional types of leadership models focus on what the leader has to do. Unlike the Behavioural Ideals approach, Functional leadership models do not suggest ideal ways of behaving, nor do they match behaviours to circumstances like Situational/Contingency theory. Instead, Functional leadership models focus on the action areas that a leader must address to be effective. The most notable Functional models are John Adair's Action-Centred Leadership and Kouzes & Posner's Five Leadership Practices.

Integrated Psychological

The Integrated Psychological leadership model is so called because it integrates the thinking behind the four other leadership models sub-groups, while also addressing the leader's inner psychology, which tends not to be considered in other more traditional or conventional types of leadership models. James Scouller's Three Levels of Leadership model arguably pioneers this category. Scouller's model can be regarded as a relatively new view of leadership.