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The Great man Theory


Among one of the top theories “The Great Man Theory” has gained a worldwide appreciation in leadership styles, written by Thomas Carlyle, this theory has inspired leaders of all forms. The theory gained is first overreaching popularity in 19th century focusing on personalities such as Julius Caeser, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander and Mahatma Gandhi, this leadership style inspired and presented the concept that great leaders are born, not made. A better explanation of this example where someone appears and knows best how to take control of a situation and has the ability to inspire and lead people to either success or safety (Kirkpatick, &Locke 1991). According to Carlyle the concept of history is structured around the biography of someone great. He furthers this with the notion that these great leaders were a proper example of effective leaders with divine gifts granting them an exceptionally inspirational character.

Research on the theory explains and supports Carlyle’s notion, stating that people who were seen as effective are mostly aristocratic rulers. Their success was also part of them having it granted to them as a birthright as well. This was later on defended by explaining that people belonging to a lower economic social background had less opportunities to put their skill into practice and therefore had fewer chances of actually attaining the role of a leader. It proved that leadership is an ability that is inherent only.

  1. Influences and Reward

The theory of Great Man Theory forwards the idea that successful leaders that fulfill the role of a “Great Man” according to Carlyle’s theory, states that people with characteristics of a great leader are often found to be very inspirational. They have the natural charismatic ability to motivate, inspire and promote success in the people under their supervision. The Great Man Theory focuses on the concept of leaders becoming the central functional part of the organization. Examples of this leadership are evident in many organizations that are in support of this leadership style. Reward basis in this style of leadership style is based on the concept of praise and bolstering the individual’s confidence and reassurance in their skills. Since being very charismatic, this leadership style is ideal in situations where employees are found to be in states of low morale and require a supportive role to prompt them to work efficiently and accomplish their goals effectively.

  • Interpersonal Skills

The Great Man theory and the leaders found fulfilling the criteria are said to have traits that are different personal characteristics that made them quite unique among their followers. A similar opinion was presented by Plato stating that these leaders owned skills of superb reasoning capability and rich with wisdom. Being quite unique in nature, Great Man theory forwards the idea that leaders of this leadership style are mostly seen to possess exceptional skills of interpersonal communication, making them ideal speakers in a group, proper reasoning and problem solving skills.

 Trait Theory

  1. Background

Trait Theory is an exceptional leadership style that provides the concept that leaders owning specific natural skills give them the ability to lead. These qualities included being assertive, capable of being dependable, very adaptive and found to be persistent. The Trait Theory was formed by Ralph Stodgill in 1974. The theory of Trait Theory, much like Great Man Theory, emphasized on the point certain personality traits express the difference between leaders and non-leaders. In a way, the point forwarded by the Great Man Theory which stated that “Leaders are born, not made” is also applicable in Trait Theory, since this leadership explained it with clarity that a leader is someone who has the innate ability to lead.

Researchers found this to be on equivalent to the ideas forwarded by Stodgill, in terms of the leader having an innate ability rather than learning it and grooming the needed skills over time (Colbert et al., 2012). However, considering this, the theory of behavioral theory suggested that behavior of a leader could be influenced and could alter changes to their traits with the passage of time but the characteristics of a leader remained true to being inherent.

  1. Rewards and Influences

Much like the Great Man Theory, Trait Theory of leadership is also reliant on the concept of rewarding individuals in a team or organization, based on motivating, encouraging and praising them for their work. The sense of being acknowledged, from someone superior, has an incredible effect on an individual’s total outcome and their confidence in getting the work done in a better way. Trait theory of Leadership focuses on introducing leaders in an organization that can influence individuals in a group to solve their problems, being better at their communication skills and to encourage others towards a shared goal or milestone.

  • Interpersonal Skills

The assessment of a leader following the rules of Trait Theory leadership style suggest that these leaders possess prowess in fields of being better judges, owning strong analytical skills, and are found to be conceptually well skilled compared to non-leaders. They have the ability to emotionally connect with others and are found to be mature, trustworthy, open with others and reliable. They are ideal candidates to assist others in communicating their work related problems, since these leaders are well skilled and have a vast technical knowledge.

Path-Goal Leadership Theory

  1. Background

The Path-Goal Leader Theory or otherwise known as path-goal theory of effective leaders or path-goal model, is shaped around the concept of specifying the leader’s behavior or form of leadership style that accommodates the employee’s or work environment’s goals and objectives. Path-Goal Leadership theory, written by Robert House in 1971 and later on presented with a revised version in 1996, discusses the importance of employee’s encouragement level as they achieve organizational goals (Phillips, & Phillips 2016). It also discusses the level of empowerment and satisfaction found in such employees that are capable of accomplishing their goals on time.

A better approach to understand the mechanics behind this theory is to assume it as a thought process which provides the leader with the option of choosing a particular behavior which will be able to accommodate the employee in a better way. The selection of this behavior will be fitting for the employee and the work environment and will serve as a guide, directing them successfully to complete their daily work related activities. Path-Goal leadership style is not strictly based on one chosen leadership style, it focuses on implementing a leadership style that will assist the employee and the organization. In order to implement the Path-Goal model, the leader needs to first assess the characteristic of their employee and the work environment they are present in. Secondly, the leader will choose an appropriate leadership style that will accommodate the employee to perform their job efficiently. Lastly, the model emphasizes on the facts of motivational factors that are able to assist the employee to succeed in their tasks.

  1. Rewards and Influences

At a close analysis the path-goal leadership style is found to be very effective in nature and found to be widely acceptable in organizations all over. Since the leaders are able to participate with their team, decide on matters with the mutual consent of their members, displaying a concern for them and being friendly allows them to be very influential. The reward criteria in path-goal leadership style is based on the acquisition of satisfaction, from the employee’s perspective. The leaders can set goals for their employees to accomplish and have expectations of having the employee achieve them while being at their highest level of potential.

  • Interpersonal Skills

Leaders following the principles of Path-Goal leadership style are found to be very cooperative, friendly and helpful overall. They are excellent at connecting with their team and assisting them with their work. These leaders have the ability to direct the flow of employee’s performance by instructing them about how to perform a certain task, assisting them in coordinating their task and scheduling activities. This style is often found to be most effective in organizations that have an overall environment uncertainty or employees are unsure of their tasks and confused.


Colbert, A. E., Judge, T. A., Choi, D., & Wang, G. (2012). Assessing the trait theory of leadership using self and observer ratings of personality: The mediating role of contributions to group success. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(4), 670-685.

Kirkpatick, S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: do traits matter?. The executive, 5(2), 48-60.

Phillips, A. S., & Phillips, C. R. (2016). Behavioral styles of path-goal theory: An exercise for developing leadership skills. Management Teaching Review, 1(3), 148-154.



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