Leadership Theories & Styles

The ‘Regenerative Leadership’ framework used in the Lead to Regenerate book  takes into account several strategy and leadership concepts that have been around and are quite well known. Some of them are briefly described below. Order the book

Various explanations on what constitutes good leadership have been attempted and have gained popularity from time to time. The main leadership theories have been:

Behavioral theories: based on how leaders behaved. The ‘styles’ are ‘concern for task, concern for people, Directive and Participative. The problem with these theories are: what to do after the style of a leader is known. If the style does not suit a particular situation or goals to be achieved what does one do?

Contingency theories: These theories overcome the above problem by proposing that ‘style’ should depend on the context. These styles can be telling, or selling, or participating or delegating, for example. One problem with ‘theory’ is that styles learned or needed depend on cultural context (e.g. Western or Eastern…) or on gender. Another problem is whether a leader can really change styles according to contexts which can change from time to time and situation to situation. Third problem is how to learn so many styles.

All the above ‘theories’ ignore one important dimension: why do you need a leader?

Transformational theories try to answer the above question by suggesting that a leader may lead a team (presumably to transform it?), or be a catalyst for change, or act a visionary. The theories also suggest ‘when’ a particular type of leadership might be needed.

Trait based theories: These theories suggest that a leader must possess some essential traits. e.g.

Physical vitality and stamina

Intelligence and action-oriented judgment

Eagerness to accept responsibility

Task competence

Understanding of followers and their needs

Skill in dealing with people

Need for achievement

Capacity to motivate people

Courage and resolution






While these are admirable qualities, the question is how to acquire them and how to bring them to work.

There are other leadership styles which have become popular at different types e.g. visionary leadership, values based leadership, servant leadership,  charismatic leadership, cross cultural leadership, level 5 leadership (Jim Collins of ‘Good to Great’), seven stages of leadership (Rook & Torbert) etc.

All above theories provide interesting ways of looking at leaders and leadership. They focus on just a few aspects of leadership. Also, they do not offer much on how to develop leaders or how to learn leadership. They also suffer from the fact that they are based on how leader ‘appears’ to others -a lop sided outside-in approach.

The “Regenerative Leadership” model used in the “Lead to Regenerate” book lets a learner focus on practicing some important generic thinking patterns such as: understanding reality, identifying and implementing values, harnessing ideas, and developing people in order to decide personal actions. The model recognizes that the above think patterns can be learned and formed only through practice and improvisation. This inside-out approach is supplemented by the outside-in consideration of the organization’s goals etc. The model also balances the emotional and the work aspects.

The model suggests that an individual’s learning may be supported by leadership coaching. Various workouts used for leadership thinking provide a leadership coach with powerful insights.

The Regenerative Leadership model takes into account the principles of transformative or change leadership (ideas and values based leadership) , contingency theory (understanding internal and external reality and acting on it)and strategic leadership (long term action plan developed on the basis of reality, ideas & vision, and business logic).

The “Regenerative Leadership” model is useful irrespective of the levels of responsibilities -whether leading a team or leading an enterprise or leading a social organization. For example, the skill for developing and harnessing ideas as a team leader can grow into developing and realizing vision as the leader grows into enterprise responsibility. It is also agnostic to the sector or domain in which an organization operates.


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