Leadership Theories
A leader has to appear consistent. at doesn’t mean he has to be
—James Callahan
To understand the eect the leadership style of a program manager can
have on a program team, it is rst necessary to understand various leader-
ship styles. Each of the styles discussed here, although not a comprehen-
sive list, has positive and negative qualities, and no single style will be
eective in all scenarios.
Many leadership theories have evolved over the last 100 years ranging
from great man, leadership traits, and behavioral to transformational,
transactional, dark versus light, situational, and charismatic. Researchers
have made eorts to link some of the theories across these leadership
islands. Each model has its own pros, cons, assumptions, and limitations,
but current research is much more focused on situational and transfor-
mational leadership styles, while the ongoing debate between born versus
made leaders continues. Leadership gurus continue to oer new models
as variations to many already existing models. Max Weber, MacGregor
Burns, Bernard Bass, and Warren Bennis are a few of the important
researchers in the area of leadership. Understanding the variances between
leadership styles and traits is vital to leveraging the leadership theory in
the workplace.
Leadership theories have an extensive history and abound with research
and supporting materials. Leadership contributes to the development and
innovation of new products, increased services through better commu-
nication, empowering sta, and discourse on risky issues (Howell and
Higgins 1990). Although the general value of leadership is well accepted,
the preferred style of leadership for specic scenarios is debated. Whether
82 • Program Management Leadership
transformational versus transactional, charismatic versus pseudo-trans-
formational, situational versus servant, or authoritative versus collabora-
tive, leadership style has a tremendous impact on a team and its ability to
perform eectively, positively, and innovatively in the attempt to meet or
exceed business goals. With so many dierent leadership styles, which one
is the best for program management and team empowerment in simple
or highly complex environments? e answer, of course, is it depends . . .
Each opportunity faced by a program manager has a dierent set of
team members, management culture, program challenges, environmental
challenges, client issues, and cost-related problems. It would be wonder-
ful if there were a single management style or trait that could be pointed
to as “the management style that makes an excellent program manager.
However, there are so many factors that contribute to eective leadership
that styles will and should vary based on the team and the organization.
e ability of a leader to vary his or her approach to the situation is referred
to as situational leadership.
Leadership is motivating people to set aside their own objectives and
for a period of time contribute to the successful outcome of a team eort.
Situational leadership requires knowing what styles are available, when
to leverage them, and how to tailor them to the situation at hand. With
the assortment of styles and awareness of the positive and negative con-
sequences of each style, leaders can focus on the approaches most suited
to building HPTs, increasing communication, developing positive conict
management approaches, avoiding demoralizing sta, and establishing a
safe and productive program management team.
omas Carlyle initially proposed the great-man theory, which was
based on the belief that leaders are born and not made. In his opinion, a
true leader was someone born to lead and who was naturally charismatic,
intrinsically motivated, visionary, and empathetic. Although numer-
ous examples could be cited to support this theory, including Winston
Churchill, George Patton, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Alexander the Great,
these same leaders were certainly born to greatness but many were highly
educated in leadership throughout their lifetime. If we believe that lead-
ers are born and not made through education, interaction, experience,
and the challenges they face, then why invest in attending business school
and seminars or reading leadership journals and books? If this theory was
accurate, then leaders could just be placed in executive roles and not have
to bother with all of the hard work of education, experience, and building

Get Program Management Leadership now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.