I think that among the contemporary theories, transformational leadership theory is the most important leadership theory in today’s global economy. However, among the traditional leadership theories, behavioral theory should be discussed deeper, because it covers the broadest range of leadership styles and is established upon a strong foundation. Kinicki and Fugate (2017) even argued that transformational leadership is one category of behavioral theory.

Behavioral theory tries to identify leaders’ behaviors that affect the effectiveness of the leadership (Robbins & Judge, 2017). Since humans can be trained to practice some behaviors, this theory also implied that leaders can be trained (Russell, 2011). It acknowledges the different traits of humans that can affect leadership training, but it opposes the idea that those traits are the critical factors that determine whether a person can become an effective leader.

Kinicki and Fugate (2017) asserted that leaders’ behavior can be categorized into four categories: task-oriented, relationship-oriented, passive, and transformational. Leaders with task-oriented behavior focused on helping and rallying others to accomplish their goals. From this behavior, the most common leadership style is transactional or management leadership which focuses on positive and negative rewards based on the performance in accomplishing the task. Leaders with relationship-oriented behaviors are more focused on creating positive work relationships among coworkers. From this behavior, the most common leadership style is the empowerment leadership, servant leadership, and ethical leadership. Leaders with passive behaviors tend to be a failure, and it is important to determine the reason behind the passive behavior to avoid organizational failure. Leaders with transformational behavior aimed to transform their followers to pursue organizational goals. From this behavior, the most common leadership style is charismatic leadership.

These leadership styles were born from the observation of leaders’ behaviors. Much more than the term, leadership theories have evolved far from simplistic models. For instance, the trait theory did not use any assumptions about whether leadership traits were inherited or acquired, instead, it simply asserted that the characteristics of the leaders are different from those of the followers (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). However, later on, trait theorists also suggested that leadership traits can be developed and trained through experience and learning (Kinicki & Fugate, 2017).

Conger (2004) suggested that early life experience is as vital as later life experiences in developing leadership qualities and behaviors. The qualities, such as self-confidence, drive for achievement, communication skills, and interpersonal competence are formed predominantly in the family environment. Experiences in school and college often provide first-hand opportunities to learn leadership. The findings are intriguing since organizations have little to no control over these early life experiences of people.

Studies also suggested that expert performance in many forms of work ventures can be attributed to experience and coaching, rather than simply to in-born talent or early-life experiences (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). Many business leaders agreed that their leadership development is forged during periods of intense challenge and hardship (Conger, 2004).

Research suggests that charismatic leadership is not exclusive only to world leaders. Instead, all of us can develop, within our own limitations, a more charismatic leadership style (Robbins & Judge, 2017). Research from Antonakis et al. (2011) has shown that training had significant effects on leader charisma ratings and that charisma had significant effects on ratings of leaders’ prototypicality and emergence.

Today, leadership training and development is a global industry worth USD 366 million (Westfall, 2019). Companies are willing to invest a huge amount of money in their human resource to develop leadership qualities. The industry is built on the firm conclusion that leadership can be taught and leaders can be made. This is why I think that leadership theories that was partly a behavioral theory is the most important leadership theory in today’s context.


Antonakis, J., Fenley, M., & Liechti, S. (2011). Can Charisma Be Taught? Tests of Two Interventions. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(3), 374–396. https://doi.org/10.5465/amle.2010.0012

Conger, J. A. (2004). Developing leadership capability: What’s inside the black box? Academy of Management Perspectives, 18(3), 136–139. https://doi.org/10.5465/ame.2004.14776188

Ericsson, K. A., & Charness, N. (1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49(8), 725–747. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.49.8.725

Kinicki, A., & Fugate, M. (2017). Organizational Behavior: A Practical, Problem-Solving Approach (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Kirkpatick, S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: do traits matter? Academy of Management Perspectives, 5(2), 48–60. https://doi.org/10.5465/ame.1991.4274679

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2017). Organizational Behavior, Global Edition (17th ed.). Pearson.

Russell, E. (2011, September 8). Leadership theories and style: A transitional approach. Military Leadership Writing Competition. https://doc.presentica.com/11758306/5ec209d6455ed.pdf

Westfall, C. (2019, June 21). Leadership Development Is A $366 Billion Industry: Here’s Why Most Programs Don’t Work. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chriswestfall/2019/06/20/leadership-development-why-most-programs-dont-work/?sh=6d61ef5161de

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