Approaches to Leadership. Leadership Models

Leadership is a psychological phenomenon observed in all human societies. Whether it is a learned ability or a talent, some people occupy a domineering position over others. There are several approaches to explaining this dynamic. All of them revolve around the managerial side of intrapersonal relationships. Yet, they acknowledge that leading people and managing them are different constructs. Understanding the concepts of the main leadership theorists is essential in ascertaining the major approaches to leadership.

McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor studied various manifestations of leadership and challenged the conventionally accepted practice. He referred to it as Theory X, and its central postulate was based on the belief in the inherent human complacency (Tindal, 2015). In essence, people can be motivated by a combination of appealing actions and punishments. Subsequently, unless a manager treats their subordinates as immature children, they will not accomplish successful communication.

McGregor did not agree with this viewpoint and presented an alternative approach. His new suggestion is known as Theory Y, which is practically the opposite of Theory X. McGregor refused to accept the idea that people detest work and try their best to avoid it. He believed that people genuinely start to invest efforts and time when they feel that their work is worthwhile. This presumption changed the approach completely as it required managers to motivate workers rather than force them.

In practice, the COVID-19 pandemic showcased both approaches as employees were required to work from home. Almost half of the managers did not trust their subordinates to perform their duties on time, which is indicative of Theory X leadership (Glover, 2020). However, the advancement of digital technology has shown that this style is better suited for assembly lines rather than modern work. Therefore, remote offices are likely to compel managers to shift to Theory Y leadership.

Situational Leadership

A different outlook was introduced by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. Like McGregor, they also put emphasis on the workers’ motivation. However, they did not view it on an exclusive basis but rather had different levels of people’s willingness. Another aspect the researchers took into account is how effective the employees are at a particular work. Combined with personal motivation, the workers’ ability determined how a manager approaches their subordinates.

Overall, Hersey’s and Blanchard’s theory posited that there are four management styles. The first is “selling”, which is applied to employees who are motivated but not skilled enough. The second is “telling”, and it suits those people who only begin working and have neither experience nor the willingness. “Participating” requires managers to direct workers with high aptitude but low drive. Finally, “delegating” is applies to equally willing and able workers who are trusted and need minimal guidance.

The real-life application of situational leadership can be observed in companies, such as Ivy Exec. It is a career consulting entity, which emphasizes the importance of context. The experts at Ivy Exec believe that the reason for the failure of the corporate training industry lay specifically in the tendency to generalize and view everyone within the same framework (Bajic, 2017). The company prides itself on following situational leadership approach, thus avoiding the mistakes of other management styles.

The Managerial Grid

An even more diverse classification was offered by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton. Its distinctive characteristic is the abundance of categories describing “manager’s concern for people or for production” (Tindal, p. 22, 2015). As such, the researchers’ assumption is that the more involved the leader is, the better the performance of their team will be. It is also supposed that the absence of people in charge always results in a negative output.

Blake and Mouton distinguish five styles based on these two concerns. The first style is Impoverished management, which is described as the worst because the manager shows little attention to people and production. The Country club is the second style, and it manifests in high investment in employees but low interest in work results. Team management represents the best managerial attitude, which is portrayed by equally high value to people and production. Task management is the opposite of the Country club and presupposes strict rules. Finally, the Middle of the rode is the equilibrium of all four styles, where the manager is neither overprotective nor ignorant.

Probably, all modern successful corporations have or had at some point a leader who followed the Team management style. The question of whether the company stopped being run that way is a private corporate affair. However, three well-known names are famous for the Team management style, even if they did not acknowledge it verbally. Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison are different individuals, yet they all gave the same priority to people as well as the results (Murphy, 2018). The results of their work changed the world, and at the core stood their Team management style.


Altogether, it is evident that approaches to leadership focus on the same aspect – the involvement of the manager. The theory developed by Blake and Mouton is similar to McGregor’s in that they accentuate the absence of the manager as the reason for the impending downfall. At the same time, Hersey and Blanchard are the only ones who recognize that that employees are as relevant as the leader, and it is essential to plan the involvement of the leader based on their subordinates’ personal characteristics. Overall, neither approach is definitive as they all follow certain assumptions, which might not be true in real life.


Bajic, E. (2017). Make time to figure out which leadership style works best for you. Forbes. Web.

Glover, P. (2020). Seven steps to eliminating Theory X management for organizational success. Forbes. Web.

Murphy, M. (2018). The Leadership Model Used By Steve Jobs, Henry Ford And Thomas Edison. Forbes. Web.

Tindal, R. C. (2015). Municipal administration program – unit 4. In C. Conteh, E. S. Stedall, & T. Haddad (Eds.), Municipal administration program (pp. 1–236). Tindal Consulting Limited.

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