Understanding the Core Leadership Models in Organizations

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Corporate leader gets ready for a meeting

Leading an organization is about more than being “in charge.” It’s about knowing how to motivate your workforce so everyone can succeed. Effective leaders strive to understand each employee, what motivates them and find the leadership models that work well with various teams. They also understand that leadership is not about ruling people, but instead about helping all employees do the best work they can.

For example, some in leadership positions take ownership of employees’ poor performance. They note that sometimes mistakes are made as a result of poor instructions, and not because of employees’ lack of capabilities. In this situation, a manager may choose to take more time to explain tasks in the future, and make sure employees fully understand what needs to be done.

Professionals who want to advance their careers and take on leadership positions are likely to find that completing an advanced degree, such as the online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL), can help them toward that goal.

Students who complete an MAOL program often find they’ve developed enhanced supervisory, leadership and communication skills that qualify them to apply for advanced positions.

Types of Leadership Models in Organizations

There are several different leadership models that are used in for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and while each provides an alternative approach to decision-making, policy formation and operational efficiency, some are more effective than others.

For example, managers who adopt an autocratic leadership style — in which they make all decisions without considering or consulting with their employees — is often not effective. As an example, a department head may suddenly swap the working hours for daytime and nighttime staff or volunteers. This type of leadership style is not only ineffective, it can create chaos within the organization.

However, managers who adopt situational leadership, transformational leadership or functional leadership ideologies often find they’re able to excite and inspire their teams and people.

Situational Leadership: Situational leadership theory was developed by author P. Hersey and leadership expert Kenneth H. Blanchard. In this style, managers adapt their leadership methods to match the skills, competence and maturity level of their employees. It suggests that no one management style is better than another, but instead, department heads are advised to be flexible and adaptive in the workplace.

For example, if a department head is working with a team that has a high maturity level, they may be able to offer direction as to how a project should be completed, while providing minimal supervision. On the other hand, if they are working with a team that has a lower maturity level, the team leader may need to provide explicit directions for completing a task and supervise staff closely.

Transformational Leadership: Professionals who embrace a transformational leadership style encourage employees to innovate and create change. They do not micromanage, but instead set an example and lead through mentorship and training.

Transformational leadership theory was introduced in 1978 by author James McGreggor Burns. He suggested that professionals who employ this style share several common traits, such as the ability to inspire and intellectually stimulate staff.

An example of one of the world’s best-known transformational leaders is Steve Jobs. His passion for perfection and simplicity in computer design is what helped transform Apple from a small, home-based business into a multibillion-dollar corporation. His ability to lead employees and constantly challenge them to think beyond conventional boundaries is what helped the organization succeed.

Functional Leadership: Functional leadership models in organizations focus less on who is doing the leading and instead concentrate on how leadership occurs within an organization. In this methodology, the primary job of the department head or manager is to ensure that individuals and teams have everything they need to complete an action.

One of the most famous blueprints for this model is Jon Adair’s Action-Centered Leadership model. This model consists of three overlapping circles, which include the phrases “achieving the task,” “managing the group” and “managing individuals.” Using this model, functional leaders know how to define a group task, identify and meet the group’s training needs, and how to utilize each team members’ individual strengths to move the task toward completion.

Functional leadership styles are often successful because in this model, any group member can be the leader. It focuses less on who does what and more on what’s needed to get the job done.

Find the Right Leadership Model for You

Great organizations need great leaders. Professionals who enroll in Rider University’s online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program are taught how various leadership models in organizations can improve efficiency, refine operations and capitalize on the strengths of employees.

This dynamic, online program is designed to help working professionals build on existing managerial competencies and learn how to become better leaders. Your path toward a career in leadership starts today. Discover how an online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership degree from Rider University can help you toward that goal.

Recommended Reading:

Top Organizational Leadership Careers: Duties and Requirements

Online Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership Information Session

Intergenerational Communication Issues: Management Tips for a More Effective Workplace


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Forbes “Which Of These 4 Leadership Styles Are You?”

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Houston Chronicle, “Define Situational Leadership”

Houston Chronicle, “Transformational Leadership vs. Situational Leadership”

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