In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leadership

  • Introduction
  • Definition
  • Leaders Are Born: Trait Approaches to Leadership
  • Leaders Are Made: Leader Behaviors and Skills
  • Situational and Contingency Theories
  • Charismatic, Transformational, and Relational Theories
  • Implicit Leadership Theories
  • Shared/Team Leadership
  • Additional Theories
  • Followership
  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Assessment and Research Methods
  • Leadership Development
  • Multidisciplinary Approaches

Psychology Leadership
Ronald E. Riggio, Masakatsu Ono
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0130


Although the modern study of leadership is more than one hundred years old, the 21st century has seen a great increase in research in leadership, particularly from the social sciences (e.g., psychology, management, political science) but also in the humanities and the arts. The popularity of leadership is likely due to several factors, including its importance in society, its complexity, and the near-celebrity status that Western society imparts to leaders in government, business, and the media. The study of leadership has examined the qualities and characteristics of leaders; the development of those leadership qualities; the emergence of leaders into positions of power and authority; the leader-follower relationship; leadership in groups, teams, organizations, and nations; and the role of the context in leadership. More recent topics in leadership include the social construction of leadership, ethical leadership, gender differences in leaders, leadership across cultures and nations, the notion that leadership is shared and “co-produced” by leaders and followers, and the complexity of the leadership process. In addition to the research that seeks to better understand leadership dynamics, there is a growing leadership “industry” that includes programs in leader development, ranging from programs for youth to seasoned executive leaders in the corporate world, and everything in between. The interest in personal leader development has led to an explosion of books and articles on leadership cultivation and development, as well as to personal insights from leaders in industry, government, the social/nonprofit sector, and even literature.

General Overviews

Many universities offer courses in leadership, and a growing number of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are awarded in leadership studies (or variations of that degree, including “organizational leadership,” “educational leadership,” and the like). As a result, many comprehensive textbooks on leadership are available. Some of the more popular ones, such as Northouse 2018, Yukl 2012, and others are included in the subsection Textbooks. From the practitioner side, there is van Velsor, et al. 2010 and the popular guide to leader development, Kouzes and Posner 2017 (both cited under Practitioner Handbooks). Not considered as general overviews, however, are the large number of popular books authored by leaders in politics, business, and elsewhere, but it is important to mention them because there are so many of these non-academic books.

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