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

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Sources
  • Journals
  • Summaries of the Field

Management Behavioral Approach to Leadership
Ronald F. Piccolo, Claudia Buengeler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 January 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0040


After several decades of leadership research that attempted to identify the specific and unique traits characteristic of those in supervisory positions, academic research shifted to pursue the patterns of behavior exhibited by those who were influential in and around positions of formal leadership. The evolution of leadership research, beyond traits, was due in part to the fact that trait approaches to leadership were shown to have limited explanatory utility. In addition, a behavioral approach to leadership afforded practitioners the opportunity to develop training and development programs that could enhance leadership skills of all managers, not just those who were born with a particular set of favorable traits. In the last half century, the leadership literature—in both the academic and popular press—has been filled with varied models, theories, and anecdotes that characterize the behavior of effective leaders.


Leadership textbooks vary greatly in their treatment of the history, theory, and practical application of leadership concepts. Most devote considerable coverage to the history and environment of the field, highlighting the development and empirical support for the varied models that characterize the broad research. More recent leadership textbooks extend prior treatments of the literature by highlighting the subtleties of new theories and the integration of diverse disciplines that are demonstrative of modern research. Most textbooks are practitioner-oriented, including cases, applications, and useful questionnaires that can be utilized in practice. There are variations across books, but most are more similar than dissimilar. Two widely used representative textbooks are Yukl 2013, now in its eighth edition, and Northouse 2012, now in its sixth edition. Vecchio 2007 is an up-to-date anthology of key writings by well-known contributors. Antonakis and Day 2012 introduces readers to state-of-the-art approaches to leadership theory and practice such as evolutionary and biological perspectives, individual differences, and shared leadership. Miner 2005 provides a detailed review and analysis of building-block theories in organizational behavior, motivation, and leadership. Bass and Bass 2008 is a highly comprehensive and detailed book comprising relevant leadership styles, models, research, and related fields. Nohria and Khurana 2010 is a highly practitioner-oriented handbook.

  • Antonakis, John, and David V. Day. The Nature of Leadership. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.

    Organizes the material into the three key thematic areas of leadership—science, nature, and nurture; the major schools of leadership; and leadership and special domains.

  • Bass, Bernard M., and Ruth Bass. The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications. 4th ed. New York: Free Press, 2008.

    Focuses on historical and modern leadership theories as well as future directions; status, power and influence, and conflicts; leadership of teams; management and organizations; diversity and culture; and development and identification of leaders and leadership.

  • Miner, John B. Organizational Behavior 1: Essential Theories of Motivation and Leadership. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2005.

    Key theories are highlighted, and each chapter includes the background of the theorist represented, the context in which the theory arose, the initial and subsequent theoretical statements, research on the theory by the theory’s author and others (including meta-analysis and reviews), and practical applications.

  • Nohria, Nitin, and Rakesh Khurana, eds. Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice: An HBS Centennial Colloquium on Advancing Leadership. Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2010.

    This handbook provides sociological, psychological, clinical, economic, and organizational behavior perspectives on leadership and covers the practice of leadership (CEO leadership, team leadership, leading for innovation, decision making, leadership development) as well as leadership and history, power, cultural context, and gender.

  • Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory and Practice. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.

    Leadership describes and analyzes a wide variety of theoretical approaches on leadership with a focus on how each theory can be employed to improve leadership in real-world organizations. This book focuses on the description of the approach, three case studies illustrating each approach, and the measurements to apply each approach; it further emphasizes leadership ethics and women and leadership.

  • Vecchio, Robert P. Leadership: Understanding the Dynamics of Power and Influence in Organizations. 2d ed. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2007.

    The text encompasses the major theories in the field of leadership, with eight new chapters.

  • Yukl, G. Leadership in Organizations. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2013.

    Excellent book composed of multiple chapters that summarize relevant leadership theories, empirical findings, practical implications, and new directions, as well as providing the reader with case studies; highly readable and relevant for scholars, graduate students, and individuals interested in the study of leadership.

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