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Unified Leadership Theory - The Big Picture

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There are a lot of leadership books promoting various leadership styles usually focusing on one skill but leadership takes a lot of skills. For example, focusing on 'Visionary Leadership' is like saying that the GPS unit is the most important part of the car. Alternatively, can we say that the body style is more important than the motor? A transmission is necessary, does it really matter if it is a manual or automatic transmission?

What happens when there is a paradigm shift from gas to electricity? I think we might be at a paradigm shifting point in history when we move from vertical leadership (gasoline) to horizontal leadership (electricity).



Leadership Theories to date
(would you base your leadership style on any single style?)

Old Styles
  • Great Man
  • Character and Traits
  • Authoritarian
  • Commanding
  • Transactional


New Styles
  • Strategic - Strategic Leadership: How to Think and Plan Strategically and Provide Direction by John Adair (2010)
  • Visionary - Visionary Leadership by Burt Nanus (1995)
  • Humble - Leading with Humility by Holly S. Ferraro, (2013)
  • Servant - Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert K. Greenleaf (2002)
  • Authentic - Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value by Bill George (2004)
  • Resonant - Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, Annie McKee (2004)
  • Heroic - Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World by Chris Lowney
  • Charismatic - The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane (2013)
  • Participative / Democratic - Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization by Dan Pontefract (2013)
  • Team - The Wisdom of Teams by Jon Katzenbach and Doug Smith
  • Emergent Leadership - The Emerging Leader: Eight Lessons for Life in Leadership by David A. Lewis (2008)
  • Coaching / Supportive -
    The Heart of Coaching: Using Transformational Coaching to Create a High-performance Coaching Culture Paperback by Thomas G. Crane (2007)
  • Transformational - Transforming Leadership: A New Pursuit of Happiness by James MacGregor Burns (2004)
  • SuperLeadership - SuperLeadership: Leading Others to Lead Themselves by Manz and Sims (1989)
  • Values - Values Leadership: Toward a New Philosophy of Leadership by Gilbert W. Fairholm (1991)



Unified Theory (Leadership Common Sense)

In physics there is a concept called "Grand Unified Theory" or GUTs that shows how electromagnetism plus the strong and weak nuclear forces are part of the same phenomenon. When gravity is integrated into the model we will have a "Theory of Everything".

In the same way we need to look as all these leadership "particles" and see how they all fit together into a unified leadership model. Humble, resonant and servant leadership interact and affect authentic, democratic and team leadership (which gives capability) which are all affected by the heroic, visionary and strategic particles of leadership (which gives direction).

Organization capability is like a scalar quantity (magnitude like mass, density or power) while capability+direction is a vector quantity (like acceleration, momentum or force). The objective of the organization is to create and exert social force to move a social mass in a certain direction. (Learn scalars and vectors)



Leadership Flower

An organic way to look at the Unified Leadership Theory is to think of the concept of a flower. Each "style" is like a petal on a flower. The flower can lose a few petals and still be pretty, but if it loses too many then it loses its beauty. As a leader you do not have to be perfect in all aspects, but you need to be functional in most.

The flower needs nourishment. Your worldview and character are like the soil that provides nourishment and a place to grow while the sun is the light of feedback from the team and society. The winds of change are chaos and competition.

The primary purpose of a flower is to produce seeds.
In the team, that means mentor and produce new leaders.



More books

Like blind men touching an elephant, each of these books touches on small part of the leadership elephant. Thousands of leadership consultants are promoting a lot of ideas about leadership. Leadership is not this complicated. You do not need to have a PhD in psychology and sociology to be a leader. Leadership is quite simple. We are all leaders in one way or another and we can be bigger leaders easily when we want to be.



  • Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead by Bruce J. Avolio (2013)
  • Strategic Leadership: Theory and Research on Executives, Top Management Teams, and Boards by Sydney Finkelstein (2009)
  • Charismatic Leadership: A How to Guide by Dr. David Tuffley (2012)
  • Charismatic Leadership: The Hidden Controversy by Jane Whitney Gibson (1998)
  • Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (2011)
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (2006)
  • Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie (2009)
  • Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell (2005)
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (2004)
  • Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras (2004)
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins (2001)
  • How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People by Leslie T. Giblin (1985)
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (2009)
  • Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (2010)
  • The Truth About Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner (2010)
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink (2011)
  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (2008)
  • Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright (2011)
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen (2011)
  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry (2009)
  • Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath 2009
  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek (2014)
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell (1998)
  • The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations
  • by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner (2012)
  • The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential Paperback by John C. Maxwell (2013)
  • The Art and Discipline of Strategic Leadership by Mike Freedman
  • Visionary Leadership: A Proven Pathway to Visionary Change by William A. Ihlenfeldt Ph.D. (2011)
  • Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose Paperback by Tony Hsieh (2013)
  • Reinventing Leadership: Strategies to Empower the Organizatio by Warren G. Bennis and Robert Townsend (2005)
  • Becoming Authentic: The Search for Wholeness and Calling as a Servant Leader by Trevor M. Hall, ed. (2007)
  • The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership Hardcover by James C. Hunter (1998)
  • Humble Leadership: Being Radically Open to God's Guidance and Grace Paperback by N. Graham Standish (2007)
  • Lead with Humility: 12 Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis Hardcover by Jeffrey A. Krames (2014)
  • Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden, Steve Jamison (2005)
  • Leader-Coach: Developing Effective Ministry Teams by Stan Toler (2013)
  • Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee G. Bolman (2013)
  • Leadership and the Culture of Trust by Gilbert W. Fairholm (1994)


more to come as I think of it

Updated 19th-March-2015 at 08:08 PM by Željko Zidarić

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Željko Zidarić

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