Leadership is a hot topic. Maybe too hot. Not because it’s not important, but because anything that becomes caught up in too many conversations about itself can lose its aliveness, its directness and self-implication.
I personally studied leadership theories (and still do) for years professionally and academically, listened to mentors’ and colleagues conceptions of leadership and influence, watched their influence, tested my own influence, took on my own leadership challenges, and watched all the theories go out the door.
Many theoretical contributions of leadership have been and are useful. I’m not going to review any of them here. Leadership theories can if engaged sincerely speak to and awaken the specific quality or capacity that is asking us to lean into it, become it, or act for it whether that is a character trait, behaviour/outcome, relational skill, or more intimacy with the present moment. Depending where we are at or where we are stuck a particular theory may bring us right where we need to be to integrate more of ourselves in service of our specific leadership mission. This is the best case scenario.
On the other hand, certain theories simply reinforce the very patterns that our emergent leadership is longing to break. Theories are alluring and can be very rich depending on the complexity within them because they typically hold heroes at the helm, host a community of followers, and may draw more on our followership than our authorship. They can also attract the weaker parts of us that are looking for safe havens and excuses to not further develop. In other words, these theories reinforce our blind spots, pull us away from our present state of being, dramatise trendy or naive expressions of heroism (i.e. versions where the self always wins), and remove us from our inherent self knowing and self generating aliveness within. The result of unhealthy fixation on any theoretical construct is self and other dissociation and this can obviously lead to bad decisions, unbalanced view points, avoidance in taking our own true stances, or justification of ethical blind spots.
In place of, or alongside a relevant theory that meets you where you are, I recommend seeking sufficient feedback, mirroring, and attuned presencing of your particular leadership issues by skilled coaches, consultants or colleagues. It may not be a theory you need at all, or at least not a dead one, and you may find yourself living into your own living theory, rather than the safe ground of those that just may not be asking enough of you.