Summary – Leadership Theory & Competency Frameworks

Summary of
A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks

By. R. Bolden, J. Gosling, A. Marurano and P. Dennison
June 2003

If you are looking for a quick overview of leadership theories, Bolden, Gosling, Marurano and Dennison succinctly review the key points of a variety of leadership theories ranging from trait based through to transformational leadership.  Each section provided a quick summary of the key theoretical aspects and touched on a variety of leadership theories including:

  • trait based leadership
  • behavioral
  • situational
  • contingency
  • transactional
  • transformational

Of interest is how the focus of the research has expanded to not only include the leader but the followers and situational context.  The authors noted that there is no one size fits all leadership style and each theory lends itself to different styles, followers and situations (p. 8).   Bolden et. al. reviewed several leadership models and competency frameworks by notable organizations such as Federal Express, Lufthansa, Shell, Ministry of Defence, and the National College for School Leadership.  Each framework highlighted priorities and characteristics unique to its developing company, yet there were many similarities when you moved beyond the choice of language descriptors.

Bolden et. al. selected and briefly over viewed six leadership development initiatives each designed to develop certain characteristics in their participants.  This section provided links for follow up.  Next, the authors examined how to provide governance to the different roles within legal and ethical frameworks.

Lastly, Bolden et. al. reminded us to be thoughtful when considering leadership theories as many theories fail to mention the role of the followers and the complimentary leadership skills needed for success. I agreed with their conclusion that many leadership attributes have been identified and frameworks developed but most importantly the value lies in the process of developing a model.  What seems to be missing in much of the leadership reading that I have done so far is as Bolden noted.  Where do we go once theories and frameworks have been developed?  What are the highest impact strategies that help build effective leadership? And is the process ever really finished or does the framework continually need to evolve?

Although somewhat dated (June 2003), the most helpful part of this article  for me was the overview of theories at the start and reflection on leadership at the end.  As I read through each theory, I began to see connections to both the education and business worlds in which I work.  Each perspective offers an insight into characteristics that will enable you to be considered more leader like, but each theory’s strengths apply to different types of situations, followers and organizations.  Perhaps it’s my eclectic learning style, but at this point I’m most likely to add the relevant points from a variety of theories to my leadership toolbox.  Leadership and what makes a person a leader is much more complicated than it first appears.

I wonder how often we stop to think about why we follow the leaders we do and does who we follow say more about us than the leaders themselves?


Bolden, R., Gosling, J., Marturano, A., & Dennison, P. (2003). A Review of Leadership Theory    and Competency Frameworks. Crossmead: University of Exeter. Retrieved fromça.pdf


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