The Four Factor Theory of Leadership

A Foundation of Good Leadership

4 Factor Theory of Leadership

Learn about the four foundations of good leadership.

© iStockphoto/Veni

Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you're ready to play as tough as you're able to, you'd better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you're not giving it all you've got. – Larry Bird, Basketball player

If someone asked you to say what the basics of good leadership are, what would you tell them?

Perhaps you'd use phrases like "having integrity," "inspiring people," "leading from the front," and a whole range of other phrases besides.

Good leadership involves many different attributes, but there are common factors that link many of them.

In this article we'll look at the Four Factor Theory of Leadership, a classic model that defines four basic dimensions of effective leadership. We'll then think about how you can use these dimensions with your team.

About the Theory

Researchers David Bowers and Stanley Seashore developed the Four Factor Theory of Leadership in the mid-1960s, and published it in 1966.

The pair reviewed the findings of several other leading researchers, who were exploring what it takes to be an effective leader. They noticed that there were four dimensions that consistently emerged in these studies.

The four factors were:

  1. Providing Personal Support – Helping people value themselves and their work, so that they can develop a sense of self-worth.
  2. Encouraging Teamwork ("Interaction Facilitation") – Encouraging people to establish close, collaborative, successful working relationships with one another.
  3. Focusing on Goals ("Goal Emphasis") – Inspiring people to feel enthusiastic about and committed to shared goals, and motivating them to want to perform well.
  4. Helping People Work Effectively ("Work Facilitation") – Helping people meet goals by supporting them, and by providing resources, materials, or knowledge.

Bowers and Seashore concluded that leaders need to do all of these things to lead their teams effectively.

Applying the Theory

Although the more recent idea of Transformational Leadership   is often the best leadership approach to use in business leadership situations, it can be helpful to keep Bowers and Seashore's factors in mind as you work with your team. After all, it helps to know about a variety of different leadership styles  , so that you can use the best approach for a given situation.

So, how can you apply the four dimensions?

Providing Personal Support

With this dimension, leaders support members of their team on an emotional level by developing people's feelings of self-worth, and by helping them feel appreciated and valued.

As a leader, this means showing your people that you value the work they do. Reward your team   by saying "thank you" when people have done a job well, or have gone beyond the call of duty. (If you're working on a slim budget, don't think you have to reward your team's efforts with cash; there are plenty of ways to motivate your team without bonuses  .)

You can also support your people emotionally by building their self-confidence  , and by showing empathy  .

Remember, most people on your team just want...

... for the complete article:

Mind Tools Club members, click here.

Join the Mind Tools Club to finish this article AND get 1,000 more resources

Join now for just $1, first month

"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
Add this article to My Learning Plan

Where to go from here:

Join the Mind Tools Club

Click to join Mind Tools
Printer-friendly version
Return to the top of the page

Create a Login to Save Your Learning Plan

This ensures that you don’t lose your plan.


Connect with…

Or create a Mind Tools login. Existing user? Log in here.
Log in with your existing Mind Tools details
Lost Username or Password
You are now logged in…

Lost username or password?

Please enter your username or email address and we'll send you a reminder.

Thank You!

Your log in details have been sent to the email account you registered with. Please check your email to reset your login details.

Create a Mind Tools Login
Your plan has been created.

While you're here, subscribe to our FREE newsletter?

Learn a new career skill every week, and get our Personal Development Plan workbook (worth $19.99) when you subscribe.


Thank You!

Please check your Inbox, and click on the link in the email from us. We can then send you the newsletter.