The Four Factor Theory of Leadership

A Foundation of Good 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:

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