Leadership Maxim and Leadership Theory Comparison


Leadership is the art of socially influencing people to maximize their efforts towards achieving set goals (Davies & Brundrett 2010). Leaders are usually required to define goals and come up with ways through which they can motivate, inspire and empower their subordinates or followers to achieve the set goals. Good leadership is important in getting the best out of subordinates, encouraging teamwork, and attaining organizational success. This paper will discuss the differences and similarities between a leadership maxim and a leadership theory.

Over the years, people have become increasingly interested in leadership. Psychologists have come up with leadership theories and maxims that seek to explain the traits that successful leaders possess. These theories have been tested over time by scholars and psychologists. Research has shown that by learning the different approaches to leadership through the leadership theories and leadership maxims, a person can learn to be an effective leader (Burns 2012).

Assessing leadership

Good leaders know their strengths and weaknesses. This helps them to know the leadership aspects that they should change. It also helps them know how effective their leadership style is. It is, therefore, important to conduct a leadership assessment to determine the effectiveness of their leadership. Research has shown that clarity of concepts, leadership capacity, and leadership efficacy are some of the factors that should be taken into consideration when conducting a leadership assessment. Feedback is also very important when conducting leadership assessments. It is important to get feedback from subordinates and colleagues to help in assessing a leader. Leadership can also be assessed in terms of how well an organization can meet its short-term and long-term goals. A good leader will always make sure that the organization or department that he or she heads meets the set objectives.

Leadership theories

A leadership theory is an assumption about the distinguishing traits of a particular leader (Burns 2012). A leadership theory determines the specific characteristics that a leader possesses e.g. skill levels. A leadership theory gives the reasons as to why some successful leaders and leaders fail. Over the years, many leadership theories have emerged. These leadership theories can be classified into 8 categories (Northouse 2010).

Trait theories

These theories assume that some people have certain unique qualities that make them better suited to take up leadership. Trait theories identify the certain traits that are shared by successful leaders. They include; courage, self-confidence, and extraversion. This theory has, however, proved to be ineffective in determining people who possess leadership qualities (Northouse 2010). Many people who possess leadership traits do not take up any leadership positions.

Situational theories

According to these theories, leaders chose the course of action to be taken based on the situations they encounter. It may be advisable to choose a democratic style of leadership when dealing with professionals.

Relationship theories

These theories are also known as transformational theories (Northouse 2010). According to these theories, leaders try to connect with their followers by motivating and inspiring and helping them to know the importance of the task at hand. Such leaders are believed to have high ethical standards.

Great man” theories

According to these theories, leaders are born with the traits that make them best suited to take up leadership positions. The theory strongly believes that good leaders are not made, but are born possessing such traits as confidence, intelligence, and social skills that make them great leaders (Davies & Brundrett 2010).

Management theories

These theories are also known as transactional theories (Davies & Brundrett 2010). According to these theories, leaders encourage good behavior by giving rewards and discourage bad behavior through punishment.

Leadership maxims

This is a short statement that reflects a person’s belief about leadership (Burns 2012). These statements serve as constant reminders of how the leader should behave. A leadership maxim helps leaders to be decisive. Maxims are usually influenced by some of our past experiences.

The similarities between a leadership theory and a leadership maxim

A leadership theory and a leadership maxim do not share many similarities. They are different concepts altogether. However, it is important to note that both show the qualities that successful leaders possess. They are both aimed at getting the best from followers. Both belief in setting goals and working hard to achieve the set goals. Both advocate that leaders are not born, but rather leaders are made.

The differences between a leadership theory and a leadership maxim

Leadership theories are mainly based on assumptions while leadership maxims are based on personal experience (Davies & Brundrett 2010). Leadership theories have been tested through the years and found to be working while leadership maxims are based on personal experiences.


Leadership theories prove to be more effective since they make assumptions based on some of the successful leaders. Leadership maxims, on the other hand, are only based on personal experiences and may at times prove to be ineffective.


Burns, J. M. (2012). Leadership. New York: Open Road Integrated Media.

Davies, B., & Brundrett, M. (2010). Developing successful leadership. Dordrecht: Springer.

Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: theory and practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.