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Skills theory of leadership

Theories of leadership: Skills Theory

Skills theory is somewhat similar to the behavioral theories of leadership. However, it focuses on skills rather than behavior. Again this theory sees leadership in terms of skills. Leadership is a skill that can be learnt. Leaders have specific skills that they use to lead their followers. It implies that the leaders lead through skills to motivate their employees and make them perform. Skills theory had grown from the flaws of the traits theory. The trait theory remained fixed on specific traits due to which it proved to be of no use when it came ṭo developing leaders from the non-leaders. This theory highlights five important skills that are important characteristics of leadership. They include – competencies, individual attributes, leadership outcomes, career experiences and environmental influences. Skills theory thus showed leadership is not meant only for the gifted. It showed that any person could learn and adapt this specific set of skills to become a leader.

The focus of the skill theorists were the skills that made leaders effective. Emphasis however, always remained on leadership as a skill. The most important similarity between the traits and skills theory is that both have the leader at their centre. Katz and Mumsford theories had the skills theories at their basis. The three skills approach that Mumford and Katz proposed argues that there were three essential skills for leadership. These skills are human, conceptual and technical. The human skills are related to the ability to work with the humans; what we also understand as people skills. The conceptual skills work to develop concepts or ideas. The three skills approach also laid emphasis on the point that as the leaders moved along various levels inside an organization, the importance of skills also moved along a specific line. Initially, it is the technical skills that are important, then the human skills and then the conceptual.  Still, the skills theory too has its own weaknesses. However it does appear to be focused on more practical aspects of leadership. This theory too fails to clarify that how competencies supported effective leadership. Despite its weaknesses, the skills theory has been able to show leadership and leaders’ abilities in a new light. Skills theory is also an important theory that has been able to clarify some unique points regarding leadership.

Read: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.