January 17, 2016 by helenwaldron

“Welcome to the very first meeting of the Bee’s Knees stammtisch!*”

There were polite murmurs and the clinking of glasses as the participants put their glasses down on the pub table to listen to Speakeasy.

“We’ve chosen Leadership as our first topic. It’s a subject everyone knows something about. And to kick us off we have a short film which came to us via the excellent BD Communications. It’s called Ten Leadership Theories in Five Minutes.”

Writewell was ready with the remote control for the flat screen mounted on the wall. It was usually used for watching sports and news.  The participants of the first ever Bee’s Knees stammtisch* settled down to watch a film, forgetting that they were not there to enjoy themselves. But Speakeasy and Writewell never forgot that they were teachers. They began by eliciting the participants’ knowledge of leadership theories. Then Writewell snapped on a powerpoint slide with the titles of the theories one by one.

  1. The Great Man Theory.

“This is the very old idea, that certain individuals were born to lead,” said Writewell. “And the rest of us were born to follow.”

“What about great women?” asked a voice in the darkened room.

“It’s not very fair,” said another voice.

“But it’s probably true,” added a third.

Do you think that leaders are born or made? asked the powerpoint slide.

2.  The Trait Theory of Leadership.

“This is the idea that certain traits, or personal characteristics, are what make leaders. So it’s a little bit fairer.”

“More modern,” somebody approved.

Or do certain qualities make you a good leader? asked Mr Powerpoint.

“But which qualities?” asked a voice.

“Exactly,” answered Speakeasy. “That’s exactly what they ask in the film.”

  1. The Skills Theory.

“Here it’s less a matter of personality, and more a matter of skills, which can be learnt. So great leaders gain others’ respect by having specialist or organisational skills.”

Does a leader have to be an expert in their field?

There was a nodding of heads and a clinking of glasses on the table. Most people seemed happy with this one and some of them had a sip of their drinks to celebrate.

A neat column  appeared line by line on the powerpoint slide. It consisted of the following words:

Technical skills

People skills

Conceptual skills

4. The Style Theory of Leadership.

“Now this one’s fun,” announced Writewell.

And as she clicked her remote control, there appeared first a matrix, then a bar chart, a pie chart and finally a veritable ferris wheel on the flat screen.

“You can decide which leadership style you have. Or rather which styles you have most often.”

There was quite a bit of discussion here, and Writewell sat down and helped herself to her own drink.

  1. The Situation Leadership Theory.

“The leader needs to adapt their leadership style to the situation.”

“Yes, of course! Always!” agreed somebody.

“This is what we teachers do,” suggested Speakeasy.

“Politicians do it too.”

“Ouch,” said Speakeasy.

6. The Contingency Theory of Leadership.

“Contingency leadership is when they keep a football coach as long as the team is winning. As soon as the team stops winning they kick him out.  So we’re assuming that leaders don’t or can’t adapt their style, you have to find the right leader for the situation.”

A leader is judged on results alone.

  1. Transactional Leadership

“This is leading by offering rewards. If you do this, I’ll give you that. It’s like extrinsic motivation”.

Good leaders reward their team.

“That’s how business works,” added  a voice. “Business is transaction or trade.”

“Well, yes,” put in Speakeasy. “But the next one is sexier.”

  1. Transformational Leadership

Good leaders inspire their team.

“This is when a leader changes or transforms those they lead. They motivate them intrinsically, until they share a vision.”

“That’s how ideologies work, “ went on the same voice. “People have a “passion” for work and work round the clock for the company. It’s a form of brainwashing. You can’t just have a job and then a life anymore. When you listen to some company employees they sound more like they’re in a cult than just producing consumer goods, or whatever.”

Speakeasy and Writewell knew then that this person was going to hate the next leadership theory.

9. The Leader-Member Exchange Theory

 “This one’s a bit like Transactional Leadership, but not everyone’s involved. So you have winners and losers and insiders and outsiders.”

Writewell spoke quickly.

Her slide asked:

Belonging? Or bullying?

“And the last one is a bit more intrinsic, like transformational leadership.”

10. The Servant Leadership Theory.

“The leader’s role is to serve. Leaders identify their followers’ needs and build up trust and gratitude through their compassion and love.”

“Like Jesus, it said in the film.”

“Yes, like Jesus.”

“I mean,” said a new voice, which had up to now been sunken in its glass of wine. “Who thinks these things up?”


*this word is untranslatable, so let’s just adopt it. Think Plato’s Symposium, Socrates’ Symposium, but in a German bar.


** And because Professor Zigarelli talks so fast (to fit his ten theories into his five minutes) here’s another link to the same film with a transcript. (Sorry, can’t work out a fast way to insert and modify media in posts using my new hardware).



Coming Soon!

Helen Waldron

Speakeasy and Writewell promise not to send junk mail or advertising!

Teachers as Workers

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