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Engineering Leadership Program: Leadership Theories

Leadership Theories

The original source for a leadership theory (or the primary source) can often be discovered by reading an encyclopedia article on the theory.  The article will often give a history of the theory, starting with the person or persons who originally came up with the theory.  Check the citations in the article to see if you can find an original publication.  Some good places to look for encyclopedia articles are:

• OneSearch, limiting the content type to "reference":


Once you've found an author for the theory or a citation to your primary source - a book, article, report, or other source, use OneSearch to search for the title, or conduct an advanced search with the author's name (type: last name, first name).  The date limiting filter may also be helpful in finding the primary source you are looking for.


The Wikipedia article for Functional leadership model cites Hackman & Walton, 1986:

A Wikipedia article on trait theory cites Gordon Allport as a pioneer in studying traits.  An encyclopedia article on Personality Trait and Type Theory in Top Business Psychology Models cites an 1921 article by Allport and Allport.  Searching for Allport as an author in OneSearch and limiting the date to 1921 brings up a citation for the article below:

which the CU Boulder Libraries has in print in our offsite storage facility but, you can find the article freely available online.

The Wikipedia article on Servant leadership cites this essay as the place where "servant leadership" was coined:

James V. Downton is cited with coining the term transformational leadership in the Wikipedia article on this topic:

The dictionary The AMA Dictionary of Business and Management cites James Burns and his book: 

for the transactional and transformational leadership theories.

The dictionary The AMA Dictionary of Business and Management cites James Burns and his book: 

for the transactional and transformational leadership theories.

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Citation Chaining

Another research strategy that can help you find primary sources for leadership theories is citation chaining. When you are reading a book or article that is about or mentions a leadership theory, check the citation - look in the works cited - to find out what older source is being cited for that theory.  Often they will cite the original or primary source for the theory.