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Do you find the myriad of different leadership models and theories difficult to navigate? You’re in good company! Personally, I find it helpful to focus in on areas of commonality or convergence, as well as what the research tells us about these areas – this tends to lead me away from the buzz words and passing trends.

Here’s my first conclusion.

Truth no. 1: Great leaders are open-minded and always learning

The leadership theories that are most supported by research findings tend to suggest that self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn from others are important aspects of leadership style. Leaders who are open to listening and learning can also encourage learning and creativity in others.

Research tells us that great leaders:

  • consult with others (Judge and Bono, 2000) – Transformational Leadership
  • encourage others to question and challenge them (Walumbwa et al, 2008) – Authentic Leadership
  • have good listening skills (Stein et al, 2011) – Emotional Intelligence
  • are more self-aware and tuned into their own strengths and weaknesses (Stein et al, 2011) – Emotional Intelligence; Ou et al (2014) Humility; (e.g. Walumbwa et al, 2008) Authentic Leadership
  • support their employees’ development needs (Judge and Bono, 2000) – Transformational Leadership; Mahembe, B., & Engelbrecht, A.S. (2014) Servant Leadership
  • encourage others to be creative and innovative (Judge and Bono, 2000) – Transformational Leadership

Linking this to my own practice, it is often the people who have made it their mission to gain feedback, to learn about their own strengths and developmental needs and to adapt their approach over time who have become very successful leaders in challenging times. This approach can in turn foster a culture that encourages collaboration, consultation and feedback, as well as their staff’s development and learning.

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Sarah Clapperton is a Director at Bloojam Consulting. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 15 years experience in the assessment and development of leaders.


  • Judge, T.A., & Bono, J.E. (2000). Five-factor model personality and transformational leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(5), 751-765.
  • Mahembe, B., & Engelbrecht, A.S. (2014). The relationship between servant leadership, organisational citizenship behaviour and team effectiveness. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 40(1), 1-10.
  • Ou, A.Y., Tsui, A.S., Kinicki, A.J., Waldman, D.A., Xiao, Z., & Song, L.J. (2014). Humble Chief Executive Officers’ Connections to Top Management Team Integration and Middle Managers’ Responses. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59(1), 34-72.
  • Stein, S.J., & Book, H.E. (2011). Emotional Intelligence and Your Success: Third Edition. Ontario: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S. & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34, 89-126.