Psychology and Leadership


The role of psychology and leadership can be as complex as people are. People are diverse and unique and what motivates one person may not motivate another. When people are in groups though, we have learned that there are common goals that they can work together to achieve.

Approaches to leadership can be as diverse as the leader. However, they can be grouped into three main psychological approaches to leadership. Hierarchal style leadership, monarchical style leadership and servant style leadership.

The Hierarchy

Hierarchal style is probably the most common type of leadership in the workplace and at schools. In this top-down approach, rules and regulations are handed down through a chain-of-command until it reaches the bottom. Often, the lower-level employees do not get to have any interaction with the top tiers of command and anything they have to offer must be handed up to the next supervisor in hopes that it might reach the top. Chief Executive Officers rarely hear from the bottom of the chain and therefore lose out on hearing how their regulations actually work in the day-to-day business.

The Monarchy

The Monarchical style of leadership is often used in very strict environments like military applications. The focus is not on the individuals, but on consistent and immediate compliance. All of the positions in the monarchy should be doing exactly as the top leader has demanded. In the military, this ensures that the strategic plan set out by those making decisions, is carried out precisely how it was directed.

The Servant

Servant style leadership has been popular with spiritual leaders and ministry teams for a long time. The psychological approach has found it's way into the workplace in recent decades. The idea is to keep the customer at the top as the most valued. From there though, it differs from the hierarchal top-down approach.

In this model, the lower level employees are empowered to do more themselves. Instead of rules and regulations being the role of management, the management sees their job as being supports to the lower level employees. The goal of the CEO then is to support their management teams with what they need to support the lower-level management staff. The lower-level management then exists to support the lower-level employee who will be offering services directly to the customer.


Ultimately, the best use of psychology in leadership is in determining what the goal is. When matters of war or security are at stake, the long-term psychological health of the members are less important. Human error in these cases can cost lives and strict obedience is necessary. However, most of the time leadership is used in places that are handling taking care of customers, students, or shareholders. In these applications, one should consider the cost of valuable employees being stopped from improving things because they are halted by the chain of command. We live in a day where the educational gap between the lower-level employee and the CEO is shrinking. All employees can offer valuable insights and innovation. Servant leadership should be seriously considered by any looking to improve their organization in the long-term.


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