A Word on Theory

Two Actually: useful lies.

All theories are useful lies. Theories are attempts to simplify what is happening in a set of observations. They are attempts to describe a reality that typically falls short (otherwise they wouldn’t be so simple). Consider the opposing theories of the earth’s shape: flat or round. At first, mankind thought the earth was flat. Then, at a highly debatable point in time, it was decided that the world was a sphere.

However, both theories are still being used. Shipbuilders didn’t need to make any adjustments in designing boats with this new information, so the old theory worked. Ship captains, however, needed to adjust and use a round-earth theory if they were going to properly navigate the globe. Today, we know that both theories are incorrect (the earth is actually slightly pear-shaped).

All theories are false, but have a useful element of truth to them. What makes some leadership theories more useful than others is the same as what makes earth-shape theories more useful than others: situation.

The theory that will be most useful is the theory that works best with the situation. This is why leaders and aspiring leaders both need to become students of leadership theories: in order to know which one the situation calls for. In order to help you, this series will summarize the array of leadership theories and end each summary with a paragraph that will explain the strengths (useful) and the criticisms (lies) of each theory.


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