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Outstanding leadership theory is a term created by Robert House and Phillip Podsakoff in 1994. The term is an attempt to group the theories on charismatic leadership, transformational leadership and visionary leadership.[1]


The term was first used in the chapter "Leadership Effectiveness: Past Perspectives and Future Directions for Research", published in the book Organizational Behavior: The State of the Science, written by Jerald Greenberg in 1994.

In the book, House and Podsakoff attempted to summarize the behaviors and approaches of "outstanding leaders" that they obtained from some more modern theories and research findings. Parts of the theory are based on House's work on the Path-goal theory. The listed leadership behaviors cover:

  • Vision. Outstanding leaders articulate an ideological vision congruent with the deeply-held values of followers, a vision that describes a better future to which the followers have an alleged moral right.
  • Passion and self-sacrifice. Leaders display a passion for, and have a strong conviction of, what they regard as the moral correctness of their vision. They engage in outstanding or extraordinary behavior and make extraordinary self-sacrifices in the interest of their vision and mission.
  • Confidence, determination, and persistence. Outstanding leaders display a high degree of faith in themselves and in the attainment of the vision they articulate. Theoretically, such leaders need to have a very high degree of self-confidence and moral conviction because their mission usually challenges the status quo and, therefore, may offend those who have a stake in preserving the established order.
  • Image-building. House and Podsakoff regard outstanding leaders as self-conscious about their own image. They recognize the desirability of followers perceiving them as competent, credible, and trustworthy.
  • Role-modeling. Leader-image-building sets the stage for effective role-modeling because followers identify with the values of role models whom they perceived in positive terms.
  • External representation. Outstanding leaders act as spokespersons for their respective organizations and symbolically represent those organizations to external constituencies.
  • Expectations of and confidence in followers. Outstanding leaders communicate expectations of high performance from their followers and strong confidence in their followers’ ability to meet such expectations.
  • Selective motive-arousal. Outstanding leaders selectively arouse those motives of followers that the outstanding leaders see as of special relevance to the successful accomplishment of the vision and mission.
  • Frame alignment. To persuade followers to accept and implement change, outstanding leaders engage in "frame alignment". This refers to the linkage of individual and leader interpretive orientations such that some set of followers’ interests, values, and beliefs, as well as the leader’s activities, goals, and ideology, becomes congruent and complementary.
  • Inspirational communication. Outstanding leaders often, but not always, communicate their message in an inspirational manner using vivid stories, slogans, symbols, and ceremonies.


  1. ^ "Organizational Behavior I.", by John B. Mine, 2005, ISBN 0765615231, p. 344
  • Robert House and Philip M. Podsakoff, "Leadership Effectiveness: Past Perspectives and Future Directions for Research" in Greenberg, Jerald ed.),pp. 45–82 Organizational Behavior: The State of the Science, Hillsdale, NJ, England: Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 1994. x, 312 pp.

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