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Addressing the problem of global leadership theory: proposing a cognitive process model for leadership training and development

Jeffrey McClellan (Department of Management, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, Maryland, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 19 June 2021

Issue publication date: 26 May 2022




The application of leadership theory to training and development in international leadership contexts is burdened by the idealistic, western-centric, prescriptive nature of many leadership theories. Consequently, theories are needed that are culturally neutral, descriptive and practically applicable to the culturally diverse contexts in which leadership interaction takes place. To this end, the cognitive process model of (Denis et al., 2012) leadership was developed to facilitate leadership development study in a variety of cultural contexts. The model is based on how the human brain functions at its most basic level in leadership situations across cultures and outlines basic principles of leadership associated with these functions. These principles include awareness, decision-making, attention, relationship building, communication and action. This study aims to discuss this model and how it can be used as a framework for doing leadership training and development study in international settings.


This paper is conceptual in nature and uses psychological studies on brain function as a foundation for developing a process model of leadership.


In contrast the cognitive process model of leadership provides a foundation for understanding what is truly universal when it comes to leadership activities by examining what happens in the brain in any given leadership moment. It then provides a framework for promoting the development of leadership competencies that are essential to practicing the principles and competencies and applying them as one takes action in specific leadership moments at the self, interpersonal, group and team, organizational and social and political community levels.

Research limitations/implications

The paper has implications for the content, structure and process of leadership development study in relation to training and coaching.

Practical implications

This model makes it possible to identify how to provide training and education in relation to leadership competencies by identifying which aspects of the competencies are universal and which are situational or culture dependent.


This study is an original paper exploring the application of this model in the context of global leadership training and development.



McClellan, J. (2022), "Addressing the problem of global leadership theory: proposing a cognitive process model for leadership training and development", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 46 No. 5/6, pp. 607-626.



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