Many historical theories or ideas about leadership believe leadership is innate or inborn. One such theory is the theory of the Great Man. And, you can deem the trait theory of leadership as a follow-up of that theory. Trait leadership theory bestows its focus primarily on five significant leadership traits & they are intellect, determination, conviviality, self-confidence & morality.
In this article, we shall discuss the trait theory of leadership and its characteristics with examples.
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Trait Theory of Leadership & Its Features:
The trait theory of leadership is a leadership theory that believes in some unique, innate qualities or characteristics of a leader. These qualities come from one’s birth & can’t be achieved by following them or learning about them. Some are personality factors, intelligence/espionage factors, physical factors, etc.
An organization’s success entirely depends on these traits of a leader or the leader himself & hence these traits are the basis of an organization’s performance. So, the theory proposes that an organization must find out some people with suitable characteristics to improve the organization’s performance. It suggests companies that follow the leaders & ignore the followers.
But, how can an organization know which individuals are inborn leaders & which individuals are not? Also, how can it filter the hereditary leaders from many people by excluding those not born with such traits?
Well! As per the trait approach, specific personality tests have been discovered to identify whether a person is born with particular characteristics of a leader or not. Such personality tests involve the Myers Briggs test, LTQ (Leadership Trait Questionnaire), etc. These tests serve as the tools for finding out the right individuals with the right qualities.
Besides, the trait leadership theory serves as a benchmark for the candidates wishing to join as leaders in an organization. By going through this theory, the candidates can find out if they are strong enough to be put in the role of a leader. They also verify if they constitute all the leadership qualities & skills that are required to become a leader. It also helps them with their future action plans. They get a proper direction for it by going over this theory.
Trait leadership theory does not simply illustrate the traits of a successful leader. It also explains when a person will be considered ineffective as a leader. The employers of an organization, while selecting a candidate for the post of a leader, observe this leadership theory to determine the rightful leader.
They go through the physiological & demographic characteristics of the candidates as well as their personality, intellective side, confidence level, task-related capability & social traits. Furthermore, they also check out their effectiveness as a leader or their leader emergence.
The significant traits that are looked for in a candidate who wants to become a leader are:
- His achievement drive like his high level of effort, ambition, initiative & energy
- His leadership impetus like his strong ambition of leading others & reaching shared goals
- His honesty & virtue
- His confidence in himself
- His cognitive ability
- His proficiency in business or different technological matters
- His emotional adulthood like not suffering from any severe psychological conditions
- His creativeness, flexibility, etc.
Trait Theory of Leadership – Example
Trait leadership theory states that a good leader is known for his traits. For instance, the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, was a fantastic leader & he was recognized for his charisma. People used to pursue him because of his mastery in passionately articulating his visions.
Upsides Of Trait Leadership Theory:
- This theory is intrinsically pleasing
- The foundation or basis of this theory has been green flagged by a lot of research & studies
- Such leadership qualities of people can be quickly evaluated with the assistance of this theory
- The process and element of such leadership theory can be understood in detail by looking over this theory.
Downsides Of Trait Leadership Theory:
- The leadership traits list in this theory is quite long. You will find more than a hundred traits of a triumphant leader in this theory & the illustration of these traits are just generalizations.
- Various disagreements exist over the traits of this theory as to which characteristics are the most significant among all for becoming an influential leader.
- It’s a theory that’s a bit complex & not all people can understand it easily.
Is Trait Leadership Theory A Right Leadership Theory?
The one-in-million question that comes in people’s minds is who is a great leader – a person who has inborn traits of a leader or a person who can learn the traits of a leader & implementing them within himself—confused, right? Well! The answer is ‘both’ in combination. Both inborn and learned skills are needed for a person to become an efficient & powerful leader.
The traits of a born leader & the attributes of a made leader are not mutual alternatives. Yes, leadership qualities can be considered as art. However, it is impossible to become a leader without applying some unique skills & techniques. Encouragement & appreciation makes a person’s natural talent even more strong & commendable. Besides, some leadership qualities could not accompany a person from the time he/she is born. These qualities develop gradually within that person as he grows up. One such quality is self-confidence.
Though honesty or virtue is a personal choice, self-confidence is not. It gets developed within the individual with time. Also, running a business as a leader needs some knowledge to be acquired and doesn’t come out with one’s birth. Again, though cognitive ability remains inherent in a person, developing that quality is needed at a stage for becoming a successful leader. So, we can conclude that leaders are both born & made.