The measurement of consistent patterns of habit in an individual's behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The theory is based on the stability of traits over time, how they differ from other individuals, and how the will influence human behavior.
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Criticism of Trait Theories
Although there has been an increased focus by researchers on trait leadership, this theory remains one of the most criticized theories of leadership. Over the years, many reviewers of trait leadership theory have commented that this approach to leadership is “too simplistic” (Conger & Kanugo, 1998), and “futile” (House & Aditya, 1997). Additionally, scholars have noted that trait leadership theory usually only focuses on how leader effectiveness is perceived by followers (Lord et al., 1986) rather than a leader’s actual effectiveness (Judge et al., 2009). Because the process through which personality predicts the actual effectiveness of leaders has been relatively unexplored (Ng, Ang, & Chan, 2008), these scholars have concluded that personality currently has low explanatory and predictive power over job performance and cannot help organizations select leaders who will be effective (Morgeson & Ilies, 2007). Furthermore, Derue and colleagues (2011) found that leader behaviors are more predictive of leader effectiveness than are traits.
Another criticism of trait leadership is its silence on the influence of the situational context surrounding leaders (Ng et al., 2008). Stogdill (1948) found that persons who are leaders in one situation may not be leaders in another situation. Complimenting this situational theory of leadership, Murphy (1941) wrote that leadership does not reside in the person, and it usually requires examining the whole situation. In addition to situational leadership theory, there has been growing support for other leadership theories such as transformational, transactional, charismatic, and authentic leadership theories. These theories have gained popularity because they are more normative than the trait and behavioral leadership theories (Schaubroeck, Lam, & Cha, 2007).
Further criticisms include the failure of studies to uncover a trait or group of traits that are consistently associated with leadership emergence or help differentiate leaders from followers (Kenny & Zacarro, 1983). Additionally, trait leadership’s focus on a small set of personality traits and neglect of more malleable traits such as social skills and problem solving skills has received considerable criticism. Lastly, trait leadership often fails to consider the integration of multiple traits when studying the effects of traits on leader effectiveness (Zaccaro, 2007).
Implications of Trait Theory
The trait theory gives constructive information about leadership. It can be applied by people at all levels in all types of organizations. Managers can utilize the information from the theory to evaluate their position in the organization and to assess how their position can be made stronger in the organization. They can get an in-depth understanding of their identity and the way they will affect others in the organization. This theory makes the manager aware of their strengths and weaknesses and thus they get an understanding of how they can develop their leadership qualities.
Behavioral theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in behaviorism, this leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders not on mental qualities or internal states. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation.
Criticism of Behavioral Theories
Situational variables and group processes ignored; studies failed to identify the situations where specific types of...