Characteristic, Personal Attributes, Styles and Qualities in Leadership

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Leadership can be defined as the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or a set of goals. The theories can divide by 3 chronological in groups that deal with leadership. First were the trait theories. Until the 1940's, research in the field of leadership was dominated by these theories. Second came from the behavioral theories which were very influent until the late 1960's. Finally, contingency theories are the most modern theories about leadership.

Trait theories are theories that consider personal qualities and characteristics that differentiate leaders from non-leaders." Early results aimed at confirming this theory were inconclusive. Many research studies were conducted and each identified key traits supposed to differentiate leaders from non-leaders. The problem is that they didn't get the same results, thus failing to discover common traits, which should have shown in each research study. When applying the Big Five Personality framework (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness to experience) to the study and research of leadership traits, results were more encouraging. They showed that the most important trait for leaders was extraversion. Still, this founding should be mitigated. Extraversion seems to be a crucial trait in getting leaders into leadership positions or being recognized by others as being a leader but isn't necessary related to effectiveness in the long run.

Another trait that was identified by recent studies is emotional intelligence. The point is that if a leader doesn't have emotional intelligence all his other skills and qualities such as, competence, experience, excellent analytical skills, vision, etc. may fail to have a positive influence on the people he leads. Central to emotional intelligence is empathy and the caring part of empathy, especially for the people with whom you work, is what inspires people to stay with a leader when the going gets rough. The mere fact that someone cares is more often than not rewarded with loyalty."

Instead of focusing on personality traits, behavioral theories focus on the behavior of effective leaders. This distinction is very important because if behavioral theories proved to be true they would mean that people can be trained to become better leaders, in contrast to the trait theories, which assumed that characteristics that made the difference between leaders and non-leaders were given to an individual and couldn't be changed, thus leaving organizations with the recruiting process of selecting the right leader as the only tool towards effectiveness and little hope for any improvement. The most famous behavioral theory was developed by the Ohio State University. It basically identifies two categories of behavior associated with effective leaders: initiating structure and consideration. Initiating structure refers to the extent to which a leader is likely to define and structure his or her role and those of employees in the search for goal attainment." Consideration is the extent to which a leader is likely to have job relationships characterized by mutual trust, respect for subordinates' ideas, and regard for their feelings". We can note that the consideration dimension is similar to the empathy part of emotional intelligence discussed in the trait theory, thus suggesting it is an important factor since it is evidenced and common to both approaches to leadership. The second behavioral theory was developed by the University of Michigan. It also identified two dimensions in leadership behavior. Those dimensions are employee-oriented and production-oriented. Employee-oriented leaders favor interpersonal relations, take personal interest in their employees' needs and accept individual differences among members whereas production-oriented leaders focus and insist on the technical, operational and task aspect of the job. The findings of the University of Michigan's research...
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