Definition of Leadership

Topics: Leadership, Situational leadership theory, Personality traits Pages: 6 (1912 words) Published: February 12, 2013
Module: One Written Assignment|
Northouse Chapters 1 & 2|
MSOL 5000|
Michael C. Ganaway|

Describe, examine, compare, contrast, explain, analyze, evaluate, and illustrate the trait definition of leadership versus the process of leadership. Leadership is a fascinating topic. As Stogdill states, “there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it” (Stogdill 1974, p.7). In the 1930’s the trait definition of leadership became the main approach. The great man theory was introduced due to the studies of the great people in history and their special characteristics that made them great leaders. This study looked at people such as Abraham Lincoln, Catherine the Great, Mohandas Gandhi, and Joan of Arc. We have all been exposed to the saying that a certain individual is a “natural born leader”; this statement is representative of what the definition of trait based leadership is. The trait perspective is defined as certain individuals have special innate or inborn characteristics or qualities that make them leaders, and that it is these qualities that differentiate them from non-leaders (Northouse, 2013, p.7). The major 5 traits for leadership are intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability.

In his research of the traits theory of leadership John P. Howell, in his book, Snapshots of Great Leadership, determination and drive include traits such as initiative, energy, assertiveness, perseverance, masculinity, and sometimes dominance. People with these traits often tend to wholeheartedly pursue their goals, work long hours, are ambitious, and often are very competitive with others. Cognitive capacity includes intelligence, analytical and verbal ability, behavioral flexibility, and good judgment. Individuals with these traits are able to formulate solutions to difficult problems, work well under stress or deadlines, adapt to changing situations, and create well-thought-out plans for the future. Howell provides examples of Steve Jobs and Abraham Lincoln as encompassing the traits of determination and drive as well as possessing cognitive capacity, demonstrated by their ability to adapt to their continuously changing environments (Howell, 2012, p .4-6). R.M. Stodgill engaged in two studies on trait based leadership. In those he found that a group of important leadership traits were related to how people in various groups ascended to leadership. The following eight traits were: intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, persistence, self-confidence, and sociability (Stodgill, 1974). In his second study Stodgill also identified ten characteristics that were associated with leadership. Those being

1. Drive for responsibility and task completion; 2. Vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals; 3. Risk taking and originality in problem solving; 4. Drive to exercise initiative in social situations; 5. Self-confidence and sense of personal identity; 6. Willingness to accept consequences of decision and action; 7. Readiness to absorb interpersonal stress; 8. Willingness to tolerate frustration and delay; 9. Ability to influence other people’s behavior; and 10. Capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand.

There have been many who have studied the trait aspect of leadership, including Stodgill (1948, 1974), Mann (1959), DeVader and Aliger, Kikpatrick, and Locke (1991), to Zaccaro, Kemp, and Black (2004 & 2007). They have all deduced that leaders have specific traits that have enabled them to ascend to the top. The strengths of the trait theory are its consistency with the perception that leaders are...
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