Leadership Traits

Topics: Leadership, Situational leadership theory, Management Pages: 9 (3207 words) Published: May 8, 2011
Leadership Traits
Although research has shown that the presence of specific traits alone do not ensure successful leadership, it has been proven that successful historical leaders share certain key traits. According to Shelley Kirkpatrick and Edwin Locke, “leaders do not have to be great men or women by being intellectual geniuses or omniscient prophets to succeed, but they do need to have the "right stuff" and this stuff is not equally present in all people” (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991, p. 12). Despite the many controversial discussions on whether leaders are born or made, the fact that efficacious leaders possess key traits remains undisputed. Some of the various traits that have an impact on effective leadership are discussed in detail below. Ability to Listen

Most people listen actively to only a small percent of what is being said because people speak at a much slower rate than what they are able to hear. Therefore, active listening requires concentration and attentiveness to the speaker. Effective listening involves three important elements (Greenberg, 2010, p. 241): * Being nonjudgmental while taking in information from others. * Acknowledging speakers in ways that encourage them to continue speaking. * Attempting to advance a speaker’s ideas to the next step. Listening is an important trait that “underlies all leadership skills. It is the key to developing and maintaining relationships, decision making and problem solving” (Rynders, 1999, p. 5). Gregory Rynders conducted a study on the relationship between listening and leadership. Although the research did not confirm if leaders naturally possessed superior listening abilities or if they just work harder at it, the results did confirm there is a positive relationship between successful leadership and effective listening skills (Rynders, 1999, p. 3). Ability to Manage

Some believe you can either be a manager or a leader, but you can’t be both. Although the functions of a leader and a manager differ, management skills are a subset of leadership skills (Shead, 2010). Management and leadership are not separate functions. They cannot exist apart from each other. Management, it appears, is about controlling an existing system, while leadership is about invention and adaptation. (Kaplan, 1994) A good leader must have the ability to manage and at same time distance oneself from managing when it is not appropriate to do so. Managing typically involves the details of running the day to day operations of the business. In this case, it would be inappropriate for the leader to get involved in tasks that should be delegated. However, leaders who do not possess the ability to manage lack the knowledge required to make effective decisions to lead the organization in the right direction. Balance

There is an old saying, “Too much of a good thing can be bad.” Water is essential to the survival of the human body and a lack of water intake can result in dehydration causing serious health conditions. However, too much water can result in over hydration causing hyponatremia or intoxication. Balance is important in many areas of life and is a key trait in being a successful leader. Technological advances, economic changes, company dynamics and pressing deadlines create a difficult environment for practicing balance.

Linking organizational, departmental and individual goals to the mission of the company is important. Yet balance is required to allow interpretation and innovation of the goals in order to gain commitment and enthusiasm from employees. Reward systems initiate creativity and motivation. However, if the correlation between rewards and individual actions is too specific, it may impede individuals from taking actions that lead to innovation. Time pressure is another key matter that requires balance. Lack of time pressures may result in declining productivity while excessive time pressure restraints may stifle creativity and growth (Greenberg, 2010, pp....
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