Trait and Skill Approaches to Leadership

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The Trait Approach was the 1st systematic attempt to study leadership. In the 20th century it was known as the “great man” theory. This approach takes a look at the leaders personal attributes such as but not limited to: motivation, energy, intuition, creativity, persuasiveness and foresight. Some of the traits that are essential to this list include: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability. Thus it focuses mainly on the leader and not on the followers or situations. The strengths of the Trait Approach includes: 1) it is intuitively appealing, 2) it has research to back it’s theory, 3) it highlights the leader, 4) it identifies what the traits of a leader should have and whether the traits we do have are the best for leadership. The weaknesses of the trait approach are: 1) failure to set the limits of a definitive list of leadership traits, 2) it does not take organizational situations into account, 3) has much one-sided interpretation of the meaning of data, 4) it is weak in describing how leaders’ traits influence the outcomes of groups and teams in organizational settings, 5) it does not provide training and development for leadership because individual’s personal attributes are for the most part stable and permanent and are not amendable to change. (Northouse, 2010) By using trait information, managers can develop a deeper understanding of who they are and how they will affect others in the organization because benchmarks are established and provided in the trait approach in which individuals can use to evaluate their own personal leadership attributes. (Northouse, 2010). The Skills Approach looks at the concrete task that the leader performs. The followers of this approach are able to evaluate the leader’s daily activities and behavioral characteristics. Therefore, instead of focusing on personality characteristics which are considered to be innate and fixed, the Skills Approach puts importance on the skills and...
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