Trait Theory of Leadership

Topics: Leadership, Trait theory, Big Five personality traits Pages: 7 (2125 words) Published: May 10, 2013
Trait Theories of Leadership

Before I briefly explain my topic it is necessarily to define the term ''leadership''. Many authors until now have defined or tried to define leadership, but the most common and useful definition is given by Gary Yukl (2010), who defines leadership as the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. Theories of leadership are developed to enrich professional knowledge of the leadership phenomenon and enable future leaders to acquire skills and traits in order to succeed in a dynamic environment. Before World War II, leadership theories and researchers focused on identifying the personal traits of leaders that distinguish them from followers. A leadership trait can be defined as personal characteristic that enables and guarantees sustained leadership effectiveness across different situations, and such kind of trait distinguishes leader from followers. For example, Steve Jobs, the chairman and CEO of Apple Inc., was known for his charisma. He was able to passionately demonstrate his visions and made people want to follow his lead. Some other examples of traits that make an effective leader are intelligence, dominance, self-confidence, level of energy and activity, and task-relevant knowledge.

This paper focuses on trait theory of leadership and tries to explain the most essential aspects of trait leadership theory. The trait approach to leadership is rightly considered as one of the oldest leadership theories created by humans. At the beginning of the twentieth century, historian Thomas Carlyle said that the world’s history was made by great men’s biographies (Judge et al., 2002). Human beliefs about leaders and leadership gave rise to the development of trait leadership theories (Judge et al., 2002). The first trait theories were developed to explain the connection of personal traits to leaders’ achievements. They were built on the assumption that leaders possessed physiological or inherited superior abilities that enabled them to manage and direct their followers. According to Yukl (2010), the theory of trait leadership is developed from the earliest attempts to identify personality traits, physical characteristics, and even genetic factors of people claimed to be natural leaders. ''The trait perspective suggests that 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). Many leadership professionals identified traits that make up a good leader by examining a great leaders through time. But are those traits enough to be effective and successful leaders? The traits approach gives rise to questions: whether leaders are born or made; and whether leadership is an art or science? Many researches proved that it still requires the application of special skills and techniques. Over time, and influenced by other leadership theories, trait theory was almost discarded. Bass noted (as cited in Brown, 2008, p. 57) that ''the pure trait theory lost favor with researchers as they realized that there were numerous other dynamics that contributed to leadership''. However, professional experts and researchers are still interested in personality traits and their relation to leadership effectiveness. Below section is about others' statements regarding trait theory of leadership.

Literature review

Judge, Piccolo and Kosalka (2009) attempt to place the leader trait perspective in the context of supporting intellectual traditions, including evolutionary psychology and behavioral genetics. They examined both the positive and negative effects of specific “bright side” personality traits: the Big Five traits, core self-evaluations, intelligence, and charisma. On same way they considered the positive and negative...

References: Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ ; London : Pearson
Arvey, R. D., Rotundo, M., Johnson, W., Zhang, Z., & McGue, M. (2006). The determinants of leadership role occupancy: Genetic and personality factors. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(1), 1–20. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.10.009
Bai, X., & Roberts, W
Judge, T. A., Bono, J. E., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 765–780. doi:10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.765
Judge, T
Kirkpatick, S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: do traits matter? The Executive, 5(2), 48–60.
Schafer, J. A. (2010). Effective leaders and leadership in policing: traits, assessment, development, and expansion. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 33(4), 644–663. doi:10.1108/13639511011085060
Brown, O. (2008). Business and IT Leaders’ Behavioral Affects on Alignment and Project Outcome: A Comparative Leadership Study. ProQuest. Retrieved from
Great Man theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2013, from
Trait Theory of Leadership
[ 2 ]. Trait Theory of Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2013, from
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