Traits, Behaviors, and Relationships
Traits are the distinguishing
personal characteristics of a leader, such as intelligence, honesty, self confidence, and appearance. Research has examined leaders who had achieved a level of greatness, and hence became known as the Great
Man approach. Fundamental to this theory was the ideas that some people are born
with traits that make them natural leaders.
The Great Man approach sought to identify the traits leaders possessed that distinguished them from
people who were not leaders.
However, research found only a weak relationship between personal traits and leader success. Indeed, the diversity of traits that effective leaders possess indicates that leadership ability is not
necessarily a genetic endowment.
Many studies have been conducted to identify specific leadership traits individual might possess that
are common. Perhaps R.M. Stogdill
are the most widely referenced.
In a 1948 literature review Stogdill examined more than 100 studies based on the trait approach. He uncovered several traits that appeared consistent with effective leadership. These traits included general intelligence, initiative, interpersonal skills, self
confidence, drive for responsibility, and personal integrity.
Trait research has been an important part of leadership studies throughout the twentieth century and
continues into the twenty first century. Many researchers still contend that
some traits are essential to effective leadership, but only in combination with other factors.
WHAT ARE SOME TRAITS YOU THINK MIGHT BE NECESSARY FOR ONE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE LEADER?
Some of the traits considered essential are:
Self-Confidence: Assurance in one’s own judgment, decision making, ideas, and capabilities. A leader with positive self-image who displays certainty about his or her own ability
fosters confidence among followers, gains respect and admiration, and meets challenges.
Honesty/integrity: Honesty refers to truthfulness and non-deception.
Integrity means that
a leader’s character is whole, integrated, and grounded in solid moral principles, and he or she acts in keeping with
In the wake of widespread corporate scandals, trust is sorely lacking in many organizations. Leaders need the traits of honesty and integrity to rebuild trusting and productive relationships.
People today are wary of authority and the deceptive use of power, and they are hungry for leaders
who hold high standards and reinforce then through everyday actions.
Drive: A third characteristic considered essential for effective leadership is drive. Drive refers to high motivation that creates a high effort level by a leader. These individuals seem to have ambition, tenacity, and actively pursue their goals. They are committed to working long hours over many years and exhibit stamina, vigor and are full of life
in order to handle the demanding pace of being a leader.
However, it should be noted that traits alone cannot define effective leadership. Consider, for example, how the same traits that spurred Kenneth Lay’s (Former Chairman and chief executive of Enron Corporation) early success also led to his downfall and contributed to one of the biggest corporate
collapses in history.
Rather than focusing of traits, the Behaviorist approach suggests that anyone who adopts the appropriate
behavior can be a good leader.
Diverse research programs on leadership behavior have sought to uncover the behavior that leaders engage
in rather than what traits a leader possesses.
It is believed that behavior can be learned more readily than traits, enabling leadership to be accessible
AUTOCRATIC VERSUS DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP
Central to the behavioral approach is to recognize that leaders generally fall into one of two styles
Autocratic: A leader who tends to centralize authority and derive power from position, control of rewards, and coercion.
Democratic: A leader who delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates’ knowledge
for completion of tasks, and depends on subordinate respect for influence.
EMPLOYEE CENTERED VERSES JOB CENTERED
A University of Michigan Study took a different approach by directly comparing the behavior of effective
and ineffective supervisors who were employer centered verses Job centered.
Employee centered: A leadership behavior that displays a focus
on the human needs of subordinates.
This means that in addition to demonstrating support for their subordinates, employee centered leader
facilitate positive interaction among followers and seek to minimize conflict. Because
relationships are so important in today’s work environment, many organizations are looking for leaders who can facilitate
positive interaction among others.
Job centered: A leader who directs activities toward efficiency,
cost cutting, and scheduling with an emphasis on goals and work facilitation.
An advantage of goal emphasis, work facilitation, and support is that this behavior can be performed
by subordinates’ peers, rather than by the designated leader only. In other
words, others in the organization could supply these behaviors, which enhanced performance.
SUMMARY AND INTERPRETATION
The historical development of leadership theory presented in this chapter introduces some important
ideas about leadership. While certain personal traits and abilities constitute
a greater likelihood for success in a leadership role, they are not in themselves sufficient to guarantee effective leadership.
Behaviors are equally significant, as outlined by the research of several universities. Therefore, the style of leadership demonstrated by an individual greatly determines the outcome of the
leadership endeavor. Often, a combination of styles is more effective.