Trait Theory of Leadership

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  • Post last modified:July 9, 2017

Theories of leadership: The trait theory

 

Leadership has remained a topic of research since long. Several theories of leadership have shed light on how someone becomes a leader. Several of them show what differentiates the leaders from the non-leaders. Leaders are always different from ordinary people. These theories try to show what differentiates the leaders from ordinary people. According to these theories leadership can be related to traits or skill. All of these approaches provide a new and fresh angle at leadership. Leadership is a deep thing and scholars are still trying to penetrate it fully to understand it.

However, as the relevance of leadership has increased in the 21st century, there is a need to understand what lies inside any leader. There is a popular saying that mas the leaders so the followers. The leader-follower relationship has also remained the center of focus for scholars and researchers. Understanding the leader follower relationships helps solve several problems related to business performance. It is a complicated relationship where sometimes it becomes difficult to define who is more important.

Still, the responsibility on the shoulders of the leaders is big and that makes it impertinent to understand leadership traits, behavior, skills and every other thing associated with leadership. Several of the modern theories have also highlight that leadership can be developed and it is important to know how the non-leaders can be turned into leaders. If specific traits can be adopted to turn the ordinary people into leaders, then such traits require our focus.  Leadership can be learnt has been highlighted by research and several companies have adopted special leadership programs which managers can take to lead their teams and organizations better.

 

Trait theory of leadership:

 

Trait theory is among the earliest theories of leadership. During the earlier times the focus of research remained more on the psychological aspects of leadership. It is why the psychological traits leaders had were most focused upon. Then most attention was paid to the traits found inside the successful leaders. One important assumption that underlay this theory was that others with similar traits could be turned into leaders. The trait theory basically assumes that there are certain traits that make people more suitable for the leadership roles.   Based on this theory the leadership traits are leader specific and are found inside the leaders only. It would imply that everyone with these traits is a leader and people not having these traits cannot be leaders. This is where the trait theory fails to clarify the point.

It does not clarify why some people who might have these traits are not leaders. This aspect of the traits theory is highly confusing.  Later research has clarified that several of the leadership traits could also be found in the non-leaders. Trait theory tries to explain that there are particular traits that are required for being a leader and that the people who had the right combination of these traits or those inside whom these traits were in the right balance were leaders. So, the biggest flaw of the trait theory is that the traits it associated with the leaders could be found in the non-leaders too. The trait theory therefore soon grew obsolete as new theories came to the fore that provided a better explanation of leadership and leadership behavior.

 

Learn more: Behavioral Theories of leadership, Skills theory of leadership,  Situational leadership. Gender and leadership.

 

Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.