Advantages and Disadvantages of Various Types of Trait Approaches to Leadership – Explained!

Trait approaches to leadership are given below:

The earlier studies on leadership were guided by the thought that effective leaders had some unique set of qualities or attributes that distinguished them from their peers. These traits were assumed to be enduring and relatively stable.

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Hence the earlier researches sought to identify leadership traits and focused on developing methods of measuring such traits and using the methods to select leaders.

The earliest writers brought forward a long list of traits of leadership such as physical and nervous energy, a sense of purpose and direction, enthusiasm, friendliness and affection, integrity, mastery of knowledge, decisiveness, intelligence, teaching skill and faith (Tead, 1953); physique, skills, perception, knowledge, memory, imagination, determination, persistence, endurance and courage (Barnard, 1938).

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Subsequently, some researchers found a significant theoretical problem in that the trait approach could neither specify nor prove how presumed leadership traits were linked to leadership per se (Kiechel, 1986).

Jennings (1961) asserted that fifty years of study had failed to produce one personality trait or set of qualities that can be used to distinguish leaders from non-leaders. The trait approach has been criticized in five respects:


(1) All the identified traits are not possessed by most of the leaders. Moreover, such traits are possessed by many non-leaders too.

(2) The trait approach does not indicate how much magnitude of the trait should be possessed by a leader.

(3) There is no unanimous agreement about the desirable traits.

(4) Many of these traits are in reality patterns of expected behaviour.


(5) The trait approach fails to recognize the importance of the characteristics of followers and the influence of situational factors in leadership.

However, in recent years, the trait approach has received renewed interest. Some researchers have sought to reintroduce a limited set of traits such as drive, motivation, honesty, integrity, cognitive ability, self-confidence, charisma and knowledge of the activity and processes into the leadership literature.

Also, some investigators have started examining the role of gender, age, ethnicity and cultural differences in leadership.


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