Leadership traits and theories. A Review

Essay, 2015

19 Pages, Grade: 75




Theories of Leadership
Trait theories of Leadership
Contingency theory of Leadership
Behavioral theory of Leadership
Power and Influence theory of Leadership

Leadership Styles
Authoritarian style of leadership
Participative Leadership style
Laissez-Faire Leadership style
Transformational Leadership style
Traits of Leadership



In the field of business and management sciences leadership is one of the enticing topic that has been studies and debated over and over. Well, the definition itself has been researched for so long which is evident by number of leadership definitions and theories of leadership that are presented by numerous research scholars. One of the definition of leadership is to be attributed to (Bavelas, 1969) who defined leadership as process and leadership is a personal attribute. This statements presents meaning that leadership is process of influencing, motivating or something more than that and such a skill is a personal attribute. According to (Bass, 1990), Leadership or a leader is the center of the group change and activity and embodies the will of the group. The author’s perspective on leadership was on the basis that leadership is about focus of group processes.

“Leadership is, most fundamentally, about changes. What leaders do is to create the systems and organizations that managers need, and, eventually, elevate them up to the whole new level or change in some basic ways to take advantage of new opportunities”.John P. Kotter

The above definition by (Kotter, 2010) defines the basic essence of the leadership and what leaders actually do. However, (Northouse, 2010) defines leadership as the process where an individual influences other individuals or a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. From all the above definition from various authors and scholars, it can pointed out that leadership is aprocessand it involves ininfluencing or focusingon anindividual or group of individualsand its objective oriented towardsgoal attainment.As stated by (Yukl, 2006), Leadership is a process of influencing other individuals to understand and make them agree about what needs to be done and how should it be done and involves the process of facilitating individuals and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives.

Based on the review of leadership literature, leadership can be defined as the process or set of skills of an individual who can identify the visions of the organization, co-ordinate people, train them, motivate them and sets an action plan to achieve the desired aims and objectives of an organization. A leader is the one who leads the individual or group or an organization towards goal attainment.

Theories of Leadership

As stated earlier, Leadership and management has been widely researched and scrutinized by many academic researchers and scholars. As the topic has a wide applications and meanings, it has to be thought and studied from different perspectives.

According to (1960) Great man theory of leadership is one of the early evolved theories of leadership. The theory was assumed on a concept that the leaders are highly exceptional people who were born with specific qualities and innate skills and were destined to lead. According to the Great man theory, leaders are the individuals who are endowed with unique qualities that capture the imagination of masses which was evident and supported by the research paper of (Carlyle, 1841). The main contradiction of the theory is that the terminology “man”, as the theory argues and provides definition that only man can be leaders which is highly contradictory when compared to today’s time. The cause for such a definition can be understood, that it is because of the time. During 1960’s leadership was yet unknown concept for many and also due to the influence of male authority would have led to such a development.

Trait theories of Leadership

The limited scope and drawbacks of Great man theories led to the development of leadership trait theories. According to the trait theory of leadership, individuals are born with innate qualities which are unique which make them leaders.

Such innate characteristics differs leaders from the other common individuals (Northhouse, 2004). These characteristics can be anything physical or mental abilities like high intelligence and IQ, fluency, physical factors like personality attributes and physical attributes of the body (Bryman, 1992). (Garner, 1989; Fleenor, 2011), presented a certain number of conclusive traits and skills that argued individuals possessing such traits are to be successful leaders. Traits like;

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Table 1: Adapted from Encyclopedia of Industrail and Organization Pscychology p. 430 by Fleenor, John W. 2011. Sage pub

However, trait theory of leadership do have certain limited scope and drawbacks. As stated by (Stogdill, 1974) and other research scholars in their studies, it was not evident that such traits existed or identified. There was no difference between the leaders and the followers when they evaluated both of them in terms of traits. (Rosentahl & Pittinsky, 2006) argued that narcissism is a personality trait and is characterized by high arrogance, self-esteem and self-centered behavioral attitude and leaders with such traits tend to view others as inferior to themselves and such leaders would like take decisions on self-serving basis without indulging within their respective teams. Hypothetically, it cannot be proved or it is not proved, which traits are more effective and less effective in the successful leaders which contradicts the trait theory of leadership.

Contingency theory of Leadership

Contingency theories of leadership were developed to indicate the style of the leadership used based upon the contingent factors like situation, people, organization, work environment, peer circles and other situational or environmental factors. Contingency theory outlines what constitutes to be an effective leader or leadership when subjected to different situations. (Fielder, 1970a, 1972a) presented a contingency theory of leadership that identifies the relationship between the leader’s orientation style and performance of the group under differing situational conditions. According to author, there was “no single best way for leaders to lead. Situations create different leadership style requirements and situation is contingent on the factors that impinge on the situation.“

- Leader-member relations: The relationship between the leader and his follower, better the relationship between the both the parties better would be the influence of the leader on the individuals or groups. For instance; how well the leader and the group get along together.
- Task Structure:Factors or the situations that determines the task structure. How well the job or task is structured or is there a planned way or action plan to successfully complete the task, did the leader communicate the job requirements effectively to the group and so on. It is particular about the task structure. The more knowledgeable the leaders the more will be the favorable situation and relationship, if the leader is not much knowledgeable about the task; it creates unstructured task and there exist most likely an unfavorable between the leader and the group.
- Leader position power:It is about the level of the power that leader possess and his/her authority over the team. The power that the leader can exercise over his team to direct, reward and punish subordinates.

However, the contingency theory of leadership fails to explain the leadership effectiveness in various situations.


Excerpt out of 19 pages


Leadership traits and theories. A Review
University of South Florida  (Post Graduate School)
Health Care and Public Administration
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Leadership, Styles of Leadership, Traits theory, Leadership models, Theories of Leadership
Quote paper
Murali Mg (Author), 2015, Leadership traits and theories. A Review, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/311026


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