An Introduction to the Leadership Trait Paradigm
courtesy of Kevin McGrath, Spring 2001
  1. Flourished during 1930 and 1950
  2. Lost favor for due to the following problems
    1. Theories of Personality
      1. Not well documented
      2. Sparse empirical testing
      3. Offered little substantive guidance for theory development
    2. Operational definitions of traits were either absent or deviant
    3. The list of traits became too large and thus cumbersome
    4. Inability to replicate correlations between trait and leader effectiveness
    5. Inadequate samples stymied generalization
  3. Revival of Trait Theory
    1. Personality theory was more developed
    2. Arguments that dispositions drive behaviors became more theoretical
    3. Contingencies were introduced
      1. Strong environments dampen the display of driven behaviors, whereas weak environments allow more freedom for trait behaviors to be expressed
        1. Organizations and work environments are "strong" environments and thus convolute the trait–behavior relationship
        2. Social settings are likely to be weak environments and may allow for greater correspondence between traits and subsequent behaviors
      2. Trait stability
        1. Stable for a substantial time frame, but not necessarily one’s lifetime
        2. Trait stability may not transcend all situations
    4. Improved empirical results
      1. Acceptable samples
      2. Replication of findings
      3. Unrecognized yield from previous research
        1. When omitting adolescence from data analysis, the relationship between traits and perceptions of leadership increased (r > .40)
        2. Meta-Analysis: several traits (intelligence, dominance, and masculinity) were all significantly correlated with follower perceptions of leadership
  4. Recent Trait Theories
    1. Social Influence Motivation and Leadership Motive Profile (LMP)
      1. Leaders are driven to compete and achieve excellence in personal endeavors
      2. Leaders are likely to demonstrate
        1. High power motivation
        2. High concern for the moral exercise of power
        3. Greater needs for power and influence than affiliatory relationships
    2. Charismatic Leadership Theory
      1. Leaders are self-confident
      2. Leaders challenge the "Status Quo"
      3. Leaders employ self-confidence and referent power to advocate "inspirational visions" on the future
    3. Leader Flexibility
      1. Leaders posses high degrees of social sensibility
      2. Leaders demonstrate behavioral flexibility in response to situational contingencies
        1. Perhaps this identifies the need for empathy and emotional intelligence
    4. Summary of Trait Findings
      1. Several traits differentiate leaders from others (e.g., GMA, adjustment, self-confidence, nAch)
      2. Trait driven behaviors are contingent on situational characteristics
      3. Trait driven behaviors are more likely to surface in weak environments
      4. Leaders tend to demonstrate higher needs for power and tend to have high degrees of persuasion / social influence
  5. Leaders born or made?
    1. Twin studies suggest that leadership traits are somewhat genetic
    2. Inheritability of leadership effectives has some shortcomings
      1. Genetics explain a relatively small amount of variance between the trait-perceptions of leadership relationship
      2. Inherent limitations of twin studies (same environments)