When you ask the question “What makes a great leader?”, you will definitely get a different answer each time. For some people, a great leader is empathetic, adaptable, and inspiring. Others say that a great leader should be decisive, intelligent, and relatable. There are some leaders that see leadership as a black and white concept. How true can this be?
The trait theory of leadership has been a long debate and we’ll see why.
What is the trait theory of leadership?
The trait of theory of leadership is based on the concept that leaders are born, not made. It was explained that certain leadership traits, like intelligence, creativity, decisiveness, are innate and thus separate leaders from followers.
This also served as a benchmark for how we look at our leaders. It puts the emphasis on the person rather than the followers or environment, making it helpful in understanding why people gravitate towards certain types of leaders.
Other than that, there are also several additional leadership theories:
1. Situational Leadership
It argues that leaders emerge based on need. If a situation requires it, one person will emerge as the leader. However, this same person may not rise to the occasion in another environment.
2. Behavioral Leadership
This theory suggests that leadership is a learned behavior anyone can study.
3. Trait vs. Process Leadership
These concepts fall on opposite sides. Trait leadership argues that leadership is innate, while the latter maintains that it builds over time as a result of the interactions between the leader and follower.
However, as a process leader, you are responsible for nurturing relationships with others and offering support. Through time, it suggests that you will gain the role of a leader and create an environment in which your followers can succeed.
If you look at it closely, both theories can be true.
Leadership is nuanced and can operate within various models and environments
According to trait leadership, everyone is born with personality traits, talents, and gifts, which make us more likely to succeed in particular environments and roles. Take for instance people who have extroverted traits. They can exhibit the qualities of a leader because they have little trouble in social settings and they communicate with confidence. They won’t have to work as hard as an introvert to engage with their peers, colleagues, and leaders. But with introverts, they can build those same skills through exposure and experience. With this, an introvert may rise to the occasion in more intimate settings.
Ultimately, it is worth noting that leadership is a constantly evolving concept. While the trait theory was initially the most popular way of viewing leadership, more theories have emerged, expanding our understanding of it.
The process theory, on the other hand, focuses on how to nurture relationships. The situational leadership model views leadership as a flexible concept that is heavily based on the environment.
If you are looking into pursuing a leadership role in your organization, consider these models and use them as your building blocks for you to find your own style.