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Trait Approach to Studying Leadership

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In this paper were we will be discussing the trait approach to studying leadership. This paper will also cover the strengths and weakness of the trait approach and how it is still used today. We will begin by analyzing the early history of this approach, and later delve into what the results were.

The trait approach was one of the earliest approaches to study leadership in the 1930s and 1940s. It was the assumption that leaders were born with the traits that it took to be a leader and those traits were not possessed by everyone (Yukl, 2010). During this time it was suggested that managerial success was attributed to natural extraordinary abilities like tireless energy, penetrating intuition, uncanny foresight and irresistible persuasive powers. The identification of particular traits in an individual is what made them a leader and people that were not born with this traits were the followers.

Like with every theory it has its strengths and weakness. The weaknesses of the trait approach were that even after hundreds of studies were conducted research failed to find any traits that would guarantee leadership success (Yukl, 2010). In addition the studies that were conducted during this time did not pay attention to outside factors that influence successful leadership. The trait approach also only focuses on the leaders themselves and disregards the followers or the situations that the leaders were in.

The results were not all had, however. The strengths of the trait approach is that it is intuitively appealing. Another strength of the trait approach is that it has a century of research to back it up (Northouse, 2010). None of the other approaches have that much research conducted. A third strength, that can also be seen as a weakness, is the fact that the trait approach focuses only on the leader - this is able to provide a deeper and a more intricate understanding of how a leader and their personality relate to the leadership process (Northouse, 2010). Lastly, the trait approach has provided us with a benchmark for what we need to identify in a leader. It outlines the traits and also what are the best traits for leadership are.

Even though the trait approach has not provided a definitive set of traits a leader should have it does provide us with a direction regarding which traits are good to have in a leadership position. (Northouse, 2010) Many organizations are aware of the traits when hiring a new employee or even when a current employee wants to change a position, as they are asked to take a personality test or similar questioners to learn about the personality and the traits of the candidate. From the results of the questions, organizations are able to pinpoint the strengths and weakness of a candidate for a leadership position. Having this information the organization is able to make a more informed decision regarding the candidate's leadership qualities.



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