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The Nature and Importance of Leadership

Autor:   •  October 14, 2017  •  12,363 Words (50 Pages)  •  188 Views

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On the next page, you will read an excerpt from an article that suggests that leadership does make a difference.

Chapter 2 - Traits, Motives and Characteristics of Leaders

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Trait-based theories of leadership are among the oldest leadership theories, and they are still considered somewhat important today. The earliest theories were "universal" theories that tried to find the leader's personal qualities that differentiated effective from ineffective leaders in all situations. Although these personal characteristics and qualities are usually called traits, they are not limited to personality traits (inner qualities). For example, DuBrin (2016) refers to many different personal characteristics, including personality traits, in Chapter 2.

Unfortunately, the trait approach does not tell us which traits are most important in which situations or how much of a trait is required.

The biggest problem was that people who possessed the traits deemed critical were not always leaders, i.e., the traits were necessary, but not sufficient for leadership. Moreover, trait-based theories cannot explain why people are not always successful leaders in all situations.

History is full of military leaders who were effective in war, but not in peace. The converse is also true. On the other hand, recent research has found that some traits are important in a wide-variety of situations, but not all situations. In addition, in specific situations there are likely to be specific traits that are important.

The "trait-based" theories do not limit themselves to personality traits, therefore, do not be fooled into limiting the scope of the personal qualities to personality dimensions. The theories include any characteristic on which individuals differ, such as intelligence, physical characteristics, attitudes, values, and personality traits, to name a few. At some point, the distinction between a trait and a behavior is blurred, but in general, the distinction is between "who you are" versus "what you do." DuBrin (2016) lists a wide-range of traits found to be important and categorizes them into:

- Personality Traits

- Motives and Drives

- Power Motive

- Tenacity

- Strong Work Ethic

- Drive and Achievement Motive

- Cognitive Factors

- Analytical Intelligence

- Knowledge of the business

- Creativity

- Insight into people and situations

- Farsightedness and conceptual thinking

While you don't need to memorize every possible leadership trait, it is worthwhile reading the lists. You should be able to recognize the most important traits. Perhaps more importantly, you should be able to reject some traits as unrelated to effective leadership, such as gender and race.

In conclusion, research suggests that effective leaders possess different personal characteristics than ineffective leaders or non-leaders. Knowing which traits are associated with leadership effectiveness helps in the selection of leaders. To the extent you can train people to develop a trait, knowing the importance of different traits helps organizations to design leadership development programs. For example, some aspects of emotional intelligence, which is a collection of traits and behaviors, can be taught and practiced. The trait-based approach to leadership is less valuable because present research cannot definitively specify which traits, and how much of those traits, are most useful in a specific situation.

Chapter 3 - Charismatic and Transformational Leadership

Charismatic Leadership

The oldest line of leadership research appears to be the search for the defining traits of leaders. One line of this research was the attempt to explain charismatic leaders. Charismatic leaders are so exciting, stimulating, magnetic, and visionary that followers willingly accept their leadership. This clearly roots the idea of charismatic leadership in the realm of trait-based leadership models. As you might expect, the original theorizing about charismatic leaders was not in the organizational contex, but around religion and social movements.

There are several theories of charismatic leadership, and according to most, charismatic leaders have the following attributes:

Charismatic Leadership Attributes

They have compelling visions.

They have masterful communication skills.

They have the ability to inspire trust.

They are able to make group members feel capable.

They have energy and an action orientation.

They have emotional expressiveness and warmth.

They romanticize and take personal risks.

They use unconventional strategies.

They have a self-promoting personality.

They challenge followers.

They are dramatic and unique.

There are a variety of charismatic leaders, but the most important distinctions are between leaders with personalized power motives versus leaders with socialized power motives. A socialized charismatic leader uses power to benefit the followers and the group, whereas the personalized charismatic leader uses power to serve his or her own interests. This may or may not help the group attain its goals, but attaining those goals is not the focus of the personalized charismatic leader.

Research suggests that a person can increase his or her charisma by copying the behaviors of charismatic leaders. These behaviors include the following:

- Articulate compelling visions for the future

- Be enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic (perhaps these are traits, but you can act like you are


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