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One of the earliest ideas attempting to define outstanding leadership is the trait theory of leadership—Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher, and teacher. He promoted the outstanding man thesis in the 1840s. In 1840, Thomas Carlyle presented a series of lectures on leadership in which he listed several influential individuals in society who possessed both divine and poetic qualities. Shakespeare, Napoleon, Cromwell, and Odin were among the people Thomas Carlyle mentioned in his works. These people were trendy, and they brought to light the concept that successful leadership was built on the leaders’ assets. Francis Galton, motivated by Carlyle’s theories, authored Hereditary Genius in 1869, in which he characterized leadership as an unchangeable trait bestowed to extraordinary people.

The trait theory of leadership is used to predict leadership effectiveness and is based on the traits of numerous successful and failed leaders. The resulting lists of characteristics are then compared to potential leaders to determine whether they are likely to succeed or fail. The hypothesis is founded on the notion that specific inherent skills might make it easier for someone to become a leader. It’s often employed to identify future leaders by utilizing personality tests that indicate a potential leader’s chances of success or failure. When someone begins to show personality qualities that might make them a good leader, it’s time to take notice. According to this theory, these people may be developed to reach their full leadership potential.

Physiological, demographic, personality, self-confidence, and aggression, as well as intellectual, task-oriented, and social traits, were linked to leader emergence and effectiveness by researchers using the trait method.

What are the traits of a leader?

Successful leaders have distinct interests, talents, and personality qualities than those who are less effective. A collection of essential qualities of influential leaders has been established via many forms of studies done in the final three decades of the twentieth century. These characteristics in a person are not guaranteed that that person will become a successful leader; instead, it identifies persons with the most significant potential for leadership success.

According to most research, the following are the critical behavioral qualities that indicate a person’s leadership potential:

  • Influential leaders are adaptable and flexible. Setbacks will occur throughout the life of every organization. Therefore, the leader’s capacity to endure in the face of adversity is critical to the group’s ultimate success. Strong leaders manage to execute to the best of their abilities even when confronted with enormous challenges and encourage others around them to follow their lead. They can think outside the box and swiftly adjust to changing circumstances. They don’t allow roadblocks to block their path. Still, instead, they create a new path of their own to adapt to the unfortunate circumstances they have been put through, which doesn’t only increase the efficiency in the workplace. Still, it also encourages team members to get up and proceed when life pushes them down. In addition to that, it teaches the employees that just because a flaw appeared in the way doesn’t mean failure is inevitable.
  • Many of the most exemplary leaders have a high level of self-assurance. Followers frequently begin to express their confidence in themselves because the leaders are confident in themselves. Confidence is critical when it comes to leadership because how are you expected to get a whole group of people to follow your lead and believe in your plan if you don’t even believe in it yourself. But it’s also vital to know the significant difference between arrogance and confidence. The best way to do that is to appear as a self-confident humble leader.
  • Any proficient leader should be emotionally stable. In one’s working life, tense circumstances are practically unavoidable. When it comes to making rational judgments, a great leader must be able to overcome personal sentiments. Employees’ faith in their boss is also enhanced by emotional stability.
  • Leaders put in a more significant amount of effort. They have a strong drive to succeed, are ambitious, have a lot of energy, are relentlessly persistent in their efforts, and show initiative.
  • Perhaps most significantly, excellent leaders not only have their creative abilities, but they can also encourage others to do likewise. Creativity is one of these skills that are majorly underestimated. People tend to believe that creativity is secondary to other skills while actually at the top of the list.
  • Influential leaders pay close attention to their subordinates and genuinely want to see them succeed. They want each member of the group to succeed and contribute to the group’s progress.
  • Leaders have honed their thinking skills to be able to give answers. They see that the world is full of obstacles, and they see it as their duty to find answers. They have correctly developed themselves for the work at hand, even if they are not the best educated in the sector. Leaders will usually enlist the aid of those who are more specialized than they are, but they can also manage things independently when required. When it comes to making judgments, cognitive abilities are readily apparent. Especially when there isn’t enough knowledge to make an informed decision, fast thinking is required, but it must also provide beneficial outcomes.
trait theory of leadership

How to Apply the Leadership Trait Theory?

Here are some examples of how you may utilize the characteristic theory of leadership to analyze yourself and develop your career; By Acquiring a deeper grasp of your personality features. You may develop a better understanding of your strengths and shortcomings by evaluating your qualities utilizing the trait theory of leadership. And therefore, You may start working on improving yourself once you’ve identified your weak spots.

Moreover, you can apply this theory by Finding out if you’re qualified for a specific job. Many companies use the characteristic leadership theory to assist them in choosing the best individuals for leadership positions. You may establish your suitability for specific roles by analyzing yourself and your leadership qualities.

Furthermore, by Identifying individuals in your immediate vicinity who can lead, you can use this theory. Using the characteristic theory of leadership to individuals around you will help you discover those with leadership potential in both your personal and professional life.

Debate on the trait theory of leadership

Early leadership research concentrated on the distinctions between leaders and followers, assuming that individuals in leadership positions would exhibit more leadership qualities than those in lower levels.

However, the researchers discovered that there were just a few characteristics that might discriminate between leaders and followers. Leaders, for example, are excellent communicators. Leaders also have greater levels of extroversion, self-confidence, and height, but these variations are usually minor.

The trait-based hypothesis is riddled with problems. While proponents argue that specific characteristics indicate good leaders, people who possess the characteristics do not necessarily go on to become leaders. Some have speculated that this is due to situational factors, in which leadership abilities grow only when a leadership opportunity occurs. On the other hand, others have embraced a situational leadership approach, in which some qualities are more successful in some contexts and less effective in others. Opinions differ on what such characteristics are and to what extent, if at all, they may predict success.

trait theory of leadership

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