Ask”What makes a great leader?“And you get a different answer every time.
For me, a great leader is empathetic, adaptable and inspiring. For others, a great leader should be decisive, intelligent and friendly.
Over time, this meaning will continue to evolve.
A concept that has been debated for a long time is whether leadership is innate or acquired.
Some people think that leadership is a black and white concept: either you have it or you don’t. But is this really true?
In this article, we will explore the trait theory of leadership and what critics think about it.
What is the theory of leadership traits?
The basis of the theory of leadership traits is that leaders are born rather than nurtured. It asserts that certain leadership traits, such as intelligence, creativity, and decisiveness, are innate, thus distinguishing leaders from followers.
This idea was first introduced in the mid-1800s, and it looked at certain genetic traits, such as:
- communication ability
For a long time, this has been a socially recognized concept.You either have What it takes to be a leader, Or you don’t.
Trait theory and methods have become the benchmark for how we view leaders. It focuses on people, not followers or the environment-which helps to understand why people are attracted to specific leaders.
Then, about a century later, in the 1940s, the narrative expanded.
Researcher Ralph Stogdill discovered that some people are leaders in some situations, but not in others. This contradicts the view of trait theory and introduces leadership as something influenced by the environment.
Think back to your group project in college or high school.
Where do you play the role? Are you a leader, a supportive but quiet contributor, will I do everything by myself, the last-minute helper of the absence?
Depending on the situation, you may be four people. Perhaps you will feel comfortable as a leader only if no one else is willing.
With this in mind, there are several other leadership theories:
- Situational Leadership Theory Think that the emergence of leaders is based on needs. If the situation requires, one person will become the leader. However, the same person may not adapt to this situation in another environment.
- Behavioral Leadership Theory Show that leadership is a learning behavior that anyone can learn.
Now that we know what theories exist, let’s talk about critics’ views on trait theory.
Criticism of Leadership Trait Theory
Today, many leaders strongly oppose the theory of leadership traits.
They believe that anyone can learn and develop the skills needed to become a successful leader. A small survey sample of American consumers echoed this sentiment.
There are some studies to support this.
A sort of 2008 Research on Heritability and Human Development It is found that 70% of leadership abilities are not inherited, but learned through experience.
Other studies have shown that there are few characteristics that can distinguish between leaders and followers. When comparing leaders with their followers, there is almost no difference in the characteristics they have or may have.
Another criticism of trait theory is that it ignores socioeconomic inequality.
If your population does not start from the same starting line, how do you determine who has leadership potential?
For example, marginalized groups who grew up in under-funded and under-supported communities may not have the same opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills. Their ability to develop this potential may also be limited.
With this in mind, the view that some people believe that leadership is inherited is flawed because it does not take all variables into consideration.
Traits and process leadership
These two concepts are opposed.
The former believes that leadership is innate, while the latter believes that it is the result of the interaction between the leader and the follower, which is built over time.
As a process leader, you have a responsibility to cultivate relationships with others and provide support. The theory states that over time, you will acquire the role of leader and create an environment in which your followers can succeed.
When examining these two theories, both theories may be correct.
Leadership is subtle, so it can operate in a variety of models and environments.
In terms of traits, everyone is born with personality traits, talents and talents that make us more likely to succeed in a specific environment and role.
For example, an extrovert can show the qualities of a leader. They rarely encounter trouble in social situations and can communicate with confidence. With this in mind, they may not have to work as hard as introverts to interact with peers, colleagues, and leaders.
However, introverts can build the same skills through contact and experience. Likewise, introverts may appear in more intimate environments.
More importantly, leadership is an evolving concept. Although trait theory was originally the most popular way of looking at leadership, more and more theories continue to develop, expanding our understanding of it.
For example, conversations about psychological safety have only recently received attention in the workplace. Leaders are now trained to create an environment in which employees can safely share ideas, doubts, and mistakes.
As we understand the best way to motivate a team, leadership styles are constantly evolving. Therefore, there is always an educational element in becoming a leader.
When it comes to leadership, there is no right or wrong theory. All theories provide some insight about what it takes to be a successful leader.
Trait theory provides a standard for the quality of leaders, while process theory focuses on how to cultivate interpersonal relationships. The situational leadership model regards leadership as a highly flexible concept based on the environment.
If you are striving for a leadership role, consider these models and use them as building blocks to find your own style.