Trait Theory in Leadership

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter

Early theorists held that leaders are born as strong leaders and have certain physical traits and personality characteristics that distinguish them from non-leaders. 

Gream man theory for example focused on an assumption that leaders are destined to be leaders and the sons of kings will be good kings because they inherit certain characteristics.

The great man theory suggested that leadership is a god gifted skill.

Trait theories have ignored assumptions about whether leadership traits are inherited or acquired. 

Jenkins identified two traits; Emerging traits (those that are highly dependent on genetics) as traits of height, intelligence, attractiveness, self-confidence, and effectiveness traits (based on experience or learning), including charisma, as an essential component of leadership (Ekvall & Arvonen, 1991). 

Max Weber described charisma as “the greatest revolutionary force, capable of producing an entirely new direction through dedicated followers whom admire their leader and the complete personal devotion of leaders whom they regarded as endowed with supernatural and almost supernatural qualities and powers”. 

This initial focus on the intellectual, physical, and personality traits that distinguished non-leaders from leaders asserted that there are only specific differences between followers and leaders that some of us can acquire (Burns, 2003). 

The failure to reveal the common traits of each effective leader, led to the development of trait theory identifying many traits including commitment and initiative.

 In the late 1940s, scholars studied the traits of military and non-military leaders respectively and revealed the importance of some traits that develop in certain circumstances and by training so that anyone can acquire these skills and traits.

Researchers who have adopted trait theory have tried to identify characteristics that leaders have, which include:

Physiological features, such as: appearance, height, and weight.

Leaders should be strong , healthy and fit.

Demographic features, such as age, education, and socioeconomic background.

Leaders should learn and try to enhance their financial life.

Personality traits, such as: tendency to control, self-confidence, and strength.

Leaders should monitor his team performance to praise who is doing well and intervene to help less empowered employees.

Intellectual traits, such as: intelligence, decency, discretion, and knowledge.

Leaders should be crrative.

Task-related attributes, such as: achievement motivation, entrepreneurship, and determination.

Leaders should be target oriented.

Social traits, such as: intimacy and collaboration.

Leaders should be approachable and helpful.


The Traits Theory of Leadership main idea  came from the suggestion of psychologist Ralph Melvin Stogdel, that leadership is the result of interaction between the individual and social status and not just the result of a predetermined set of inherited traits. 

Soon after, some researchers assumed that a skilled leader must have certain traits, the most important of which are emotional intelligence , self confidence and knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *