From now on, you will have to post to the Discussion in order to see what your classmates have written.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Trait Theory is making a resurgence, but the field is certainly far from dead. In 1948 Ralph Stogdill published an impressive review in his Compendium of Leadership. Some of the interesting observations that he uncovered were that there are a large number of traits that are useful in describing leaders. He believed that traits are an important part of the picture, even though each trait possessed relatively small explanatory power. Probably most usefully, he was of the opinion that leadership is all about a working relationship between and among people.

If you are interested in some further, recommended reading…

You might want to look at “Leadership: Do Traits Matter?” by S. A. Kirkpatrick and E. A. Locke Academy of Management Executive 5, 2 (1991), pp 48-60. Of course, they do feel that traits matter. One quotation from that paper cited to Morgan McCall and Michael Lombardo of the Center for Creative Leadership, I find particularly informative. McCall and Lombardo found that managers who reached the top of their field were more likely to follow the formula: “I will do exactly what I say I will do when I say I will do it. If I change my mind, I will tell you well in advance so you will not be harmed by my actions.” Wow, I wish I’d said that.

Worthy of note—in this chapter Professor Northouse clearly explicates that leadership is a complex interaction of the leader, the follower, and the situation. An important distinction that any serious scholar of leadership should bear in mind.

Bernard Bass (Bass and Stogdill’s handbook of leadership, New York: Free Press, 1990) noted two significant questions: (a) What traits distinguish leaders from other people? And (b) What is the magnitude of those differences?

Question #1:

Does this chapter actually answer Bass’s questions, and if so, what do we take away from Trait Theory?

I’m a fan of the Big Five Personality Factors, so I appreciate that Professor Northouse cites the Judge (2002) article. “Thus, these results suggest that Extraversion is the most important trait of leaders and effective leadership.” And, recall from your Organizational Behavior class—personality is viewed as a durable construct. We most likely won’t change our personality much throughout our working career.

Question #2:

Those of us who score high on the Introversion scale—what does this mean for us? Are we destined to never be great leaders?

The Judge (2002) research may provide even worse news for some of us. “Overall, Agreeableness was the least relevant of the Big Five traits… Because agreeable individuals tend to be passive and compliant, it makes sense they would be less likely to emerge as leaders. This was found to be particularly true in field studies (business and government or military settings) where the ‘conforming to others’ wishes’ (Graziano & Eisenberg, 1997, p 796) nature of agreeable individuals may be most likely to evidence itself.” This bodes poorly for those future potential leaders among us who score high on Agreeableness. Recall Professor Northouse’s guidance (page 29) that “The trait approach is also used for personal awareness and development… A trait assessment can help managers determine whether they have the qualities to move up or to move to other positions in the company.”

Question #3:

Would you advise individuals who score high on Agreeableness to not aspire to leadership roles? Why or why not? Would you advise individuals who score high on Agreeableness to learn how to become more disagreeable? What does this say about teamwork in an organization?


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