Traits, Motives, and Characteristics of Leaders
The purpose of this chapter is to present a comprehensive description of the personal qualities of leaders. Such a presentation does not imply that the trait theory is more valid or important than other explanations of leadership. Nevertheless, “having the right stuff” contributes to leadership effectiveness in many situations.
CHAPTER OUTLINE AND LECTURE NOTES
The belief that certain personal characteristics and skills contribute to leadership effectiveness in many situations is the trait-based perspective on leadership. Traits tend to help us understand leadership behavior and effectiveness when integrated in meaningful ways. Old as well as new research concludes convincingly that effective leaders are made of the right stuff. A useful presentation of this research is The Essence of Leadership by Locke.
I. PERSONALITY TRAITS OF EFFECTIVE LEADERS
Possessing certain characteristics contributes to leadership effectiveness in many situations as long as the leader’s style fits the situation reasonably well.
A. General Personality Traits
A general personality trait in the context used here is a trait that would be observable within or outside the context of work. The same general traits are related to success and satisfaction in both work and personal life.
1. Self-Confidence. In almost every leadership setting, it is important for the leader to be realistically self-confident. Self-confidence is akin to being cool under pressure.
2. Humility. Being humble at the right times also contributes to leadership effectiveness. Part of humility is admitting that you don’t know everything, and admitting your mistakes to team members and outsiders. According to Jim Collins, Level 5 Leaders are modest, yet determined to achieve their objectives.
3. Trustworthiness. Group members consistently believe that leaders must display honesty, integrity, and credibility, thus engendering trust. Trust is a person’s confidence in another individual’s intentions and motives, and in the sincerity of that individual’s word. The popular cliché, “Leaders must walk the talk,” holds true. Also helpful is telling the truth and conducting yourself in the way that you ask others to conduct themselves. A study found that 72 percent of employees believe their immediate managers act with honesty and integrity in their work, but only 56 percent believe that about company leadership. An example of a trust builder is to make your behavior consistent with your intentions.
A meta-analysis of 106 studies involving 27,103 individuals found that trust of a leader was highly associated with a variety of work attitudes of group members, such as satisfaction. The relationship between trust and job performance was positive, but low.
4. Authenticity. Embedded in the trait of being trustworthy is authenticity—being genuine and honest about your personality, values, and beliefs, as well as having integrity. To become an authentic leader, and to demonstrate authenticity, be yourself rather than attempting to be a replica of someone else.
5. Extraversion. Being extraverted contributes to leadership effectiveness, and extraverts are more likely to want to assume a leadership role and participate in group activities.
6. Assertiveness. Assertiveness refers to being forthright in expressing demands, opinions, feelings, and attitudes. Being assertive helps leaders perform tasks such as confronting group members, demanding higher performance, and making legitimate demands on higher management.
7. Enthusiasm, Optimism, and Warmth. Group members respond positively to enthusiasm, partly because enthusiasm may be perceived as a reward for constructive behavior. Enthusiasm also helps build good relationships with team members. Enthusiasm often takes the form of optimism which helps keep the group in an upbeat mood, and hopeful about attaining difficult goals. Being a warm person and projecting that warmth is pat of enthusiasm and