In general, a study of human personality traits isn’t a very fruitful approach to explaining leadership. This is because not all leaders possess all of the traits, and many nonleaders possess most or all of them! The trait approach also gives no guide as to how much of any trait a person should have. Furthermore, out of dozens of studies, there’s no uniformity of identified facts or any significant correlations of traits with actual instances of leadership.
Nevertheless, some studies have indicated significant correlations between certain traits and leadership effectiveness. Most writers on the subject see a definite correlation between the traits of integrity, intelligence, dependability, courage, initiative, self-confidence, and strong motivation to accomplish effective leadership. Let’s examine this correlation in more detail.
Understanding of self, which comes with introspection, provides the responsible manager with integrity. Integrity involves a consistent ordering of a personal system of values and goals. It involves reaching a point of sound moral character and principles. People with integrity have come to know their own minds, conscious and unconscious. They’ve come to know what they stand for and what they’ll fight to hold onto.
Integrity is usually accompanied by a great deal of self-confidence. Intelligence is the capacity for understanding truths, facts, and meanings. This doesn’t mean that the leader is the most intelligent individual of all groups. In fact, the leader might not be considered very intelligent when compared with members of some other groups, such as philosophers or scientists. Leaders, however, do tend to be more intelligent than their followers. Thus, it’s not surprising that subordinates have come to expect that they superiors will have answers to their questions, or be intelligent enough to know how to find the answers.
One of the most interesting aspects of modem society is the generally held belief, regarding most consumer goods, that ”they don’t make them like they used to.” We’ve all complained at one time or another about products that seem inferior, that break down, or aren’t reliable. And although we accept faulty goods as part of our modern times, we don’t accept the same faults in people. We demand that people be dependable.
Even within famines and among friends, lack of dependability is usually judged as a character flaw (which it is) that can’t be tolerated. We forgive many short- comings in people, but we seem unable to accept anyone’s lack of dependability. Similarly, managers who are undependable will never have respect from either superiors or subordinates. The harsh reality is simple: Undependable managers are treated the same way as undependable merchandise- thrown away and replaced.
When all the evidence is in and all appropriate consultation has taken place, managers must put their judgment on the line with conviction and stubbornness. Many times a difficult decision must be made, such as introducing a new product line or discontinuing an established product lane. A good leader will be expected to make the decision and have the courage to stand by it. The manager can’t be indecisive because indecision breeds indecision. Subordinates are quick to sense indecision because it’s such a common human trait. We excuse it in ourselves, but not in our leaders.
The person who doesn’t initiate action or ideas can’t be called a leader. A manager with initiative can think ahead and translate organizational goals into realistic targets.
Self-confidence is belief in one’s own judgment, ability, power, and so forth. If a leader isn’t self-confident, or doesn’t at least appear so, followers won’t feel secure. People who aren’t secure may be hesitant to follow the leader’s direction. The result is that tasks won’t be completed as scheduled, and goals won’t be reached. (There remains an attribute that must be present to pull all the other traits into a dynamic whole) The additional ingredient is a strong motivation to accomplish. The task of a leader is persistently demanding and often lonely, and the tangible rewards may be insufficient to sustain interest and effort. The desire for accomplishment brings the leader’s underlying qualities into focus. Without this dynamic ingredient, far fewer people would seek the responsibilities that are involved in leadership.
Source: Industrial Management Course