Leadership is one of the few factors that can single-handedly predict organizational success or failure, which is why the topic continues to attract much theory and research. The paper discusses leadership theory by reviewing the main leadership approaches developed in the past six decades including the trait approach, behavioral theory, situational leadership, transactional, and transformational approaches. The analysis highlights the tenets of each leadership approach as well as its strengths and weakness. The paper contributes towards the current understanding of the leadership process and provides leaders with the foundational knowledge they need to evaluate and improve their own leadership approaches.
The Trait Approach
Proponents of the trait approach assume that leaders are born with certain personality traits that separate them from non-leaders. Consequently, trait theorists claim that only a small percentage of leadership characteristics can be acquired. Studies inspired by trait theories attempt to identify the personality and behavioral traits that make leadership successful (Taylor, 2009, p. 41). So far, however, trait studies have not produced a conclusive list of the attributes that define leaders. Nevertheless, scholars agree that successful leaders posses nearly all positive human traits such as confidence, assertiveness, adaptability, dominance, and persistence (Northouse, 2010, p. 22). In addition, successful leaders command a wide range of skills such as social skills, creativity, communication skills, organizational skills and tactful skills. The trait approach to leadership is popular in the military and investigative commissions.
Pros and Cons of Trait Approach
The trait approach has num...
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...to acknowledge the impact of situational factors on the outcomes of the model thereby projecting a false impression of a perfect approach.
The discussion of the various leadership approaches reveals that the focus of leadership theory has evolved from describing leader personality and behavior to explaining the interrelationships between leader behavior, situational factors and follower characteristics. While trait and behavioral approaches focus on leader characteristics, situational theories emphasize contextual factors while transactional and transformational approaches focus on both leader and follower behaviors. According to the present research, none of the described leadership approaches can guarantee success in all situations. Consequently, leaders are encouraged to remain flexible and adjust their leadership styles to address situational needs.
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