Leadership – Chapter # 2 Traits, Motives and Characteristics of

Ministry of Higher Education
Mashal University
BBA Department
Leadership – Chapter # 2
Traits, Motives and Characteristics of Leadership
Belief that certain personal characteristics and skills contribute to leadership effectiveness in many
situations is the universal theory of leadership
Theory states … Certain leadership traits are universally important. They apply in all situations.
Categories of leadership characteristics include Personality Traits, Motives and Cognitive
Personality Traits:
Studies indicate that leaders have certain personality traits which contribute to leadership
effectiveness as long as leadership style fits in the situation. Personality traits have two categories
general personality traits and
task oriented personality traits
General Personality: Traits Observable traits within and outside the context of work related to
success and satisfaction in work as well as personal life
Self Confidence : Important trait in all leadership settings. Self assured leaders instill confidence in
team members . It means being cool under pressure. It refers to the behaviour a person exhibits in
different situations retaining composure during crises.
Group expects leader to display honesty, integrity and credibility. Honesty
& trust makes a difference in effectiveness. Leader must generate & sustain trust. Trust is
generated by competence, caring, reliability, predictability and integrity and is eroded by
dishonesty , inconsistency, disparity
Dominance: Dominant person imposes his will on others . Dominant leader is often bossy . Earlier
, leadership and dominance were considered synonymous however, modern view point recognise,
involvement of many other traits also
Extroversion: Extroversion contributes to leadership effectiveness . Extroverts are more likely to
want to assume a leadership role and participate in group activities
Refers to being forthright in expressing demands, opinions, feelings and
attitudes. It helps leaders in tasks completing and goals achievement
Emotional Stability: An important trait. It refers to the ability to control emotions to the point
that one’s emotional response is appropriate to the occasion. Group members expect consistency
from leaders. Low emotional stability is associated with Anxiety , Depression , Anger,
Embarrassment , Worry
Enthusiasm: Desirable traits and a great tool for motivating others and for getting job done.
Builds good relationship with team members and can be expressed both verbally & non verbally.
Sense of Humour: Considered to be Trait and Behaviour both. Effective use of humour is
important part of a leader’s role . Relieves tension and boredom , diffuses hostility and Self-effacing
humour makes a point without insulting
Contributes towards effective leadership. Facilitates establishment of rapport with
group , Projection of warmth is a key component of charisma, Facilitates provision of emotional
support to group, Comes with the territory, cold fish turn people off
High tolerance for Frustration: Ability to cope with the blocking of goal attainment. Leader
encounters a too many frustrations
Self awareness and self objectivity: Effective leader knows his strengths and limitations .
Awareness enables to capitalize on strengths & develop weaknesses.
Task Related Personality Traits:
Taking action without support and stimulation form others. Refers to problem
finding ability and is a proactive side of leadership. Effective leaders make choices and than take
action that leads to change.
Sensitivity to others and empathy: Understanding who the group members are, what their
position on issues is, and how to best communicate with and influence them. Achieving sensitivity
to others requires empathy i e ability to place oneself in other persons shoes
Flexibility and adaptability: Flexibility is the ability to adjust to different situations. Leaders
must adjusts to demands of different situations . He must facilitates change and be flexible to cope
with changes like Technological advances, Downsizings, Shifting customer base and Changing
work force
Internal Locus of control: An internal locus of control is closely related to self confidence. It
facilitates self confidence as the person feels that he can control circumstances and perform well .
People with internal locus of control believe that they are the prime mover behind events. It help a
leader in the role of “ taking charge “
Leaders need courage to face the challenges of taking risk and taking initiative in
general , suggest new undertaking, If undertaking fails, the leaders also fails
Resiliency: Leaders, bounce back quickly from setbacks . A study revealed that leaders do not
even think about failure. They don’t use words like mistake, bungle glitch and setback.. Leaders set
an example for team members by not crumbling when some thing goes wrong . Instead the leader
tries to conduct business as usual.
Leadership Motives:
Effective leaders are distinguished by their motives and need. Leaders have an intense desire to
occupy a position of responsibility for others & to control them.
The Power Motive: Power motives is important, it means that the leader is interested in
influencing others. Effective leaders have a strong need to control resources.
Characteristics of
leaders with high power motives are that they act with vigour and determination to exert power,
they spend time, thinking of ways to alter behaviour and thinking of others and they care about
personal standing with those around them
Personalized Power Motive: Leader with such motive seek power to further their own interest .
For them power is status symbols ( luxury & money ). They enjoy dominating others, which results
in submissive subordinates, Yes-person
Socialized Power Motive: Leader with such power motive use power to achieve organizational
goals or vision . Help others & for the benefit of the entire organization. They are less defensive &
more willing to accept expert advice.
Drive & Achievement Motivation Leaders are known for investing strong efforts in achieving
goals. Importance of strong motivation for leadership is well accepted. People with strong
achievement motivation have consistent desire to achieve through one’s own efforts & take
responsibility for success or failure , Take moderate risks that can be handled through one’s own
efforts , Receive feedback on level of performance , Introduce novel (fresh), innovative or creative
solutions , Plan and set goals.
Strong Work Ethic: Effective leaders have strong work ethic. They have firm belief in the dignity
of work , they value hard work and believe that group task is worthwhile
Tenacious leaders are better at overcoming obstacles. Tenacity multiplies in
importance for organizational leaders because it can take so long to implement a new program.
Such leaders have a sense of purpose and determination to achieve
Cognitive Factors and Leadership:
Problem solving & intellectual skills are referred to collectively as cognitive factors. The term
cognitive refers to mental process or faculty by which knowledge is gathered.
Mental Ability & the Cognitive Resource Theory: Theory is based on two key assumptions :1. Intelligent & competent leaders make more effective plans, decisions & strategies.
2. Leaders of task group communicate their plans decisions & action strategies primarily in the form
of directive behaviours.
Theory is based on several hypotheses (assumptions) focusing on mental ability :1. If a leader is experiencing stress, his intellectual abilities will be diverted from the task at hand.
2. The intellectual abilities of directive leaders will correlate more highly with group performance
than nondirective leaders.
3. A leader’s intellectual abilities will be related to group performance to the degree that the task
requires the use of intellectual ability. Cognitive resources theory highlights, the importance of
intelligence in many leadership situations. Intelligence makes a bigger contribution with a directive
leader because they make more problem solving suggestion..
Knowledge of the Business: Intellectual abilities are closely related to having knowledge of the
business. A leader has to be technically or professionally competent in some discipline particularly
when leading a group of specialist. Without knowledge it is difficult to establish rapport with
group members. Without knowledge group members do not respect the leader’s technical skills.
Basic ways in which top executives lead is through the expertise approach.
Creativity: Effective leaders are creative . They arrive at imaginative & original solution to
complex problems. On creative continuum some leaders are more creative than others. At one end
are business leaders who think of innovative products & services. At the middle are leaders who
explore imaginative but not breakthrough solutions to business problems. At the low end are leaders
who inspire group members to push forward with standard solutions to organizational problems.
Insight into people & situations: A depth of understanding that requires considerable intuition &
common sense. Insight is also related to creativity because of intuitive components. Insight into
people & situation involving people, is an essential characteristic of managerial leaders to make
wise choices in selecting people for key assignments. Insight enables a manager to make better
work assignment, affect better training and development of members. Insight enables better
perception of environment
Farsightedness: An ability to understand long range implications of actions and policies . To
develop visions and corporate strategy .
Openness to Experiences: Positive orientation toward learning . People with openness to
experience have well developed intellects. Traits associated with intellect include being
imaginative, cultured, curious, broad minded, intelligent and artistically sensitive.
Influence of Heredity & Environment on Leadership:
Are leaders born or made? Do you have to have the right stuff to be a leader? Does heredity or
environment contribute more to leadership effectiveness?
Traits, motives and characteristics
required for leadership effectiveness are a combination of heredity & environment. Personality traits
and mental abilities traits are based on certain inherited predisposition and aptitudes that require the
right opportunity to develop. People need right opportunity to develop their mental ability for
leadership position.
Physical factors …. Some people are born with biological propensity (naturally) for being more
energetic than others but it needs to be properly channelled. Important genetic contribution to
imaginative thinking includes brain power & emotional expressiveness. These traits require the
right environment to flourish. Such environment includes encouragement from others and
opportunity to experiment with ideas.
The Strength & Limitation of the Trait Approach:
Evidence is convincing that leaders possess personal characteristic that differ from non leaders .
Trait approach to leadership is supported by many studies showing that leaders are different from
non leaders & effective leaders are different from less effective leaders.
Trait approach does not tell us which traits are the most important and in which situation
Research on subject concluded that
1. Leader do not have to be great man & women by being intellectual genius but they do need to
have the right stuff which is not equally present in all people
2. Understanding the traits of effective leaders serve as an important guide to leadership selection
3.If honesty and integrity and creativity and imagination are essential leadership traits then we
should concentrate on selecting leaders with those characteristics.
4. It can help people to prepare for leadership responsibility
5. A person might seek experiences that enable him or her to develop vital characteristic like self
confidence, good problem solving ability and assertiveness.
1. It does not tell us which traits are absolutely needed in which leadership situation
2. We do not know how much of trait, characteristic or motive the right amount is.
3. People who are not outstanding on key leadership traits and characteristics might be
discouraged from seeking leadership position
4. When the borderline of ambition is crossed by some leader, it leads to ethical and legal
5. Leader cannot be categorized by particular personality type, style or set of traits but
understood in the terms of his results, example setting and responsibilities.