Trait Theory

The trait theory defines the different traits or characteristics that effective leaders demonstrate. They help to explain what makes one leader stand out from another and other questions, for example, "What leadership traits will enable me to stand out from others and achieve results through my team?" and"How can I used the trait theory to help me develop my leadership skills?"

These are all questions that anyone in a leadership position, whether a manager, leading a change initiative, supervisor, project manager or leading a task need to ask themselves. Once you know what the key leadership traits are you can assess your current level, determine where it needs to be and create a development plan to bridge any gaps that exist.

The following list describes many of the leadership traits that have been identified. This list is not exhaustive but does give a general overview of different characteristics that are believed to be important for anyone wanting to demonstrate strong leadership skills.

Leadership Traits or Characteristics

  • Drive has been identified as a key leadership trait to support intelligence. Without having the drive to succeed, to make a difference, move forward, break barriers etc intelligence will deliver little in the area of managing or leading change.
  • Trust. Build trust and committment through openness and strong working relationships.
  • Dominance and Self-Confidence are also noted as being key traits required.  I will give a word of warning here. Do not confuse these two traits with arrogance or being domineering. Confidence does not mean that you have all the answers. It means that you are confident in how you present yourself and your arguments, willing and able to ask for others inputs, ideas and thoughts, confident to acknowledge when you have made a mistake (key strength) or don’t have an answer. You need to be Assertive in your behaviours and thoughts.
  • Decisiveness is critical. There will be many options or different roads to take. Therefore, a leader is able to make that difficult decision (based on the information available) and direct the group. They must be happy and enjoy taking risks and want to win; are competitive.
  • It is also noted that leaders promote innovation. This is looking for new ways of doing things – outside of the norm. It requires thinking and decision making using intuition not just facts and figures and known stuff. This can relate to risk taking. Its going sometimes with the gut. Many people ignore intuition because it doesn’t fit with known facts. 
  • Emotional Intelligence. This is an intelligence that is needed to succeed in work. It has been shown that it is a soft skill and is related to knowing yourself, being able to change your behaviours to different situations and people, being motivated, the ability to show empathy with people and their situations and finally having social skills.

Trait Theory

Authentic Leadership

Behavioural Theory

Situational Leadership

Adairs Action Centred Leadership