What are Leadership Traits?

Cite this article as:"What are Leadership Traits?," in The Business Professor, updated April 9, 2020, last accessed October 24, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/what-are-leadership-traits-definition/.


What are Leadership traits?

Researchers have students in-depth the personal attributes or traits that correlate with being seen as a leader or being effective as a leader. More specifically, they focused on the personality characteristics and physical and psychological attributes of individuals.

The dominant traits present in individuals perceived as leaders include:

  • Intelligence – Intelligence includes both mental ability (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ). While IQ concerns the ability to recognize and understand patterns, EQ concerns the level of self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and social skills. While leaders often have IQ, EQ tends to be a greater predictor of the ability to inspire and motivate others. Having an understanding of what motivates another person is highly important.
  • Personality – Personality includes extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The elements of personality are captured in the Big Five Personality Model.
  • Self-Esteem – Self-esteem concerns how a person sees themselves. High self-esteem concerns a positive assessment of one’s individual capabilities and self-worth. This tendency is broader than the neuroticism aspect of personality. This helps explain the relationship between leadership and physical characteristics. For example, taller more masculine individuals (in men) tend to have higher self-esteem – which correlates with the presence of charisma and self-confidence.
  • Integrity – Lastly, leaders are perceived to have a strong moral compass – demonstrating honesty and integrity. A values-based leader is one who allows her values to make decisions and pursue the company’s mission. As a manager, one’s values should align with those of the organization and organizational culture. When these forces align, it leads to an environment of trust and confidence between the manager and other members of the organization. Research has demonstrated a link between organizational performance and the alignment of an organization’s cultural values with the personal values of employees.

Studies of leadership traits are not predictive and largely inconsistent as to when and how these traits affect the perception and performance of a leader. This led to a focus on the situational characteristics or context that gives rise to leadership.

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