Trait and Behavioral Approaches to Leadership Turn Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2267 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 18  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Leadership

¶ … trait and behavioral approaches to leadership turn out to be of only limited usefulness? How much more successful are current views about what makes a good leader? The researcher proves that transformational leadership is the best model of leadership if one's goals include success, because it empowers subordinates and followers so that objectives and goals are more often met.

The trait and behavioral approaches to leadership failed to prove useful for multiple reasons including their lack of understanding or acknowledgement of the dynamic rather than static status in which a leader must operate (Fiedler, 1964. p. 150). This paper will explain why these forms of leadership proved marginally useful, and then address whether current views about what makes a good leader are valid.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Term Paper on Trait and Behavioral Approaches to Leadership Turn Assignment

To understand leadership one must first distinguish between leaders and managers (Zaleznick, 1977. p. 67). A leader in my opinion based on evidence collected from the literature is an individual that is dynamic in nature; someone that has vision and charisma and a knack for empowering others to achieve their best. Managers are individuals that understand the strategic objective of leaders and assist with the "carrying out" of tasks that must take place to allow for a leader's objectives or goals to be realized. Managers may have many of the same traits or characteristics of leaders, and may adopt many of the behaviors leaders have, but they are clearly different. Managers are more easily identified as belonging to early leadership theories supporting the trait and behavioral approaches to leadership. Early leadership and human behavioral experts suggested that leadership was something that was born with; it was a function of one's personality, or their traits (Wilber, 1998, p. 22). Some define traits as skills as well, suggesting traits may be something an individual can learn. Once experts realized that leadership evolved from other avenues and not simple traits, they began focusing on other reasons for leadership successes. One theory, the behavioral theory, suggested a good leader or successful leader was one that had the ability to create strong relationships with employees (Wilber, 1998, p. 18). A good leader would be able to propose something to employees and if the employees reacted in a positive way from a behavioral perspective, then the leader was successful or considered successful by others. Boulding (1956; 1985) comments on the behavioral theories of leadership, noting many people hide behind a facade or "fake" image to portray the traits or behaviors people want to see or expect to see in a leader (p. 54). Boulding suggested

There are many reasons the trait and behavioral approaches to leadership did not succeed. While the ideas and concepts behind them seem strong, these approaches were singular in nature. They suggest that a single concept, trait or behavioral style resulted in successful leadership. Little empirical data however suggests that leaders using either the trait-based or behavioral-based modal succeed. For example, one of the traits one my associate with successful leaders is good decision making skills or problem solving. There are many individuals that are great thinkers, capable of solving multitudinous problems. However, there is ample evidence suggesting people with great problem solving skills would not make great leaders. Someone may be good at problem solving but lack basic skills related to humanistic leadership (Barker, 2001), meaning they are not able to listen to employees' needs, wants and desires and figure out what it takes to empower employees in the workplace to become more self-motivated and therefore successful. Human relations are important skills for the leader to master (Barker, 2001) but not the only skills required for success among leaders.

Behavioral models are also too narrow in their approach toward leadership. Behavioral models suggest someone with a talent for idea creation may be an ideal match for a leadership role. While it is true strategic planning and idea creation are important behaviors that can lead to success, they are not features than guarantee good leadership or success in management roles.

Contemporary Perspectives

Contemporary experts now believe in transformational leadership, which translates into a leader with charisma, a leader with vision, and a leader with the ability to engage subordinates so that they realize how beneficial they can be to the organization as a whole. Transformational leader's help employees realize it is important to sometimes walk away from self-interest so that one can be a positive role model. J.M. Burns (1987, pp. 41-43) describes transformational leadership as growth of a leader that results on higher "motivation and morality" because as a leader works to elevate their status so too do the subordinates that follow the leader. This suggests that leaders encourage their followers to become more empowered and thus successful. The ability to empower others is something many consider "visionary" a sentiment that I agree with, as all visionaries maintain not only the ability to lead but also the ability to create a vision, mission and strategic plan that will lead all others that follow to a successful status (Handy, 1998, p. 118). Handy goes on to suggest the transformational leader is one that creates challenge for individuals that crave challenge, and thus the ability to create something worthy of note or memorable during a lifetime (p. 119). Harter (2004) also notes the transformational leader is something that can elicit change successfully by tapping into an individual's or group's spirituality (p. 31).

How Much More Successful Are Today's Leaders

Many theorists have attempted to define leadership as noted in the research paper provided. I believe a leader is someone that has the ability to form interpersonal relationships and an individual that can influence or motivate others to do what it is the leader wants them to do. This sentiment is echoed by many researchers supporting a distributed leadership (Bennet, Wise, Woods & Harvey, 2003) or leadership that supports a competitive advantage (Georgiades & Macdonnel, 1998). Most leadership models compel the reader to understand the history of leadership including styles or theories related to leadership. Many have different opinions of what constitutes a great leader (Northouse, 2004). Yikl (2002) is among one of many contemporary theorists that proves leadership does not involve one talent, skill or trade, or one behavioral pattern or schema. Leaders that are truly successful, even if their goals seem malevolent, are those that have the ability to lead and inspire their followers and subordinates.

My experience has reflected this. Just listening to the television one can grasp what leaders in society are strong and which are failures. Those with the most charisma, intelligence, strategic planning ability and human relations experts are those that are most noted and beloved by the people they govern, or despised by the people they govern. It is important to note here that not all leaders are benevolent. I would for example, acknowledge and accept the concept that Hitler was a successful leader, as do many others (Harter, 2004). That he achieved many wrongs and engaged in malevolent activities does not take away from the power he held over the people in his country. Many German subordinates and followers believed what Hitler had to say chiefly because he empowered his chosen people to survive and live a good life. He encompassed many of the traits seen in leaders including charisma, character and aggression that led him to achieve most of his goals.

This seems illogical, but I feel the study of leadership and the traits or behaviors of leaders to be at times nonsensical. Harter (2004) suggests leadership has both logical and illogical aspects people must consider, including spirituality, which falls into the latter category (p. 81). Hitler embraced a deviant form of spirituality, but nonetheless his views appealed to those that would oppose the Jewish religious or spiritual beliefs. Many leaders have utilized spirituality to empower people to make change and to support the leader's cause. Think of the American Constitution claiming, "one nation under God." This sentiment is a reflection of spirituality. It encompasses much of what early colonialists wanted to accomplish when they formed this great nation. Today this great nation might consider this though illogical, mainly because there is so much diversity and divergent beliefs among the population and citizens living in the contiguous United States. One must consider conscious and unconscious attempts by a leader to influence or appeal to a group's spirit and beliefs or ethical practices to succeed.

Like Boulding (1985) Harter attempts to define or explain how conscious and unconscious thoughts and behaviors affect the successes or failures of a leader. Both researchers agree contemporary researchers must consider not just the changes faces of leaders but also the spirituality or spiritual context and philosophy that leaders adopt or embody when addressing others (Harter, 2004). This concept of spirituality in leadership is more common among progressive and traditional modern-day leaders interested in change management, empowerment and the growth of leaders as spiritual entities, embracing their culture, ethnicity and diversity, as well as that of others.

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