Assignment 1


The history of leadership can be traced back to the beginning of civilization. It has gone through five different eras namely, tribal, pre-classical, classical, progressive and post-progressive. Several theories, such as trait, behavioral, transactional and transformational leadership, have been introduced to help in evaluating the quality of leadership skills (Doldenm Gosling, Marturano and Dennison 6). For many years, these theories have gained substantial recognition and support relating to their application. However, some of these theories have been rejected because they fail to recognize and address several issues affecting the modern world.

History of Trait Theory

The theory of trait leadership was introduced in the early 1900s. It focused on identifying the qualities of leadership traits among people. A leader was ranked as effective or ineffective based on the quantity and quality of the traits they possessed. Trait leadership theory had three assumptions. Firstly, the theory assumed that people were born with inherited leadership traits (International Association of Administrative Professionals 10). Secondly, International Association of Administrative Professionals state that the theory assumes that there are specific straits that were suited for leadership (10). Finally, the theory assumed that successful leaders had to portray the right combination of these traits (International Association of Administrative Professionals 10). Examples of the traits that are used to rank leaders include intelligence, ambition, perseverance, assertiveness, dependency, accountability, self-control, height, strength and weight (Fleenor 831).

These traits were classified into five major groups namely, intelligence, physical attributes, social status and experience, task orientation and personality characteristics. Attention was placed on studying and identifying these traits among successful leaders, then using them as standards to rate other people. Thereafter, it was assumed that anybody who portrayed similar traits could also become successful leaders. For many years, this theory was used to assess the qualities of leaders by comparing them to successful people like Mahatma Gandhi and Elattuvalapil Sreedharan. Overtime, research identified several weaknesses surrounding the theory of trait leadership.

Weaknesses of Trait Theory

The assumptions associated with this theory were the main source of its weaknesses. Firstly, as earlier sated, the theory assumed that leaders were born with inherited traits. It therefore assumed that successful leadership was hereditary. This assumption can be attributed to the fact that the theory was introduced at a time when the society practiced a monarchial system of government. Children within the royal family would group up to inherit the throne. It is therefore not strange that leadership traits were only associated with these families. Currently, most monarchial governments have been replaced by other styles of leadership such as democracy. Because of these changes, everybody in the society has been given an equal opportunity to become successful leaders despite their lineage. This has been proven by the huge number of people who came from poor and humble backgrounds to become the most powerful and influential leaders in the world.

The second weakness of trait leadership theory has bees associated with the assumption that a successful leader must portray specific qualities. As social sciences researches intensify, it has been proven that there is no consistency regarding the traits that have been associated with successful leadership. Nonetheless, it has also been established that certain traits appear more frequently than others do. For example, as compared to self-confidence, almost all successful leaders were associated with high intelligence due to their impressive academic and professional backgrounds.

Finally, the third weakness has been associated with the assumption that a successful leader must posses a perfect combination of leadership traits. The theory fails to recognize that all individuals have shortcomings, and as a result, cannot posses all the positive traits that have to be associated with a successful leader. The abilities of leaders to posses certain traits have been attributed various factors such as childhood experiences, educational background, financial position and religion. For example, leaders from rich and wealthy homes might have received better education compared to those from poor families. As a result, they might portray higher intelligence. Absence or difference in the levels of certain traits among leader does not mean that some of them will not be successful leaders. The theory fails to recognize that weaknesses will completely lock out potential leaders.


Theories have advantages and disadvantages associated with their application in the modern society. However, some of these theories have failed to address the societal transformations that have been witnessed over the years. A good example has been the trait leadership theory. The fact that it is solely based on the traits possessed by leaders introduces several weaknesses that rendered it unreliable and ineffective. Despite the absences of certain traits, many leaders have proven to become very successful. Other effective leadership theories have recognized the existence of weaknesses among leaders, and ranked them based on their average scores after evaluating their individual strengths and weaknesses.






Work Cited

Bolden, Richard, Gosling, Jonathan, Marturano, A., and Dennison, P. A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks. (2008). Devon: University of Exeter. Print.

Fleenor, John. “Trait Approach to Leadership.” Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. (2006). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication. Print.

International Association of Administrative Professionals. Leadership Theories and Styles. (2009). Kansas: International Association of Administrative Professionals. Print.

Van, W. M. Leadership in public organizations: An introduction. (2012). New York, NY: M.E. Sharpe. Print.

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