This two major traits approach to leadership (Birk,
This paper analyses leadership based on traits, skills, and style approaches according to my experiences in different situations. Furthermore, it considers the relationship of leadership with traits, skills, and style. Moreover, it identifies some leadership qualities that I want to develop.
According to Northouse (2004), traits focus on leaders’ personal characteristics, skills is the leaders’ developable capabilities, whereas style highlights leaders’ behavior. Leadership was redefined as an interpersonal relationship in a review which showed a person who is a leader in one situation may not be a leader in another (Stogdill, 1948). However, leadership factors are essential to be considered as situational requirements.
Visionary and charismatic are two major traits approach to leadership (Birk, 2010). Personality and emotional intelligence (EI) concepts are proved to be important in leadership (Stogdill, 1974). EI is closely linked to leader’s personality as it examines both personal and social competency. Trait approach proposes that managers with the appropriate leadership profiles are essential for an organization success (Northouse, 2004). Hence, personality assessments are widely used in the organizational decision-making to recruit appropriate leaders. Trait approach is intuitive, time-proven, conceptual, and invaluable. However, it does not consider the situational effects and makes it impossible to determine the most important traits and consider the effect of the outcome.
Leadership skills can be learned and developed (Katz, 1955). Technical, interpersonal, and conceptual skills are essential to leaders. In an organization, top management is the least associated with technical skills while conceptual skills appear to be the least important to supervisory management. However, interpersonal skills play an equally important role in all levels. Problem-solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge are also found to be important to respond to the continually changing environment (Mumford et al., 2000). Skills approach is leader-centered, intuitive, consistent and expansive. Yet, it is general, weakly predicted and inaccurate. Thus, it may not be able to be widely applied.
Style approach considers both task and relationship behaviors to influence others to obtain the goal (Northouse, 2004). An employee-oriented leader is considerate and they focus on building relationships and respects while production-oriented leader concentrates on organizing and scheduling tasks. Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid presents different leadership styles according to the concerns for both production and people (Northouse, 2004). Style approach broadens leadership focus and validates the basic principles to form the core leadership process.
I had encountered an authority-compliance leader. He was visionary, task-oriented, and motivated. However, employees were merely a tool to achieve organizational goal to him. Training and staff-bonding sessions were mostly called-off or indefinitely adjourned due to last-minute tasks assigned. It had resulted in high-turnover rate as employees are feeling unappreciated and incompetence. After several futile efforts to communicate with the management, I had compiled a step-by-step guide to each task for the employees. Aside, team-lunch was also organized for staff-bonding purposes.
In conclusion, leadership is a combined application of appropriate personality, behavior, and capabilities. The different approaches have their places to play and they complement one another. Everyone has a certain individual leadership potential, and it is important to determine and maximize that potential (Northouse, 2004). Interpersonal skills are important in all environment. Strong interpersonal skills can help to build a strong relationship and respects in both business and family setting.