Trait Theory

trait theoryThe trait theory is based on the individual and their uniqueness, but in contrast it could be based on the assumption that the individual is more important than the situation through the identification of distinguishing traits of a leader.  However, Handy (1993) states although studies have examined many characteristics of good leadership, there are many common traits of leadership. Those traits identified were intelligence, initiative and self-awareness.  Further studies have identified enthusiasm, integrity, courage, imagination, faith and determination plus many more.  Although these traits have been recognised as being the distinguishing traits of a leader, there is a need to recognise not all of the traits are paramount in the structuring of a good leader, and therefore is a need to consider the situation and adapt.

Cherry (n.d.) views trait as being descriptive of a person’s personality due to the composition of a person’s personality can appear to be very broad and descriptive, causing the trait theory being examined and changed many times by theorists and psychologists.

Additionally, Allport’s theory of trait was based on 4000 descriptive words of trait which he categorized into three levels; cardinal, central and secondary, these levels were later addressed by Cattell and he constructed 16 key personality traits, stating these are the source of human personalities that are used for personality assessments.

Nevertheless Eysenck developed a model based on three universal traits; introversion/extraversion, neuroticism/emotional stability and psychoticism.  Eysenck and Cattell’s theories focused on too many and too few, later to be replaced.  Subsequently, the ‘Big Five’ emerged, representing the five core traits.  These interact to form human personality consisting of; extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness, although some researchers often would not agree on these.

Trait theories are commonly criticised as being poor predictors of behaviour when used for assessment purposes citing it does not address how or why individual differences in a person’s personality develop or emerge.


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