Leadership Traits and Behavioural Theories


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Leadership Traits and Behavioural Theories

  1. 1. 1 Leadership Leadership Traits and Behavioral Theories. Leow Fook Thye © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  2. 2. 2 Coursework/Assignment 2 1. “Leadership is more concerned with people than is management.” Discuss. Critically examine the traits theories and behavioural theories of leadership. What is the difference between them? Illustrate your answer with relevant examples. Contents Traits Theory .............................................................................................................................. 3 Behavioural Theory .................................................................................................................... 6 Concluding Leadership Traits and Behavioural Theories ......................................................... 9 Leadership Leadership is indeed more concerned with people than is management in my viewpoint. Examples will be given to support this statement in the following paragraphs of this report. Based on my experience, I have met with self-made millionaires who worked on a particular industry. The top of the top leaders in the same industry are the ones who understand people. They had sympathy and listened to you emphatically. At the same time, ironically they also cultivated the most logical thinking type of approach to problems. In a layman term, I would say they are the leaders who have learned to harness both sides of their brains, i.e. Left-brain and Right-brain thinking patterns. I have also experienced with leaders who seemed to be better at management but failed at leadership, simply because they had a tendency to manage people like they do on things such as, papers, files or other stationeries. If I am asked what is the one key-word that makes the top of the top leaders more successful than the others is simply “Respect”. Respecting is not about smothering one another or appearing apologetic for no reason. It is an art which can only be acquired through self-study and a commitment to change for excellence. There is a saying, being happy and successful is about being able to see the ugliness, its beauty; and in return, seeing the beauty, its ugliness. I believe that knowing this enables us to treat people like assets in as humanely as possible. It helps us in knowing how to choose the right person for the right job, because everyone of them is unique in their own way. Moving on to Traits theory, (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 45) claimed this; traits are the distinguishing personal characteristics of a leader, such as intelligence, honesty, self- confidence, and appearance. For example, Dante Ang, a public relations (PR) expert who was appointed as a PR consultant to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo in April 2002, claims that the President owes part of her career success as a politician to her resemblance to Filipino actress and singer Nora Aunor. Nora Aunor was a popular movie star with a “husky singing voice” that made her very popular with music fans in the Philippines in the 1970s. © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  3. 3. 3 Traits Theory Traits theory basically states that leaders are born. (Shead 2007) Leadership trait theory is the idea that people are born with certain character traits. Since certain traits are associated with proficient leadership, it assumes that if you could identify people with the correct traits, you will be able to identify leaders. Most of the time the traits are considered to be naturally part of a person’s personality from birth. From this standpoint, leadership trait theory tends to assume that people are born as leaders or not as leaders. I agree on this one: as I was observing some great leaders; most of them displayed their leaderships’ characteristics at their young age such as during primary or secondary school. Some display their traits at home. Some traits are born, such as; willingness to help one another, eagerness to show forgiveness, genuinely caring and by doing so, hence assuming responsibilities as the role of a leader in a given unfortunate circumstance. (Trait Leadership Theory 2010) Trait Leadership theory is actually a range of theories which share the belief that all leaders are born with, or at least display, certain key personalities traits. Since certain traits are associated with proficient leadership, if one could identify people with the correct traits, one would be able to identify good leaders. So, what are the traits that are universally desired by followers? I would like to include a passage from the book, “The Leadership Challenge” and credited my thanks to this website; (Shead 2007) The book “The Leadership Challenge” identifies 20 character traits that are generally associated with good leaders. The top five traits are: Honest, Inspiring, Forward-Looking, Competent, Intelligent. What are the assumptions of Trait theory? (Trait Leadership Theory 2010) People are born with inherited traits, some traits are particularly suited to leadership, and people who make good leaders have the right (or sufficient) combination of traits. However, the traits theory could be challenged by factors such as universalism and cultural factors, whence in universalism, (Trait Leadership Theory 2010) situational studies have found that traits are not universal; they depend on the situation; whereas in cultural factors, what is effective leadership in the USA may be not as effective in Japan. We will spend some time studying about the most desirable trait according to the book “The Leadership Challenge”. According to it, honesty is the top most sough t after trait from a leader. I strongly believe in this, not only in organization’s leadership; but as well as other areas such as our relationships with friends and family members. After all, there is a saying that: “Honesty is the best policy”. I remember using this phrase while I was presenting in a computer lab months ago for another course’s subject. And months later as I was enrolled for leadership’s subject; I found that a book called “The Leadership Challenge” is stating that, statistically has shown us that honesty is indeed one best trait a leader must learn to adopt. At least it helps in their careers. Furthermore, it is the most desirable trait follow with second ranking trait - Inspiring, third - Forward-Looking, fourth - Competent, and fifth - Intelligent. What is honesty? (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 48 - 49) Honesty refers to truthfulness and non-deception. It implies an openness that subordinates welcome. Integrity means that one is whole, so that one’s actions are in keeping with one’s words. When leaders model their convictions through their daily actions, they command admiration, respect, and loyalty. These virtues © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  4. 4. 4 are the foundation of trust between leaders and followers. One survey of 1,500 managers asked the values most desired in leaders. Integrity was the most important characteristic. The authors concluded: Honesty is absolutely essential to leadership. After all, if we are willing to follow someone, whether it be into battle or into boardroom, we first want to assure ourselves that the person is worthy of our trust. We want to know that he or she is being truthful, ethical, and principled. We want to be fully confident in the integrity of our leaders. I believe that the three elements are intertwined, “truthful, ethical, and principled”. I have experienced with some members from our college’s club that they cannot be truthful if they are not also ethical and principled. Many inconsistencies of words and actions were seen and felt. One example was, this fellow was focusing only on recruiting pretty girls’ members into the club. He was trying to be truthful to help in the club, but it could not be truthful when he was only recruiting for his self-interest. That cannot even be truthful to him and in fact a selfish trait, because it violated the ethical and principled part. A great example of the Asian Tiger founder (Singapore), Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew has indicated about the importance of being honest. (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 49) On August 26, 2002, news agency Bloomberg made an unreserved apology to Singapore’s Senior Minister (SM) Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister (PM) Goh Chok Tong, and Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lee Hsien Loong for insinuating that there was nepotism when Ho Ching, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Lee, was appointed as executive director of Temasek Holdings, a major state-owned company. This apology was likely to be accompanied by a sizable monetary compensation which the leaders, as in past, would likely donate to charities. Commenting on this episode, SM Lee says, “Everyone knows that if you impugn our integrity, we must clear our name. How can it be otherwise? We are the best paid of all ministers in the region, but not the most well off. That’s because we run it differently. Our people know that. If they doubt that, we are out.” One popular Traits theory analysis is McGregor’s X and Y Theory of Leadership. (What is Theory X and Y? Description 2010) McGregor sees Theory Y as the preferable model and management method, however he thought Theory Y was difficult to use in large -scale operations. The table below shows the values of X and Y theory in Leadership. In my point of view, I would see China in a condition of X style of government. It is hard to judge if it is correct or wrong because, rationally as McGregor sees it; Theory Y will be difficult to use in large-scale operations. © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  5. 5. 5 Theory X Theory Y Assumptions Humans inherently dislike People view work as being working and will try to as natural as play and rest. avoid if they can. Humans expend the same amount of physical and mental effort in their work as in their private lives. Because people dislike Provided people are work they have to be motivated, they will be self- coerced or controlled by directing to the aims of the management and organization. Control and threatened so they work punishment are not only had enough. the mechanisms to let people perform. Average employees want to Job satisfaction is key to be directed. engaging employees and ensuring their commitment. People don’t like People learn to accept responsibility. responsibility and seek responsibility. Average humans, under the proper conditions, will not only accept, but even naturally seek responsibility. Average humans are clear People are imaginative and and unambiguous and want creative. Their ingenuity to feel secure at work. should be used to solve problems at work. Application Shop Floor, Mass Professional Services, Manufacturing. Production Knowledge Workers. workers. Managers and Professional. Conducive to Large scale efficient Management of operations. Professionals, Participative Complex Problem Solving. © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  6. 6. 6 Management Style Authoritarian, Hard Participative, Soft Management. Management. (What is Theory X and Y? Description 2010). (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 51) The behaviour approach says that anyone who adopts the appropriate behaviour can be a good leader. Diverse research programs on leadership behaviour have sought to uncover the behaviours that leaders engage in rather than what traits a leader possesses. Behaviours can be learned more readily than traits, enabling leadership to be accessible to all. In Traits theory of leadership, it is believed that leade rs are born with specific desirable traits such as intelligence, charisma, decisiveness, enthusiasm, strength, bravery, integrity, and self-confidence. In Behavioural theory of leadership, it is believed that leaders are not born. Leadership can be learned and it is not automatic. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work. Behavioural Theory On contrary to leadership as an inborn trait, whence disregarding situational factors and followers’ effectiveness as well as disregarding the dynamics of learning and change; Behavioural theory believes that managers’ leadership potential can be trained into effective leadership competencies and leadership is to be combined with management to achieve the greatest possible outcome. (Cherry 2010) Behavioural theories of leadership are based upon the belief that great leaders are made, not born. Rooted in behaviourism, this leadership theory focuses on the actions of leaders, not on mental qualities or internal states. According to this theory, people can learn to become leaders through teaching and observation . In the early years (1940s – 1950s), historical studies on leadership tended to lean more towards Traits Theory or the Great Man theory which has been discussed. In about (1950s – 1960s), I believe that Behavioural leadership started to be more well-known. The former theory has over-crossed throughout the years into the 1980s however. Nowadays, we can see that more and more companies are hiring professional trainers to train managers’ leadership potential and some have proven to be effective. These companies are willing to spend a large sum of money to train their employees to be more effective in leadership and management. (Behavioural Theory 2010) Behavioural is a big leap from Trait Theory, in that it assumes that leadership capability can be learned, rather than being inherent. This opens the floodgates to leadership development, as opposed to simple psychometric assessment that sorts those with leadership potential from those who will never have the chance. A behavioural theory is relatively easy to develop, as you simply assess both leadership success and the actions of leaders. With a large enough study, you can then © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  7. 7. 7 correlate statistically significant behaviours with success. You can also identify behaviours which contribute to failure, thus adding a second layer of understanding. In a more straight-forward manner, I would try to simplify the difference of approaches between the two theories by simply stating that; Traits theory in leadership is an art form of approach in selecting or identifying potential leaders, whence Behavioural theory in leadership is a scientific approach to choices. (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 51) One study that served as a precursor to the behaviour approach recognized autocratic and democratic leadership styles. An autocratic leader is one who tends to centralize authority and derive power from position, control of rewards, and coercion. A democratic leader delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates’ knowledge for completion of tasks, and depends on subordinate respect for influence. (Leadership styles 2010) Laissez-faire leaders don't interfere; they allow the team to make many of the decisions. Typically this happens when the team is highly capable and motivated, and it doesn't need close monitoring or supervision. SOURCE: Tannenbaum, R., & Schmidt, W. H. (1973, May/June). How to choose a leadership pattern. Harvard Business Review. The application of the behaviours such as Autocratic and Democratic style of behaviour are dependent to the type of circumstances of an organization. I would believe that not all occasions and situations are suitable to one single type of behaviour. A mixed of the two styles is effective for example; let’s take a look at the Leadership Continuum from the previous page. In some situations, such as a lawyer; he has to make and announce decision to his client if the case is near the deadline and he didn’ t have time to teach his client about how to apply certain law into certain cases. Same goes to a CEO when circumstance has short time-frame, he has to at least sell decision or present ideas and invite questions if the company has recruited a new group of employees with no experience in the industry. When can we be more inclined to lean towards Subordinate-centred Leadership? (Clark 2008) This style involves the leader including one or more employees in the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it). However, the leader maintains the final © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  8. 8. 8 decision making authority. Using this style is not a sign of weakness; rather it is a sign of strength that your employees will respect. This is normally used when you have part of the information, and your employees have other parts. Note that a leader is not expected to know everything -- this is why you employ knowledgeable skilful employees. Using this style is of mutual benefit -- it allows them to become part of the team and allows you to make better decisions. That is when manager presents tentative decision subject to change, or presents problem and get suggestions before making decisions. Next, we will look at other well-known behavioural styles which are believed to be able to influence the outcomes of a company. (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 53) The findings of the original University of Iowa studies indicated that leadership behaviour had a definite effect on outcomes, such as follower performance and satisfaction. Researchers conducted surveys to identify specific dimensions of leader behaviour. Two styles in particular were formulated and they are called consideration and initiating structure. In initiating structure, it describes behaviours such as Setting goals, Defining roles, Organizing work, Assigning tasks, Setting standards, and Emphasizing the meeting of deadlines. In consideration, it describes behaviour such as being Sensitive to subordinates, Establishing mutual trust, showing Concern for workers, showing Appreciation, Listening actively, and being Fair and Just. An example of a Ministerial System in Hong Kong, which has implemented well on the implication for Ohio State Studies is such as the changes introduced in 2002 by Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee Hwa to make the government more effective and efficient. By implications, what is meant in this context is that; most leaders fall along a continuum including consideration and initiating structure. (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 54 - 55) When Hong Kong Chief Tung Chee Hwa took office in 1997 to run Fragrance Harbor, handed back by the British to China, he had two problems. First, some civil servants were not willing to carry out his request to implement his policies because they were politically neutral; secon d, different groups in the civil service were pushing for their sectoral interests. He broke with tradition and added an additional layer (that is, a Cabinet) of fourteen policy-makers who would report to him directly. Tung’s leadership style in restructuring the Hong Kong administration system was driven by a high degree of concern for both structure and people. In terms of initiating structure, he used his power to appoint the lieutenants and made them accountable to him. In terms of consideration, he was aware of the need to ensure that appointees, who crossed over to the new Cabinet, would not lose out because of the new line separating the bureaucracy and the Cabinet. Differences of Traits theory and Behavioural theory can also be seen as; in Traits theory, the traits are not quantifiable. For example, physical trait such as good-looking guy may look good to some people but not at all to other people. It is qualitative. On contrary, in Behavioural theory; The Leadership Grid can be used to measure the success of leaders who have been categorized as Behavioural leaders. Numbers such as (1,5) or etc. will be used. © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  9. 9. 9 SOURCE: Blake & Mouton,. The Leadership Grid. As plain as we can see, it is tangible. (The Leadership Grid™ 2010) Grid theory makes behaviours as tangible and objective as any other corporate commodity. By studying each of the seven Leadership Grid styles and the resulting relationship skill behaviours, teams can examine, in objective terms, how behaviours help or hurt them. They can explore types of critique that work best for them and why. In the first number on the left, the higher the Concern for Results, the higher the number it is. In the second number on the right, the higher the Concern for People, the higher the number it is. (Ghee & Daft 2004, p. 56) Team management (9,9) often is considered the most effective style and is recommended because organization members work together to accomplish tasks. Concluding Leadership Traits and Behavioural Theories In my conclusion of this discussion, I believe everyone can be an effective leader. At least to ourselves, we can definitely lead ourselves. Some people who are good at leading in a certain career do not mean he or she is able to lead in other professions. And to them, no amount of training can help because their inborn traits were more suitable for health products marketing, for instance, and more training and coaching on that area will be effective for them. On the other hand, some people who have been born with traits like, enjoy spending time reading, enjoy intellectual stimulation, live in household of strict rules for generations may go to law school and become successful lawyers. For the latter group, no amount of motivation, coaching, and training can help in marketing products. However, continuous exposure to knowledge and analytical subjects will be rewarding for their career. I would like to end this by a note; we definitely need to identify our own traits so that we are able to find a suitable career or job. After that, it is time to improve on our behaviours such as seeking for coach or a mentor for our particular job. © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.
  10. 10. 10 Harvard Referencing Style:  Blake & Mouton, The Leadership Grid, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://www.gridinternational.com/gridtheory.html  Behavioural Theory 2010, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/theories/behavioral_theor y.htm  Cherry, K 2010, Leadership Theories – 8 Major Leadership Theories, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/p/leadtheories.htm  Clark, D 2008, Leadership Styles, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://www.skagitwatershed.org/~donclark/leader/leadstl.html  Ghee, L. & Daft, R. 2004, The Leadership Experience in Asia, Thomson Learning, Singapore.  Leadership styles 2010, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm  Shead, M 2007, Leadership Trait Theory, online, retrieved 17 February 2010, from http://www.leadership501.com/leadership-trait-theory/22/  Trait Leadership Theory 2010, online, retrieved 16 February 2010, from http://www.12manage.com/description_trait_leadership_theory.html  Tannenbaum & Schmidt 1973, Continuum of Leadership Behaviour, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://faculty.css.edu/dswenson/web/LEAD/continuum.html  The Leadership Grid™ 2010, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://www.gridinternational.com/gridtheory.html  What is Theory X and Y? Description 2010, online, retrieved 19 February 2010, from http://www.12manage.com/methods_mcgregor_theory_X_Y.html © 2010 copyright by Leow Fook Thye.