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A Student's Guide to Leadership

Leadership Characteristics & Traits

Leadership Characteristics & Traits
Share Your Thoughts! What Makes a GREAT leader?
Transformational Leadership
Decision Making
Motivate Your Team
Leadership Analysis - Winston Churchill
Leadership Analysis - Lee Kuan Yew
Leadership Analysis - Rudy Giuliani
Quiz - What's Your Leadership Potential?
Videos - Famous Speeches By Great Leaders
Further Training in Leadership
Handy links
Handy References

Personality traits of effective leaders have been researched in great depth over the years and there are a number of different theories as to what personality traits researchers believe a good leader possesses.  The table below outlines previous qualitative reviews on the leader trait perspective.




Personality Traits

Daft (1999)

  • Alertness
  • Originality / Creativity
  • Personal Integrity
  • Self-confidence

Stogdill (1948)

  • Dependability
  • Sociability
  • Initiative
  • Persistence
  • Self-confidence
  • Alertness
  • Co-operativeness
  • Adaptability

Hogan et al (1994)

  • Surgency
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Emotional stability

House & Aditya (1997)

  • Achievement motivation
  • Prosocial influence motivation
  • Adjustment
  • Self-confidence

Mann (1959)

  • Adjustment
  • Extroversion
  • Dominance
  • Masculinity
  • Conservatism

Northouse (1997)

  • Self-confidence
  • Determination
  • Integrity
  • Sociability


Bass (1990)

  • Adjustment
  • Self-confidence
  • Adaptability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Alertness
  • Ascendance / dominance
  • Emotional balance / control
  • Independence / nonconformity
  • Originality / Creativity
  • Integrity

Yukl (1998)

  • Energy level & stress tolerance
  • Self-confidence
  • Internal locus of control
  • Emotional maturity
  • Personality integrity
  • Socialised power motivation
  • Achievement orientation
  • Low need for affiliation

Kirkpatrick & Locke (1991)

  • Drive (achievement, ambition, tenacity, energy, initiative)
  • Honesty / integrity
  • Self-confidence (emotional stability)

Yukl & Van Fleet (1992)

  • Emotional maturity
  • Integrity
  • Self-confidence
  • High energy level
  • Stress tolerance


It can be seen from the above table that several personality traits are common amongst the reviews.  These include self-confidence, integrity, originality / creativity, energy, sociability and alertness.


According to Dubrin et al (2006), there are two types of personality traits in leaders; general personality traits and task related traits.




General Personality Traits include:





Sense of humour


Emotional Stability


High Tolerance for Frustration


Other characteristics, which illustrate generalist leadership abilities, are vision; ambition, good communication, collaboration, co-operation, encouragement, development and the two that are probably the best fit are influence and engagement.



Task-Related Traits include:


  • Passion
  • Courage
  • Internal locus of control
  • Flexibility and adaptability



The difference between general personality traits and task-related traits is that general personality traits are observable both inside and outside the work environment, whereas task-related traits relate to task achievement (Dubrin et al, 2006).  Unfortunately there are good leaders and bad leaders.  A Good leader will possess a combination of these two types of traits in order to be effective and increase the organisations performance.



What affect does a leaders personality have?


According to Hogan et al. (1994) the personality of a leader affects the whole organisation.  The type of personality predicts what leadership style is demonstrated, the leadership style predicts employee attitudes and team functioning; and consequently   attitudes and team functioning predict organisational performance.  Leaders have the ability to change the dynamics and culture within an organization, thus their personality plays a significant role in the organisations success.  This can be seen in the diagram below (Hogan et al, 1994).

A Student's Guide to Leadership