Not everybody can be a leader because leaders must have the characteristics which show that they are intelligent enough to lead. Many approaches have been used to study leadership. Leadership can be described in two forms (Northouse, 2007 p.13) assigned leadership and emergent leadership. Assigned leadership is the form of leadership which is given in form of a title or position especially in working places. For instance one can be given the title of chief executive officer in an organization. Emergent leadership results if one does something and people support him or her. It is a process which may result after assigning roles or after roles emerge (Northouse, 2007 p.13).
The curiosity to study leadership traits was due to the fact that some people could make good leaders while others were not able to be good leaders. It is believed that people are born with traits which enabled them to be great leaders (Northouse, 2007 p.15). There have been arguments that there are no traits which are the same among all leaders as one can be a leader in one situation and non leader in another situation (Northouse, 2007 p.15).
Studies have shown that leaders posse some traits different from non leaders. Some of these traits include; (Northouse, 2007 p.18) drive, motivation, integrity, confidence, cognitive, ability and task of knowledge. This is according to the study by Kirkpatrick and Locke. They continued to note that one can be born with these traits, can learn them or acquire them through both ways (Northouse, 2007 p.18). Other researches suggested that there are some leadership traits which have connection to social intelligent. According to Marlowe social intelligent is a situation where on is able to understand his/her own and others’ feelings, behaviors and thought and act accordingly (Northouse, 2007 p.18). Zaccaro argued that social intelligent is defined as possession of capabilities such as social awareness, social acumen, self monitoring and the ability to act appropriately to different situations (Northouse, 2007 p.18). Different researchers have come up with different leadership traits and characteristics. For instance Stogdill, 1948 suggested intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility and self confidence among others (Northouse, 2007 p.19). Mann 1959 suggested intelligence, masculinity, adjustment and dominance to name just a few (Northouse, 2007 p.19).
The major leadership traits are intelligent, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (Northouse, 2007 p.19). It has been found that leaders are more intelligent than non leaders. They have been found to be good communicators, perceptual ability and a high reasoning capability (Northouse, 2007 p.20). Self confidence is important since it helps one to be certain about their skills and competencies (Northouse, 2007 p.20). Since leadership means having influence on others, self confidence is crucial and helps one have a sense of self esteem (Northouse, 2007 p.20). Determination is the trait that leaders possess such that they aim at having their job done and are always proactive (Northouse, 2007 p.20). Integrity helps leaders to be honest and trustworthy (Northouse, 2007 p.21). Sociability helps the leaders to be sensitive to others and have good relationship with their followers (Northouse, 2007 p.21).
Apart from the personality traits which a leader should possess, skills and abilities are important in making a perfect leadership. It is believed that skills needed for leadership can be learned and developed. Katz talked about the three skill approach to leadership which include technical, human and conceptual (Northouse, 2007 p.40). Technical skills involve one being competent in a particular area and being able to use technical techniques to do a job. Technical skills are important in producing products intended for use or sale in an organization. Technical skills are not very essential for leaders at top management as they depend on skills of their subordinates (Northouse, 2007 p.40). Human skill is the ability to or with people (Northouse, 2007 p.40). It is important for leaders as they work and interact so much with people. Human skills help leaders work well with subordinates and assist group to work together in order to achieve a common organizational goal (Northouse, 2007 p.41). It helps leaders be sensitive to needs hence gaining of trust from the followers. Human skills are important in all levels of management. Conceptual skills help leaders work with ideas and concepts (Northouse, 2007 p.42). If a leader has conceptual skills, they are able to work with ideas which can make the organization better. They are able to work comfortably with abstractions and hypothetical notions (Northouse, 2007 p.42). It is very important for top management leaders to have conceptual skills since it helps them create vision and strategic plans (Northouse, 2007 p.42).
Mumford and his colleagues have done research on skills model since 1990s. This model is composed of five main components including; individual attributes, competencies, leadership outcomes, career experience and environmental influences (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). In individual attributes, there are four components including general cognitive ability, crystallized cognitive ability, motivation, and personality (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2).
In competencies, the leader should have problem solving skills, social judgment skills, and knowledge to deal with complex situations (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). The outcomes of leadership are shown by effective problem solution and performance (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). Career experience is also crucial because it helps the leader have the skills and knowledge to solve complex problems (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). Leaders can be assisted to gain experience by mentoring, training and first hand experience in solving problems (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). Environmental influences include situations which are outside the leaders’ competencies, characteristics and experience (Virkus & Ülikool, 2009 p.2). Though the environmental influences are included in this model, the leader is not able to control them (Northouse, 2007, p.52-53).
Style approach puts more emphasis on the behavior of a leader. According to this theory, leadership has two behaviors; task behavior and relationship behavior (Northouse, 2007, p.69). Task behavior helps in achieving the set goals while relationship behavior facilitates a good interaction between subordinates and their leaders. The research conducted by Ohio State Studies revealed that leaders had two types of behaviors; initiating structure and consideration. Initiating structure which is the same as task behavior include acts like organizing work, giving structure to work content, defining role responsibility and scheduling of activities (Northouse, 2007, p.70). Consideration behaviors include respect, trust and liking between leaders and their followers (Northouse, 2007, p.70).
The University of Michigan Studies also revealed two types of leadership behaviors; employee orientation and production orientation (Northouse, 2007, p.70). Employee orientation is where leaders value workers and give attention to their needs. Production orientation behavior values the job and not the employees and sees employees as means of getting work done (Northouse, 2007, p.70).
Northouse, P. (2007. Leadership: Theory and Practice. United Kingdom, SAGE Publications Ltd.
Virkus, S & Ülikool, T. (2009). Leadership Models. Retrieved on April 2, 2011 from http://www.tlu.ee/~sirvir/Leadership/Leadership%20Models/Leadership%20Models/index.html