The Perfect Leader

Does it exist?  The perfect leader?  And if so, what does the perfect leader show in terms of traits?  While reading Northhouse (2013) chapter on the Trait Approach, I began to look back and reflect on the leaders that I have had the honor of working under.  I begin to wonder what kind of traits they exhibited and how it affected me now that I am a leader in my own department. 

A meta-analysis that was done keeps showing up a few traits.  These traits include intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (Northhouse, 2013).  I want to discuss each trait, and see how it ties in what a perfect leader is.  
Intelligence or intellectual ability is positively related to leadership (Northhouse, 2013).  However, a leader should not “lording” over his/her followers because he is much smarter than them.  He should be able to take his intellectual ability and share it with those who are following him. While he may be smarter than those he is leading, his ability to share his intelligence makes him be called a leader. 
All leaders must have self-confidence, the ability to be certain about one’s competencies and skills (Northhouse, 2013).  If a follower is looking to his leader for advice, and he doesn’t make a decision that is on firm solid ground, how will that look to his/her followers?  To have a leader that does not have self-confidence is like having a house built on rocky foundation.  The house may be firm, but it is not completely stable.  
Determination is the desire to get the job done (Northhouse, 2013).  To me, to have a leader that shows determination in getting the job done, as well as the determination to make sure everyone else is with the goals of the group shows a good leader.  To be determined includes showing dominance at times and in situations where followers need to be directed (Northhouse, 2013).  
Integrity is, to me, perhaps one of the most important traits that a leader can show.  Integrity is the quality of honesty and trustworthiness (Northhouse, 2013).  How can a follower take anything his leader tells him to be honest if the leader himself is not with integrity.  It makes everything the leader says or does difficult to believe.  Integrity makes a leader believable and worthy of our trust (Northhouse, 2013).  
If you have a leader who gets along with everyone, and works to make sure everyone is getting with each, then you have a leader with great sociability.  Can you imagine working for a leader who does not want to get along with anyone, or doesn’t get along with anyone?  That would make for a dysfunctional group dyanmic, and one that would fail.  A leader does not have to be “best friends” with his followers, but at least works to maintain that social relationship.  
So there you have it.  While it may hard to find a leader who has all these traits, it is not rare, I don’t think.  I have had the honor of working with a few people who displayed these traits, and I only hope that I learned enough from them to be like them.  

2 comments

  1. BRANDI ALVERSON

    Hi Stephen,
    Great posting. I agree with your comments on a leader needing to have self-confidence and sociability. For me personally it would be hard to follow a leader who is not confident in themselves with making decisions and with ensuring their staff that they are capable of confidently handling pressure situations. This can be held in the same hand of sociability because there is a certain way that a leader needs to provide this reassurance to their staff/students/team; and that is the key to making it stick with them. A true leader has a teams confidence in their skills and abilities.

  2. ADRIANA E CERROTTI OROZCO

    Hi Stephen,

    After reading the three chapters (1, 2 and 13) that we read from Leadership, our class’ book, by Northouse (2010), I don’t think the perfect leader exists. We could find the right leader for specific situations, but certainly, an individual who is a leader in a Penn
    State class may not be that successful at Peking University in China. Furthermore, this person may not be successful at all when we change the cultural environment, political ambiance, geography, etc, in which she or he leads. I remember reading in a past psychology class that while authoritarian parents work very well for children of certain cultures (Asian) they do not work that well for children of other cultures. In the same way, and according to the psychodynamics approach, those children will be looking for different kinds of leaders depending of the early life experiences, and parents they had (Northouse, 2010)

    Northouse, P. G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and Practice (5th edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Leave a Reply