Having learned about leadership theories and approaches in previous courses, I came into this semester with a preference as to how leadership should be perceived. Or rather, how it should not be perceived. While I understand that each conceptualization of leadership has both its strengths and weaknesses, I believe that the trait approach is one of, if not the weakest of the major conceptualizations. This is especially the case when compared to the skills approach.
The trait approach can be considered weak for many reasons, starting with the fact that it doesn’t account for the fact that circumstance may change and a leader that is successful in one situation may not necessarily be successful in another (Northouse, 2016). Assuming that people are born with certain personality traits that will determine their success as a leader means that there is no room for growth. Conversely, the skills approach posits that “skills are competencies that people can learn or develop” (Northouse, 2016). Similar to playing a musical instrument, some people may be born with natural talent, however, anyone can develop their skills and become just as good over time. Under this approach, someone who was unsuccessful in a certain situation would have the ability to learn from it and develop skills to become more effective the next time around.
Additionally, the trait approach is not a suitable method for developing education (Northouse, 2016). As previously stated, personality traits are not something that can be easily changed, if they can be changed at all. By this logic, anyone without these personality traits may as well give up on trying to become a successful leader. However, leadership development programs are a very successful business and often times consist of content that matches that of the skills approach (Northouse, 2016). This clearly shows that the skills approach an effective way of viewing leadership when education and training is concerned.
While the trait approach was “one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership” (Northouse, 2016), it’s highly unlikely that they summed up such an ambiguous concept such as leadership on the first try. The trait approach, while important, is rigid and outdated. Instead, the focus should be more on approached similar to the skills one as leadership is more situational and can be developed like a skill.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Retrieved from https://mbsdirect.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781483317540/cfi/6/2[;vnd.vst.idref=cover]!