Saturday 18 March 2017

Trait Theory of Leadership

How relevant is the trait theory to your workplace?
When I was reading this article, it made me think of the IB Learner Profile and transdisciplinary skills to some degree. The learner profile attributes are ten qualities as teachers we try to instil in our students to help them be successful beyond our school. It is difficult to measure these attributes (How do you measuring caring vs very caring vs exceptionally caring objectively?).  
In the workplace, qualities are used as identifiers in appraisals and are outlined in job descriptions. Again though, it can be difficult to objectively measure and provide evidence for any of these qualities except for observations, anecdotes and perhaps comparisons between people. Often a person with certain characteristics is encouraged to apply for certain jobs. However, while the person may have certain qualities, they still have to use them effectively in the given context to hold any value for the organisation. It is also important to remember that with subjectivity can come different perspectives. A strong driven leader may also be seen as too pushy with their agendas
Strengths of Trait Theory of Leadership
  • Exists due to characteristics people want in their ‘heros’ p 13
  • Quick way to identify potential ‘good leaders’
  • Highlights ‘idealistic’ characteristics people want in leaders
Weaknesses of Trait Theory of Leadership
  • Good leadership not based on physical traits (age, height, weight, appearance) p. 11
  • Doesn’t take into account social context (good in one context, not the other) p 11
  • Separates people into ‘leaders’ and ‘non-leaders’ through subjective judgements  p.12
  • Over simplistic and doesn’t take into account all factors of what makes a good leader p 13
  • Low correlation between good leadership and characteristics (and some contradicting)
Does your nation or province have a framework which lists the capabilities or competencies of educational leadership?

Working in an international private school in Singapore, I am not aware of a framework of capabilities or competencies of educational leadership. It has been interesting to read about the  Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in others’ blogs.


Watkins, P. (1986). The trait approach. In A critical review of leadership concepts and research: The implications for educational administration (pp. 11-13, 21-25, 28),

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