The base rate of managerial incompetence is estimated to be 50 to 75%. This means that a majority of people in positions of authority have difficulties getting a group of people to work effectively together or get results.
1. What do you think about this percentage? For example, is it too high or too low, and why?
2. Think about the effective and ineffective leaders for whom you have worked. Using the overview of leader traits and skills provided in this week’s lecture and readings, what traits did the effective leaders possess and/or what behaviors did they exhibit that caused them to get results?
3. What traits and/or behaviors did the ineffective leaders demonstrate?
Week Three Lecture
Leaders display traits through patterns in their behavior. Consequently, many researchers have examined the behavior of leaders to determine what behavioral features include leadership style and how particular behaviors relate to effective leadership.
Trait and Skill
Early efforts to understand leadership success focused on the leader’s personal traits. Traits such as intelligence, honesty, self-confidence, and appearance are the distinguishing personal characteristics of the leader. Fundamental to this early research was the idea that some people are born with traits that make them natural leaders. (One such theory is the Great Man approach, as discussed in Week One.) Traits are “relatively persistent and consistent behavior patterns manifested in a wide range of circumstances” (Chaplin, 1974, p. 510). Skills are “abilities of a high order enabling an individual to perform a complex motor act smoothly and with precision” (p. 458).
Northouse (2007) says that traits emphasize the personality. It is with different styles that theory emphasizes leaders’ actions. In research, it is much easier if the larger concept can be broken down into elements, so leadership behavior becomes more readily understood if leadership traits or skills can be identified. Consequently, trait theorists look at general patterns and trends, which can help predict behavior but are personality driven; skills theorists look at competencies that can be learned.
Personality behavior has many descriptions to identify those traits that could be used to easily describe leadership (Northouse, 2007). Researchers must settle for major leadership traits, such as intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability, which appear central to the research. More recently, work on emotional intelligence has highlighted the social aspects of intelligence (Goleman, 1995). Kanter (2004) examines how confidence consists of expectations for favorable outcomes, and how others appear to be willing to invest in those people who exude confidence.
Skills represent “abilities of high order that enable the individual to perform complex acts smoothly and with precision” (Chaplin, 1974). Psychologists break skills into fundamental skills and higher-level skills. Most trait information originates with middle or junior managers as the subjects. However, that is changing as more researchers, such as Bennis (1989) and Collins (2001), gain access to executive levels to observe and study their behaviors. More leaders in executive positions recognize the criticality of developing leaders within the organizational pipeline (Charan, Drotter, & Noel, 2001).
Traits, Skills, and Organizational Performance
Mumford, Harding, Jacobs, and Fleishman (2002) found it difficult to state absolutely that skill-training programs assist the development process of leaders, but they did clearly find that the different leadership position levels significantly influence the skills and skill levels relevant to that position. In other words, experience plays a significant role in leader development. The study also concluded that by “understanding the structure of leader skill acquisition, it becomes possible to draw some general conclusions about the kinds of interventions likely to contribute to leader development” (p. 109). To enhance organizational performance, organizations must improve their ability to select candidates for leadership positions and, if possible, prepare the leaders within their own organizations to perform at higher levels of the organization.
It is crucial to understand the importance of traits and behaviors in the development of leadership theory and research. Traits include self-confidence, honesty, and drive. Although certain personal traits and abilities constitute a greater likelihood for success in a leadership role, they are not sufficient to guarantee effective leadership. Therefore, the style of leadership demonstrated by an individual greatly determines the outcome of the leadership endeavor. Often, a combination of styles is most effective. Trait and skill theories may be seen as foundational for leadership definition, study, and development. Many aspects of trait and skill theories focus on what to be, not on how to be it. Fortunately, many leadership studies and books today are turning their focus to how to be leaders (Hesselbein, 2002).
Forbes School of Business Faculty
Bennis, W. G. (1989). On becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Chaplin, J. P. (1974). Dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Dell.
Charan, R., Drotter, S., & Noel, J. (2001). The leadership pipeline: How to build the leadership-powered company. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Harper Business.
Connelly, M. S., Gilbert, J. A., Zaccaro, S. J., Threlfall, K. V., Marks, M. A., & Mumford, M. D. (2000). Exploring the relationship of leadership skills and knowledge to leader performance. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 65-86. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(99)00043-0
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Hesselbein, F. (2002). Hesselbein on leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kanter, R. M. (2004). Confidence: How winning streaks and losing streaks begin and end. New York, NY: Crown.
Mumford, M. D., Zaccaro, S. J., Harding, F. D., Jacobs, T. O., & Fleishman, E. A. (2000). Leadership skills for a changing world: Solving complex social problems. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), 11-35. doi:10.1016/S1048-9843(99)00041-7
Northouse, P. G. (2007). Leadership: Theory and practice (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Warrick, D.D. (2016). Leadership: A high impact approach [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu.
Carpenter, D. J., Fusfeld, A.R., & Gritzo, L.A. (2010). Leadership Skills and Styles. Research Technology Management, 53(6), 58-60. Retrieved from the ProQuest database
INTELECOM (Producer). Teamwork and morale (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://searchcenter.intelecomonline.net:80/playClipDirect.aspx?id=4870EEC7664070BB9915C7C9656B6ED5A52ECC40AB62DCDA9996E89EE16E34BDC5FBF05E18EC6B5CD26FA2A7AAE9070BEA04A55595D8849B
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