Have you noticed that it’s people we admire most who influence the way we think and function? From business leaders to movie stars, we’re constantly motivated by role models or people we look up to. We even tend to replicate their value and belief systems while pursuing our goals.

A common factor among role models is their magnetic personalities. The Trait Theory of Leadership explains why certain individuals with powerful personalities impress and inspire others. Let’s see how someone’s traits make them a good leader. 

What Is The Trait Theory Of Leadership?

The Trait Theory of leadership is one of the oldest leadership theories. It assumes that leaders are born with qualities and traits best suited for successful leadership. There’s a common set of characteristics that distinguishes a leader from everyone else.

The Trait Theory emerged from Thomas Carlyle’s ‘The Great Man Theory’, which proposed that some individuals have inborn leadership qualities. According to this theory, leaders become society’s role models because of their intellectual superiority, courage and significant influence over people.

Common Leadership Traits

The trait approach to leadership highlights several common traits associated with great leadership.

  • Desire To Lead:

Good leaders take charge and lead others to success; they are self-motivated

  • Adaptability & Flexibility: 

Effective leaders think outside the box and quickly adapt to change

  • Courage & Resolution: 

The best leaders committed to their goals and confidently face their problems

  • Capacity To Motivate: 

A great leader is influential and knows how to inspire others and motivate them to do their best

  • Emotional Stability:

Effective leaders can manage their emotions and make rational decisions

  • Action-oriented Thinking: 

Leaders constantly look for new development opportunities and empower people around them; they make decisions and take actions with everyone’s interests in mind

  • Task Competence: 

Leaders are skilled and capable. They set examples through the work they do

  • Communication & Charisma: 

Successful leadership is based on effective communication skills; they’re highly articulate, convincing and charismatic

  • Trustworthiness: 

Good leaders are trustworthy because they are transparent and vulnerable

  • Empathy: 

Great leaders display high levels of empathy. They identify the best ways to support others, pay attention to their needs and help them succeed

Two Sides Of Trait Theory Of Leadership

Just like every coin has two sides, the Trait Theory has its strengths and weaknesses.


  • Provides a benchmark for identifying effective leadership. Anyone who wants to become a leader can use the list of traits to gauge their potential and make necessary changes in their lives.

  • Unlike the Great Man Theory (based on assumptions), Trait Leadership Theory is a valid theory. Years of research has validated this theory’s foundation.


  • Traits don’t guarantee that an individual will become a great leader. It’s just an assurance of a future possibility.

  • Trait theory is based on a set of generalized traits. The list isn’t exhaustive either.

  • The theory doesn’t consider the external factors that influence a leader’s behavior. A person’s environment matters.

  • Not all leadership traits are inherent, some can be developed over time, through practice and guidance.

Using Trait Leadership Theory

The Trait Leadership Theory can be used for self-assessment and career advancement. Here are a few ways of using the theory for professional growth:

  1. Understand Your Traits Better

Analyze your traits to develop a deep understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Start working on your weaknesses and expand your skill set.

  1. Discover If You’re A Good Fit

You can determine how suited you are for a job by assessing yourself. Organizations use the trait theory of leadership to gauge an individual’s potential for managerial and leadership positions.

  1. Identify Other Leaders Around You

Use the Trait Theory to identify potential leaders around you. Choose people who you can rely on and delegate responsibilities to.

Develop a better understanding of yourself and those around you with Harappa Education’s Leading Self course. The Performance Equation framework will teach you how to realize your true potential by helping you overcome limiting beliefs. The Iceberg Model will help you navigate obstacles by recognizing areas for improvement. Bill Bradley, an American politician puts it neatly, “leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better."

Explore topics such as Leadership Theories, Opinion Leaders, Thought Leadership, Servant Leadership, Transformational Leadership & Transactional Leadership from our Harappa Diaries section and lead on a path of self-development.

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