Leadership is defined as “an act or instance of leading, providing guidance and direction”. There are various modes of definition of leadership. One of the most widely used method of defining and understanding leadership is using the “Trait Theory”. Trait theory works on the personality theory of psychology. It is also one of the “Contingency Theories of Leadership”. According to this theory there are many manners in which a leader would behave in a particular situation. How that happens depends on the characteristics and personality traits of the leader. Leadership is defined on the basis of the traits that qualify the personality of a great leader. There are many traits that are associated with a great leader, such as intelligence, scholarship, physical strength, integrity, creativity, initiative, entrepreneurship, charisma, sense of purpose and direction, as well as an ability to be a role model and inspiration to people. Yet all these traits have been unified to describe the four traits of great leadership.
The four traits that define great leadership are:
Vision is the ability to see. To foresee the future is the fundamental trait of a great leader. With respect to organizations, leaders should be able to visualize the future of the firm. This would require that the leader analyzes the present situation of the firm and reach a decision on what factors must be changed or modified and what new factors must be introduced. Everything is twice created, once in the mind and then in the physical world. A leader would have an intense sense of self with a deep understanding of her future and meaning of life. If vision is the first creation, then discipline is the next one. Vision is an empty dream if it is not accompanied by relevant action. Discipline provides shape to action. Discipline enables a leader to define reality and then engage in solutions to sort out the problems. Passion drives discipline. No discipline is hard as long as one is passionate about one’s vision. Optimism, determination and excitement characterize passion. Vision, discipline and passion all find meaning through conscience. Conscience is a moral sense. It is the presence of passion and compassion. A great leader has a keen sense of understanding the strengths and frailties of all those who work with her. Conscience makes the character of a person an integrated whole. A great leader is a great communicator. To understand and being understood is a rare talent. Everyone is made to feel important. Criticism is offered in private and in a constructive manner. They are not involved in any sort of blame game. A team is built on trust and shared values. All the traits entail that the good leader has good judgment. Priorities and issues must be identified. A leader must know where to invest her time and energy.
Alternatively, the four traits of a great leader are also defined using eagle as a metaphor. An eagle soars in the sky examining the earth and so must the leader be. The leader must have the vision of an eagle. An eagle never eats dead meat. A leader would be in the center of action and searches for problems and hunts down solutions. Storms do not frighten an eagle, challenges do not scare leaders. Yet the eagles are very affectionate to their young ones. Leaders truly care for their team members.
Understanding leadership is a manifold process. Psychologists have been studying great leaders for years with the hope that great leaders may be nourished for years to come.