Friday, September 6, 2013

Leadership Traits and Behaviors

Making sense out of leadership literature can be difficult. Sometimes using a meta-analysis of other people’s research can help in creating stronger understanding. Derue, et. al. (2011) reviews the need to integrate leadership into a more cohesive framework by testing four concepts of leader effectiveness, group performance, follower job satisfaction and satisfaction of leadership. Understanding how traits and behaviors match to create effectiveness is important for determining the overall abilities of the leader to meet goals. 

Leadership effectiveness is often predicted from the demographics, personality traits, skills and abilities of the leader (Eagly, et. al., 1995). The combination of these factors meshed together into leadership behavior may be most successful.  Therefore, successful leadership relies on both behavior and traits to be effective. 

Leadership behavior creates overall effectiveness (Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Behavior is most often goal-oriented in the sense that it focused on specific outcomes that seek manifest a vision the leader has. Without action there cannot be change within the environment or movement toward higher forms of performance. 

Leadership can be categorized into traits or behaviors (Bass & Bass, 2008; Derue, et. al., 2011):

Traits: demographics, task competence, and interpersonal attributes.

Behaviors: task processes, relational dynamics or change. 

Traits are inherent within the individual and can be enhanced or learned over time. Behaviors are the outward actions that focus on the completion of goal seeking behavior. These are the tasks one completes on a daily basis, the activities of other they engage with or the behavioral activity focused on change. When the traits are matched with certain behaviors they can create effective leadership. 

The researchers Derue, et. al. (2011) reviewed 13 meta-analysis and 46 primary studies to find patterns toward model integration. It was their way of systematically analyzing previous research to determine how effective leadership is developed. Leadership traits like conscientiousness appeared to have the highest predictive value for effectiveness. When leadership traits were matched with task competence effectiveness appeared to be higher. Interpersonal attributes were associated with relationship-oriented behavior that increased employee satisfaction. Where task competence and interpersonal attributes matched, there was a higher degree of change oriented action. As expected the “do nothing” or passive leaders were least effective. 

The findings further our understanding that leadership traits pair with behaviors to create effectiveness. Leaders are likely to rely on both innate and learned traits to direct their goal seeking behavior. It is this goal directed behavior that creates task completion that results in effectiveness. It is a life-long process of development where traits and successful behaviors match to make the dynamic combo many leaders seek. How that is manifested in terms of being people or task oriented will determine the type of leadership style used. Despite these preferences leaders still have the ability to use both as the situation demands to be even more effective.

Bass ,B & Bass, R. (2008). TheBass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial
applications. New York, NJ: Free Press.

Derue, D., et. al. (2011). Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: an integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64 (1).

Eagly A., et. al. (1995). Gender and the effectiveness of leaders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 125–145.

Judge T, & Piccolo R.. (2004). Transformational and transactional leadership: A metaanalytic test of their relative validity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 755–768.

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