Q1.  How do traits such as personality help us understand leadership, and what are their organisational implications?

Exploring leadership through the lens of individual traits, such as personality, allows us to delve into successful leaders' characteristics and how these qualities influence their leadership abilities and performance management within an organisation (Judge et al., 2002).  Assessing personality traits can aid in identifying potential leaders and evaluating their leadership styles (Zaccaro, 2007).

For instance, the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) have been widely studied in leadership (Barrick et al., 2001).  Research has shown that extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experience positively correlate with effective leadership (DeRue et al., 2011).  Extraverted individuals often exhibit assertiveness, social dominance, and enthusiasm, essential team leadership qualities.  Meanwhile, conscientious individuals demonstrate strong self-discipline, responsibility, and organisational skills, which are crucial for managing tasks and overseeing projects.

The organisational implications of leadership traits include leader selection and development, team dynamics, and performance (Hogan et al., 1994).  By understanding and evaluating the personality traits of prospective leaders, organisations can more effectively identify individuals who are likely to excel in leadership roles and adjust their recruitment and development strategies accordingly.  Moreover, understanding how specific traits influence leadership styles enables organisations to assemble more compatible and synergistic teams, leading to improved communication, collaboration, and overall performance (Ensley et al., 2006).


  • Barrick, M.R., Mount, M.K., & Judge, T.A. (2001). Personality and performance at the beginning of the new millennium: What do we know and where do we go next? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 9(1-2), 9-30. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2389.00160
  • DeRue, D.S., Nahrgang, J.D., Wellman, N.E.D., & Humphrey, S.E. (2011). Trait and behavioural theories of leadership: An integration and meta-analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64(1), 7-52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2010.01201.x
  • Ensley, M.D., Hmieleski, K.M., & Pearce, C.L. (2006). The importance of vertical and shared leadership within new venture top management teams: Implications for the performance of startups. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(3), 217-231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2006.02.002
  • Hogan, R., Curphy, G.J., & Hogan, J. (1994). What we know about leadership: Effectiveness and personality. The American Psychologist, 49(6), 493-504. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.49.6.493
  • Judge, T.A., Bono, J.E., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M.W. (2002). Personality and leadership: A qualitative and quantitative. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 765-780. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.4.765
  • Zaccaro, S.J. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership. The American Psychologist, 62(1), 6-16. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.1.6

Q2.  There are no universal individual characteristics that predict leadership in all situations.  Please evaluate this statement based on research findings.

The assertion that “no universal individual characteristics predict leadership in all situations” emphasises leadership's intricate and multifaceted nature.  Research in leadership and performance management supports the idea that different situations and contexts require unique leadership styles and characteristics (Zaccaro, 2007).

One notable theory in leadership research is the contingency theory, which suggests that a leader’s effectiveness depends on the situation and the alignment between the leader’s style and the specific context.  For example, Fiedler’s (1967) contingency theory distinguishes leaders as task- or relationship-oriented.  Task-oriented leaders flourish in well-defined task structures, whereas relationship-oriented leaders excel in environments where solid interpersonal connections are crucial for success.  This theory underlines the nonexistence of a universally effective leadership style and the significance of context in determining a leader’s success (Yuki, 2020).

Reinforcing this notion is the situational leadership theory formulated by Hersey and Blanchard (1969).  This theory proposes that successful leaders adapt their leadership style based on the maturity and competence of their followers.  Within this framework, leaders can adopt one of four leadership styles: telling, selling, participating, or delegating, depending on their followers’ requirements.  This theory further emphasises that no single leadership approach is universally applicable, and leaders must exhibit adaptability to be effective in various situations (Northouse, 2018).


  • Fielder, F.E. (1967). A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness. McGraw-Hill.
  • Hersey, P., Blanchard, K.H., & Natemeyer, W.E. (1979). Situational leadership, perception, and the impact of power. Group & Organisation Studies, 4(4), 418-428. https://doi.org/10.1177/105960117900400404
  • Northouse, P.G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and Practice (8th edn.). Sage.
  • Yuki, G. (2020). Leadership in Organisations (9th edn). Pearson. Chapter 6-7, pp. 159-221.
  • Zaccaro, S.J. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership. The American Psychologist, 62(1), 6-16. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.1.6
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