The trait approach was one of the first systematic attempts to study leadership in the early 20th century up to late 1940s. The trait approach advocated that leadership ability is innate and linked to personal qualities. Despite its weaknesses the trait approach provides valuable information about leaders and leadership. It can be used at individual as well as at organizational level. For example, through various tests and questionnaires, individuals can analyze their own traits and understand their strengths and weaknesses and how others see them in organization. Thus, it can be used by managers to assess where they stand within their organization and what is needed to strengthen their position. The trait approach also gives us some benchmarks for what we need to look for if we want to be leaders (Northouse, 2007) .

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the trait approach. several researchers have tried to explain how traits influence leadership. Northouse (2007, p.16) notes that the trait approach began with an emphasis on identifying the qualities of great person; next, it shifted to include the impact of situations on leadership, and most currently, it has shifted back to reemphasize the critical role of traits in effective leadership.


Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009