Leadership Attributes

Proper scientific research on leadership began at the start of the twentieth century. Since then, thousands of research studies have been carried out which have spawned a whole host of theories. Leadership is affected by many different factors and can be viewed from many different perspectives. Different authors are influenced by the theoretical standpoint from which their interest in the phenomenon stems. Although leadership is one of the most examined phenomena in social sciences as well as in business studies, the mystique of leadership has remained intact, for none of these theories have fully explained the phenomenon (McCaffery, 2004, p.62).

From the 19th century to the present day there have been two general approaches to leadership:

  • trait and
  • process approach.

Antonakis et al (2004) provide four major theoretical perspectives for studying leadership:

  • traits,
  • information-processing,
  • situational-contingency, and
  • transformational.

However, the trait approach preceded the process approach and is best described by the popular phrase - "He's a born leader." The trait perspective put forth the concept that some people are born with certain qualities necessary to leadership roles. These innate personality characteristics or traits are thus an integral part of leadership.


Leadership attributes are the inner or personal qualities that constitute effective leadership. These attributes include a large array of characteristics such as values, character, motives, habits, traits, style, behaviours, and skills.









Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009