Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939584 | Print ISBN: 9780761930877 | Online ISBN: 9781412939584| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Susan R. Wynn
Trait theory represents researchers' earliest attempts to investigate leadership. Around the turn of the twentieth century, researchers sought to identify traits that effective leaders possessed by examining leaders who had achieved a level of greatness. These preliminary attempts to identify traits of leaders focused on wellknown historical figures who were men, which is why this theory is often called the “great man” approach. Early proponents of the classic trait perspective suggested that certain individuals have special innate characteristics or qualities that make them leaders and it is these qualities that differentiate them from nonleaders. Fundamental to this theory was the idea that some people are born with traits that make them natural leaders. Influenced by the interest in mental testing and the functionalism that characterized the time, psychologists began to correlate specific individual differences, ...