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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Personality

Personality and leading have been widely studied, beginning with the “Great Man” theories of Carlyle and Galton.64 These men established two orthodox ideas about leadership. The first was that leading is the sole province of extraordinary individuals whose decisions are capable of radically changing history. This point remains a persistent view of leadership in much of the popular literature; in many best-selling books, authors seek to explain leadership by describing the influences of leaders. The second point is that the unique attributes of such individuals are inherited or genetic. Galton argued that the personal qualities defining effective leaders were naturally endowed, passed from generation to generation. The practical implication of this view is that leaders are born, not made. In this view, leader quality is unalterable and not something that can be developed.

The “born, not made” perspective influenced much of leadership research into the mid-20th century. In the extreme view, traits were the only thing that mattered: if you had the “right stuff” (traits), you could lead effectively anywhere in any setting. Research later seemed to discover that there are all sorts of leaders, with vastly different traits, many of them successful and many of them not. During the 1960s and 1970s, scholars thus turned away from personality and leader traits and focused instead on behaviors and situations. It’s not important who the leaders are or what they look like; it’s ...

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