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Trait Theory: The Nature of the Leader


People made lots of researches to find out what makes one a leader. According to the trait theory, a leader is a person who has certain qualities of character that help one to differentiate from others (Bertocci, 2009). The leader uses the talents he/she has to encourage people to reach a common goal.

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Strengths and Limitations of Trait Theory

It is impossible to say that a good leadership is not related to the traits of one’s character (Collins, 2005). A leader is to be full of enthusiasm and self-confidence so that he/she will be able to influence others (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). These characteristics also allow one to take the responsibility for crucial changes needed for improvement of the working process. Thus, the leader occurs to be an example for the employees, a person they can refer to.

It is not the position that makes one a leader. This person is to perform excellent outcomes and high productivity (Klainberg & Dirschel, 2010). So if one can make things happen and wishes come true in every-day life, he/she is likely to present the results of good leadership.

However, the list of the traits that are claimed to be needed for one to become a leader is endless. This fact does not let people treat the theory as an authoritative source. With the course of time, the concept of a right leader changes and the characteristics he/she should obtain alters (Nahavandi, 2014). Thus, it is almost impossible to define what traits are constant and refer to every leader. Moreover, if the organization uses the list of characteristics mentioned in the theory description, they may be misled.

The effectiveness of the leadership cannot be predicted on the basis of the traits one possesses. It is not enough just to influence the followers and make them act in a particular way. The leader should be able to work in a team (Dines, Kahn, Abella, Asch, & Shea 2011). Thus, the ability to maintain the interaction with the co-workers is of high importance.

Mahatma Gandhi as a Leader

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the independence movement that took place in India in the 20th century (Dalton, 2012). He had a lot of followers who implicitly trusted him and acted according to his wishes. The trait theory of leadership can be applied to this person to understand the secret of his success.

First of all, Mahatma Gandhi had a great faith in his own powers (Leadership theory, 2012). He claimed that if a person believes that he/she is not able to cope with something, this will happen. That is why the leader always believed that he could achieve his goals. The main thing was to be persistent and never give up. Self-assurance and persistence made others follow him. They were sure that Mahatma Gandhi would support people who appreciated him.

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The leader is the one to take the first step (Lussier, & Achua, 2009). Gandhi’s proactive behavior helped him to gather lots of followers and plan the actions to reach the goal and make India independent. Mahatma Gandhi showed that love and non-violence are significant (Todd, 2009). Thus, the followers wanted to interact with him and participate in the activities.


The traits of a person play a significant role in becoming a leader. It is impossible to say that they are the only elements that enhance leadership, but their value is undeniable. Mahatma Gandhi achieved great triumphs as a leader and peculiarities of his character were of advantage.


Bertocci, D. (2009). Leadership in organizations. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Collins, J. (2005). Level 5 Leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Harvard Business Review, 83(7/8), 136–146.

Dalton, D. (2012). Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent power in action. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Dines, J., Kahn, M., Abella, S., Asch, A., & Shea, A. (2011). Key elements of clinical physician leadership at an academic medical center. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 3(1), 31–36.

Kirkpatrick, A., & Locke, A. (1991). Leadership: Do traits matter? The Academy of Management Perspectives, 5(2), 48–60.

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Klainberg, M., & Dirschel, K. (2010). Today’s nursing leader: Managing, succeeding, excelling. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Leadership theory. (2012). Web.

Lussier, R., & Achua, C. (2009). Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Nahavandi, A. (2014). The art and science of leadership (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Todd, M. (2009). Mahatma Gandhi. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.

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