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The Most Helpful Individual Traits for Effective Leadership

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There are many factors to influence a person to be a good leader. Such as whether you could be a good model, whether you improve your management skills continuously, to what extend do you know about your business and your team and so on. However, in this essay, I mainly focus on the importance of some individual traits to effective leadership. Firstly, I introduce some personalities employees may have which related to their job performance. Secondly, I focus on some individual traits a good leader should have. At last, I talk about the transformational leadership as a guiding ideology for leaders.

Different people will own different traits in different degrees. Consequently, the compositive result make different people suit for different jobs. It is a common sense that personality will definitely influence job performance. Before you lead followers, you have to know what kind of people are they, then you can allocate relatively appropriate work to everyone. Therefore, you are more probably to improve your team efficiency and lead them to a brighter future. Different people have their own specific personalities. Hence, they will have different intention on communicating styles, making friends and approach of solving problems and so on. For example, even if there may be many constraints or barriers, proactive people tend to improve or change the environment they work in rather than accept it, if they are unsatisfied with it. Hence, they may not suitable for jobs with strong role control or specific requirements. There are also some dimensions to describe individual behaviors. For example, people who are rules orientation are aware of rules and requirement and they will obey and commit to rules. People owning dependability will implement assignment in a more reliable or unchangeable way. And people who tend to be more faithful and self-disciplined may identify themselves more with their firms’ value. As noted by Edwards, employees who concern much about salaries and managers evaluations should focus more on “consistent attender, practical, dependable, empathizes, identifies with job and quitting.”

The big five personality dimensions are widely accepted as a good structure for analyzing traits which includes “Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness” .

Neuroticism is a dimension to measure the possibility of people to be in adverse emotion. Leaders should keep an eye on it and the emotion changes of followers. People who get high scores of it may get easy to be emotional lability. These people may be more emotional or impulsive. They may make unreasonable decisions. Therefore, it will be dangerous to give excessive pressure to them. On the other hand, people who get low score of it would be more rational and calmer. In most cases, they could control themselves better and let reasons help them make decisions rather than be overwhelmed by sentiment or impulsion. Even if they are in depression mood, they have ways to go out soon or keep it in good control. Some people could even process it like computers. They could leave all the negative emotions to the corner to be coped after finishing the work they need to complete in time.

Extraversion is about individual tendency or ability to communicate, interact or participate in activities with others. Extraverted people are more positive and optimistic and feel more energetic at work. They tend to make more friends and utilize resources around them. Introverted people may prefer to solve problems themselves and normally only talk to friends they already knew or passively communicated with others. However, this doesn’t mean that they are unfriendly or negative. They can do jobs independently and excellently. Considering this factor, leaders should try to match employees with suitable jobs. Extraverts may be more suitable for jobs which need to make contact to others a lot like salesman or teacher. On the contrary introverts may be more suitable for jobs which don’t need to contact with people a lot such as engineer or programmer.

“Openness to Experience includes active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, a preference for variety, intellectual curiosity and independence of judgement”. People who are more open to experience are easier to accept new ideas about politics or society. They are very interested in knowing the world and experiencing new things. They are also more sensitive to emotions. People who are less open to experience would be more conventional and conservative. They prefer familiar things and seldomly or weakly express their emotions. Therefore, people who get high scores in this dimension will be more suitable for jobs which need figure out new ideas or learn new things frequently. People who get low scores in this dimension may be more comfortable with posts which are vary matured or won’t experience much changes within a certain period.

Agreeableness measures individual willingness to help and believe others. Agreeable people will tend to be more altruistic and show their empathy for others’ situations. They are ready to corporate with others and help strangers. They believe that their efforts will be rewarded and people they helped will in return help them. Disagreeable people are more skeptical. They are not willing to believe others and focus more on themselves. Sometimes, they may even be aggressive. Hence, agreeable people will be more suitable for jobs of which collaboration accounts for a large proportion. They will be very nice members to unite the team. Consequently, the team is more likely to increase efficiency and reach the expected goal. On the contrary, Antagonistic people may be more competitive and suitable for working alone.

Conscientiousness refers to whether people are self-discipline and could they plan and carry out tasks well. Normally, conscientious people will have clear aims, strong determination and well-structured plan. They have some common characteristics like hardworking, dependable and orderly. People who get low scores of conscientiousness will be less exacting in requiring themselves. However, it doesn’t mean that they lack these traits. They may prefer to work in a low-stress environment. People who get high scores of it can do intensive work or those jobs need high discipline.

Good traits could be a kind of power of leaders. Hence, I want to talk about some important traits leaders should own in order to be good models and let these traits help them manage followers better as well. These traits are five components of Emotional Intelligence at Work as Goleman states in the Harvard Business Review landmark article ‘What Makes a Leader?’ which are Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation (or Management), Motivation, Empathy (Social Awareness), and Social Skills (Relationship Management).

Self-awareness is complex which is an ability to recognize, exam or even control oneself from being influenced by the outside environment and people. It is really a valuable quality. Because once somebody own it, they can realize how the individual emotions and behaviors could influence others. As leaders, they have to understand the way people thinking, what employees want and how would they be influenced by what leaders or peers do and the environment they are in as well. Then they can implement more targeted programs to achieve their aims.

Self-regulation means somebody will not make decisions or communications emotionally. They can keep rational or have a good control of themselves in most cases. As a leader, especially in a high position, they have to keep mind clean even though they encounter many troubles. They cannot let the adverse character like stereotype or impulsion influence their judgements and attitudes to colleagues either.

When leaders are self-motivated, they can persist on their jobs for a long time with enthusiasm. They do jobs due to inner dynamics, rather than the outside pressure or requirement. Consequently, this would lead to high efficiency and standard of their work. At the same time, they would act as models for the employees to encourage them working harder.

As good leaders, they should not only be models on working, but also morality. Therefore, empathy is another important quality leader should have which is critical for building or managing a harmonious and sustainable team. Because this ability will help leaders to think more from others’ perspectives which will be helpful to better understand the behaviors or emotions of employees. Hence, leaders could give meaningful suggestions to employees or have a better design of management institution in order to promote work efficiency of the team.

While leaders are willing to concern about employees, they also need to command good social skills to make effective communications. They could listen to both bad news or good news and motivate their teams much better. When the leader could be a great communicator, they can also solve many conflicts inside the team well and know employees much better and more efficiently.

Leaders should understand how to lead employees better as well. There are different theories of leadership many researchers focus on. All of them have their own values. I intend to talk mostly about transformational leadership which I think is a good guiding ideology for leaders.

Transformational leadership refers to the leader moving the follower beyond immediate self-interests through idealized influence (charisma), inspiration, intellectual stimulation, or individualized consideration. It elevates the follower’s level of maturity and ideals as well as concerns for achievement, self- actualization, and the well-being of others, the organization, and society. 

Idealized influence was named charisma initially. However, some researchers think charisma may refer to worship leaders blindly. Thus, they regard transformational as a larger concept and charisma as a part of it and choose a much neutral term to replace it. Idealized influence refers to an ability of influencing employees profoundly and remarkably. Namely, the leader who own this ability are respected by followers. Therefore, they will be more loyal and devotional. In order to achieve this, transformational leaders shift requirements of employees from basic to much higher aspects which is from personal sureness or material needs to achievability or mental requirement. For example, leaders may propose a bright blueprint or promise a prosperous future for the followers in which they could be who they want to be or achieve their goals. In my understanding, it is a way of arousing part of the desire of employees such as better future, achievement or sense of belonging while catering their mental needs like keeping integrity or owning moral criterion.

Inspirational motivation aims at improving confidence of followers to achieve their goals which were seen impossible previously. In order to make it, the leader should try their best to persuade followers by raising their expectations, showing them trust and letting them be confident about the future. This is related to a phenomenon called Pygmalion effect which indicates that people may get better achievement or higher self-efficacy by owning higher expectations. This could be used by managers to increase productivity by distributing them high but reasonable objectives. It is also useful to boost the growth of young followers, especially those who have not had a clear self-image of themselves.

Intellectual stimulation focuses more on rational aspects. In this stage, leaders aim to stimulate followers to be as much creative or intellectual as they can. Because they want innovative employees and genius ideas which are both part of most valuable treasure of a company. Hence, leaders won’t be too strict about mistakes subordinates may make. To the contrary, some leaders may even courage followers to experience the process of trial and error. At least, in the public, they will discuss more about improving creativity than criticizing mistakes. Normally, they will encourage employees to think questions in new ways and keep in critical. Employees are supported to question anything such as problems, assumptions, the method they used to solve problems all the time and even their own beliefs. And many managers believe this is a good way to stimulate subordinates to solve old problems through seeking innovative and creative ideas.

Individualized consideration is about leaders showing concern for followers and providing necessary support to help them improve themselves. While these concern and support should be individualized which means leaders should communicate with followers in a certain frequency to know them well, get useful feedback and then help them realize and actualize themselves. In this process, leaders should concern about many different aspects considerably. They need to diagnose factors both in mental and physical aspects which may influence employees’ efficacy in an adequate way. They should not apply too general and similar method to everyone. Because different people have different focus, visions and requirements range from money, happy, security and so on. Once leaders gather most of the valuable information and they knew how to implement in a right way, they are more probably to increase the loyalty and efficacy of subordinates and run business better.

Members of transformational teams care about each other, intellectually stimulate each other, inspire each other, and identify with the team’s goals. Transformational teams are high-performing. Organizational policies and practices can promote employee empowerment, creative flexibility and esprit de corps.

In conclusion, individual traits are highly related to a good management. If leaders want effective leadership, they should pay part of attention on understanding what mainly traits do people have and the influence and building important or helpful traits themselves. Firstly, they should learn a general comprehension of many traits related to work performance which people may have. As cited in the first part, the big five dimensions of personality is a valuable theory to help leader have a general understanding of individual traits. They could assign the relatively best jobs for followers respectively relying on some further study. Secondly, they should own or develop some good traits to help them be good leaders. The five components of Emotional Intelligence at Work are some traits which could help leaders be better. Then they will have better ability to lead followers. In the end, the transformational leadership is what I regard it as a good guiding ideology for leaders to have a general concept of leadership. Based on the theory, leaders will understand what should they do to help employees improve efficiency.  

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