Is there an unavoidable link between great strengths and great shortcomings? If we believe we must have extraordinary characteristics in our leaders, must we accommodate ourselves to these coming inevitably in positive and negative pairs?
The trait-theory of leadership assumes that leadership comes from specific vital characteristics possessed by extraordinary individuals; these traits must be had at all cost. When it is pointed out that this cost often includes sometimes painful levels of arrogance or narcissism, as well as other unpleasant and even decidedly non-constructive characteristics, we are indeed advised that we must find ways to pay the price. These are stars, after all – they will have their idiosyncrasies; sometimes we are even encouraged to view them as roguishly quaint.
Is that how you view them?
Here are some questions to consider in this context:
- Do strongly positive and negative leadership characteristics indeed accompany one another? For example, does arrogance inevitably follow great intelligence; does bullying behavior come right along with strength of will (or what some would call personal or even moral courage), or will narcissism typically be found alongside great self-confidence and force?
- Indeed, is it really the case that great positive characteristics must, or ought to, be accompanied by great faults? That is, might a lack of the latter undermine confidence in the actual presence of the former?
- How about this: can we even take the view that evidence of narcissism, for example, should encourage us that we will find levels of confidence and self-assurance that we need in a leader in order to imbue our organization with sure-footed confidence?
- Have you seen organizations led by such people? If they had character trait pairs like these, did one tend to predominate? Which one?
Have observations like these had any effect on your view of the trait-theory of individual leadership for organizations?
They sure have on mine. Why not share your experiences and thoughts?
Today’s tips: Speaking of speaking of sins and sanctimony, please make a point of seeing The Becker-Posner Blog for Gary Becker‘s rejection of the ever-resurfacing America in Decline argument, and Richard Posner‘s response. Are these two talking past one another? Are cause and effect being confused? Is there unintended undermining of one’s own argument?
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