Approaches to Leadership

Comparison of Traits, Skills, and Behavioral Approaches

Traits, Skills, and Behavioral Approach Comparison

In comparing these three approaches or theories of leadership, the major leadership traits from Trait Theory are also found as characteristics in Behavioral Approach and the Skills Approach. Technical Skills or the knowledge and ability to do a specific type of work or activity (Northouse, P., 2016) is only found in the Skills Approach to Leadership. Reflective practice and teamwork in order to improve are distinctive of Behavioral Approach to Leadership.

Trait Theory in Relation to Skills and Behavioral Approaches

Trait Theory has been studied for many years. The assumption is that "Great Men" or leaders are born with traits and talents that make them a good leader. These traits are innate and cannot be learned or developed The five major characteristics of innate traits of a leader are: intelligence, integrity, self-confidence, sociability, and determination. All of these traits are also contained in the Skills and Behavioral Approach to leadership; although, they may use a different name. Intelligence is a factor of all three approaches. In the Skills Approach, intelligence is noted in competencies and individual attributes. As an individual attribute, intelligence is classified as cognitive intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Cognitive intelligence refers to intelligence that one has that peaks in early adulthood and then decreases with age, for example, divergent and creative reasoning and thinking capabilities. Crystallized intelligence refers to intelligence that is gained through life experience. Competencies are intelligences such as, problem solving skills, social judgement skills, and knowledge (Northouse,P., 2016). Another term for sociability in the Skills Approach would be Human Skills. The ability to get along and work with others. This is also a relational process in the Behavioral Approach.


Goldberg's (as cited by Northouse, P., 2016) Big Five Personality Factors in Trait Theory

Big Five Personality Traits video

When clicking on the play button, you will then be prompted to click on "watch on Youtube". Click that link and you will see the Big 5 Personality Traits video.
Big Five Personality Traits in Movies

The Big 5

Leaders were more associated with the extraversion component of the Big 5. Neuroticism and Agreeableness were found the least among leaders (Northouse, P., 2016). Conscientiousness, openness, and extraversion are also associated with Behavioral and Skills Approach to leadership.

Trait Theory and Skills Approach

This video snippet showcases creatures that exhibit determination, self-confidence, intelligence an sociability associated with Trait Leadership characteristics. These also showcase the individual attributes, competencies, and problem solving skills listed in the Skills Model of Leadership (Northouse, P., 2016).
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Behavioral Approach to Leadership as it Compares to Trait Theory and Skills Approach

In looking at the Behavioral Approach to leadership, one must consider the leaders actions and where they fall on the Leadership Grid. In Middle of the Road Management, the leader possesses skills and human skills in order to get the task done and keep the peace. They have a good balance between task and sociability. Team Management requires those social human skills, but also the drive, determination, and conceptual skills to get the task accomplished. Paternalism/Maternalism refers to a leader that disassociates the relationship with the task. They reward or punish based on achievement of task. They utilize some human skills, determination, self-confidence, and motivation. Opportunistic leaders are motivated, determined, and are problem solvers. They lack sociability/human skills Northouse, P., 2016).

What Kind of Leader Are You?

What traits, skills, and behaviors do you exhibit?


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Retrieved from

Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE