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Great Person Theory of Leadership

Dating back at least 2,000 years, the great person theory of leadership (GPTL) is one of the cornerstones of traditional academic and lay understandings of leadership. This is because it provides a straightforward answer to the question, “Are leaders born or made?” Answering that great leaders are “born,” the GPTL suggests that these leaders are superior to other people by virtue of their possession of innate intellectual and social characteristics. In short, leaders are simply people who have “the right stuff.”

This stuff is commonly conceptualized in terms of distinctive personality traits that are believed to make those who possess them inherently more adept at directing, managing, and inspiring others than lesser mortals. Either implicitly or explicitly, these leaders are typically assumed to be men, which ...

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