Are you born to be a leader? Are you a “natural”? Or is leadership a set of behaviors and competencies that anyone can develop, given the right experiences, circumstances, and training? The answers to these questions have been debated for centuries. Here, we focus on theories of leadership that would answer with a resounding yes to the first two questions, emphasizing that leadership is deeply embedded within our personalities or in the traits with which we were born. This entry defines and reviews personality- and trait-based theories of leadership before turning to critiques of these approaches.

Personality- and trait-based approaches to leadership argue that certain individuals have innate characteristics that make them ideally suited for leadership, and these traits or characteristics are what differentiate these leaders ...

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