Approaches to Leadership, Their Strengths and Weaknesses

Trait Approach

The trait approach to leadership focus on a series of mental, personality, or physical traits that effective leaders possess. The approach is underpinned by the belief that effective leaders are born with certain traits, which one cannot possess through leaning  (Northouse, 2019). Thus, the approach centers its attention on the leader.

 There are four key strengths associated with the traits approach. Firstly, it supports the general perception in the society that leaders are a special type of people with the ability to do extraordinary things. Secondly, it is supported by a broad body of research. Thirdly, it only focuses on the leaders, whereby it thoroughly analyzes the component in the leadership process. Lastly, the approach provides some benchmarks regarding what qualities and attributes make good leaders (Northouse, 2019). 

On the downside, the trait approach to leadership has several weaknesses. To start with, it does not have a definitive list of leadership traits. The approach also fails to take situations into account. Additionally, it is overly subjective to interpretation and is not always based on research. Moreover, it is weak in explaining how leadership traits influence the outcome of teams and groups in organizations. Lastly, since traits are mainly fixed psychological structures, the value of teaching and leadership training then becomes of less value (Northouse, 2019). 

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Skills Approach

While the traits approach focuses on the personality of a leader, skills approach, the skills approach to leadership takes into account the abilities and knowledge a leader possesses. Unlike the trait approach, the skills approach believes that a person can learn certain skills and turn into a remarkable leader. However, similar to the trait approach, the skills approach to leadership centers its attention in the leader (Northouse, 2019).

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The main strengths of the skills approach include, it is the first one to conceptualize and create a structure of the leadership process around skills. Secondly, by describing leadership in terms of skills, it explains that anyone can become a good leader. Thirdly, it provides a broad view of leadership that consists of a wide variety of components such as social judgment skills and problem-solving skills. Lastly, it presents a structure consistent with leadership education programs (Northouse, 2019). 

The skills approach also has some weaknesses including the fact that the breadth of the skills it describes appears to extend beyond the boundaries of leadership. The approach is also weak in predictive value; it does not explain how the skills lead to enhanced leadership performance. Lastly, the skills approach incorporates some skills that seem trait-like (Northouse, 2019). 

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Situational Approach

The situational approach to leadership hypothesizes that different situations require different types of leadership. According to this approach, situational factors constrain a leader to adapt his/her style of leadership to suit the situation at hand (Northouse, 2019). According to Northouse, the approach has both directive and supportive dynamics.

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There are four major strengths associated situational approach. Firstly, it is well known and frequently used for training leaders. Secondly, it is practical and easy to understand for application in different settings. Thirdly, it is prescriptive in that it shows leaders how to act. Lastly, it emphasizes flexibility (Northouse, 2019). Regarding weaknesses, the assumptions underpinning the situational approach are not justified by a strong body of research. Secondly, it does not address how demographic characteristics influence employees’ leadership preferences. Lastly, the model does not clarify its applicability in group settings (Northouse, 2019).

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