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Trait Theory of Leadership Essay

Today the issue concerning the role of leadership is one of the most important in business system because good leaders create effective environment in the workplace and influence the performance of all employees and the organization’s productivity. It is known that good leaders are not born, they are made. Good leaders are trained and developed through the long, never ending process of self-education, training and experience. Bass represents three different ways which explain how people can become leaders. The first one is the Trait theory, according to which the major role in leadership formation is given to the personality traits. The second one is the Great Events theory, according to which some event can make an ordinary person to develop extraordinary leadership qualities. The third one is the Transformational leadership theory, according to which any ordinary person can learn the main leadership skills and become a leader.
Transformational leadership was first defined by James MacGregor Burns who stated that it is a leadership approach which leads to change in individuals and society. Moreover, this approach provides positive change in followers who are eventually transformed into leaders. Transformational leadership improves motivation, morale and performance of the followers. (Hughes et al., 328)

Bass’s theory of leadership is one of the theories that explain the meaning of leadership and the process of leadership development. Bernard M. Bass managed to explain the psychological mechanisms of transforming and transactional leadership. Transformational leader can influence his followers. Moreover, the followers trust and respect their leaders. Transformational leader motivates his followers and inspires them to work harder. In addition, this type of leader encourages his followers to use new approaches and methods in order to challenge the status quo and to achieve success.

Bass’s Transformational Leadership Theory discusses the extent to which a leader can influence his followers. Bass notices that the followers go after their leader because they trust and value him. Moreover, Bass states that the leader can use transactional leadership style at the same time. The following aspects are the most important in Transformational Leadership theory: intellectual stimulation when a leader acts as a teacher in the group encouraging his followers to learn and to develop independence; inspiration makes it possible to set a goal or to give the reason to do this or that task in the organization; individual consideration when the leader acts as a role model in order to motivate the followers to achieve the established goals and tasks; idealized influence or charisma when the leaders displays their best traits of character, such as pride, honesty, trust, enthusiasm, self-confidence and others.

Bernard Bass, as a follower of Burns’ ideas, proves the relationship between transactional and transformational leadership. He states that “the best leadership is both transformational and transactional leadership”. (Hughes et al., 343) Transformational leadership leads to the effectiveness of transactional leadership, and it does not replace transactional leadership. Moreover, the so-called “transaction” is considered to be an effective tool for leaders at any level in the organization. What is more important transformational leaders may use transactional style. Bass states that “when the transformational leaders see themselves “in a win-lose negotiation” they try to transform it into “a win-win problem solving situation”. If they fail to do it, they can display their transactional skills which are necessary for effective negotiation process. It is known that transactional style of leadership is based on motivation of the followers. The leaders direct the followers to their own self-interest. The major goal the follower is to follow the leader’s instructions. In this case, the leader uses the system of rewards and punishment in order to motivate his followers. Besides, the employees are not self-motivated, they are controlled and directed by the leader.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that transformational leadership theory is one of the most effective theories of leadership. It contains such important elements of preceding leadership types, as trait theory, behavior theory, charismatic leadership, situational and transactional leadership.

Transformational leadership theory discusses the role of leadership which is focused on the positive change in the followers. It means that they take care of each other’s interests and always act in the interests of the whole group. In this case, the leader has the major goal – to enhance not only motivation, but also moral and performance of his followers. James MacGregor Burns is the first researcher in this sphere of study, who defined the concept of transformational leadership in his book. He was interested in the problems of leadership in organizations, and his Transformational leadership theory proved to be an effective one. Besides, Bass argues that a leader can display both transformational and transactional leadership skills. In contrast to Burns’ theory, which states that transformational leadership is connected with high values, Bass argues that it is amoral. Bass is sure that such people as Adolf Hitler and Jim Jones are true transformational leaders.


Works Cited

Hughes, R., Ginnett, R. and Curphy, G. Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience, 6th edition, 2008. Print.