What Is Leadership Trait Theory? (With Common Traits)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Strong leadership is crucial for the success of any organisation. The theory for leadership trait helps companies and individuals identify some common personality traits that contribute to successful leadership in various situations. If you want to become a better leader in the workplace, knowing more about the trait theory of leadership can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. In this article, we discuss the leadership trait theory, share some of its advantages and outline some common leadership traits.

What Is The Leadership Trait Theory?

The leadership trait theory is a concept based on the practice of discovering specific personality traits and characteristics proven to lead to successful leadership in various contexts. This theory proposes one of the oldest methods of improving workplace effectiveness and derives its foundation from the "great man theory of leadership" introduced by Thomas Carlyle in the 19th century.

According to the leadership trait theory, leaders are born with specific natural characteristics that ensure success in their work duties. This theory also acts as an approach to identify potential leaders by using personality assessments to determine the likelihood of success or failure of a potential leader. Once a person displays traits related to becoming an effective leader, this theory states that they can get trained to maximise their leadership potential.

Related: 7 Leadership Theories For Career Growth

Common Leadership Traits

Several studies have identified vital features and traits that make an effective leader, including several characteristics that can help predict a person's leadership potential with maximum accuracy. The presence of these traits in a person is not a guarantee that the respective person would become a good leader, but is instead a way of identifying individuals with the highest potential for achieving success in leadership. According to most studies, some common leadership traits that show a person's potential for becoming an effective leader include:

Emotional stability

In professional life, challenging situations can appear, and influential leaders benefit from having good emotional stability and regulation in their life. Managing one's emotions effectively in the workplace takes practice, and good leaders know that this is a crucial trait in determining the success of their professional ventures. Influential leaders know how to overcome difficult situations as they are solution-oriented and develop practical solutions to tackle an issue without letting their emotions guide their decisions. Poor emotion management can cause dysregulation in management practices. Having leaders with good emotional stability can encourage employees to trust their leaders.

Related: What Is Skills Leadership Theory? (And Why It Is Important)

Accepting responsibility

Leaders who accept responsibility for their actions are credible and accountable professionals who get respect from employees and colleagues alike. They also take responsibility for the actions of the people they supervise, with no excuses. Influential leaders know that to succeed in a competitive environment, taking responsibility for their actions can position them as trustworthy professionals who are aware of their mistakes and willing to improvise them. This key leadership trait can also help them win more business deals, clients and customers, as they are authentic and employ fair practices.

Action-oriented thinking

Professionals have a lot of decisions to make daily, but influential leaders know that only thinking about taking action does not bring results. They employ action-oriented thinking in their work-life to achieve organisational goals, both individually and collectively. Leaders tend to make decisions and take action with the aim of moving the entire group forward. Efficient leaders have action-oriented thinking as one of their crucial traits because it allows them to seek new ways of improving themselves, their team members and the people under their supervision.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions And Examples


Influential leaders are competent in executing tasks and can inspire action by setting examples of leadership. These professionals are qualified and skilled at performing their specialised duties while constantly showing up at work with their high level of competency and skills. Having competence as a core strength can help these leaders position themselves as successful examples of skilled and talented professionals for their subordinates. They can also set up a performance standard for other employees in the organisation.

Related: Types Of Motivation For Career Advancement (With Examples)


Decisive leaders are aware of their employees' problems and think about ways of providing them with sustainable solutions to overcome these issues. Efficiency in corporate leadership results from influential leaders who understand the perspective and challenges of their employees and direct them to the right resources without avoiding the problem. A successful way of ensuring that leaders understand the difficulties faced by their subordinates is through empathising with their situation without judging them for the outcome. Empathy is a crucial trait that can help leaders navigate their professional journeys with ease and purpose.


Having good communication and interpersonal skills can add to the personality of a leader while ensuring that they convey all ideas and visions with clarity to the relevant parties. Effective communication can enhance leaders' charisma to help them attract the right opportunities and clients for their business. Excellent communication skills can help leaders appear more trustworthy to their immediate team members and other employees. This trait can also help get the attention of the right customers to the business. Speaking and writing with clarity reflects the leader's professional growth to convey complex ideas quickly.


Successful leaders have a constant need for achievement and success. They seek personal success but also understand that their successes are derivative of the achievements and successes of their employees and team. While leaders work incredibly hard to achieve their milestones, they also work well with a team and encourage their team members to perform better.

Motivational abilities

A leader's success depends on the people they work with and the organisation they represent. So, being a good leader is as much about motivating themselves as motivating their team to perform better. Efficient leaders know that a large part of their job is encouraging their team members and assigning them tasks according to their strengths. These professionals are receptive and listen to the feedback given to them, which they use to improve the methods of the organisation to ensure that all employees are happy and motivated to work with them. This strategy also enables them to maximise company productivity.

Related: What Is Behavioural Theory Of Leadership? (With Types)

Courage and resilience

One of the essential traits of influential leaders is the courage to take risks and follow unconventional paths and the resilience to sustain in the market when things do not go as per the plan. Having the courage and strength to envision company goals and believing that they can achieve them is essential for leaders. These traits also enable them to move forward with their vision and execute ambitious projects despite the possibilities of setbacks. If leaders know and believe that a particular business project can positively influence their company's growth, these traits can help them achieve those goals.

Related: Top Qualities Of An Outstanding Leader


Perseverance, or the ability to endure challenges and keep moving towards achieving organisational objectives, is crucial for influential leaders. These professionals know that every business faces adversity and unforeseen circumstances, but they equip themselves with the right resources to solve the issue. Having the ability to persevere despite enormous obstacles can ensure organisational success and personal satisfaction. It can also position them as determined and professional leaders who derive strength from their long-term goals.

Moral standing

A leader sticks to their morals, values and principles in every aspect of their professional life. Morally sound leaders have the organisation's and its employees' highest good in mind, and they work towards achieving their end goals that benefit all stakeholders involved. Moral standing also enables these professionals to maintain the highest ethical and moral standards in their work and lead their team by example.


Effective leaders make timely decisions that benefit the organisation and its people. They believe in their vision for the company. Confidently deciding on strategies for improving the workplace and work policies can enhance the organisation's overall employee experience and productivity. Leaders encounter unexpected situations and challenges almost daily, so having the determination and self-belief in their decisions can help them guide their team out of a difficult situation. Working with confident leaders also inspires subordinates to believe in their abilities and encourages them to work hard for achieving organisational goals.

Related: Traits Of A Powerful Personality And How To Build Them

Advantages Of The Trait Theory Of Leadership

Some advantages of the trait theory of leadership include:

  • Serves as a standard to measure and assess the leadership traits and potential of an individual

  • Provides helpful insight into leadership and its core elements

  • Applicable in different companies under various contexts

Related: Big Five Personality Traits (And Ideal Jobs For Each Trait)

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