What sets Napoleon Bonaparte, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela apart from the crowd? When we think about leaders, certain traits or personal characteristics come to mind, such as self-confidence, determination, and communication skills. Researchers have tried to find a personality profile or set of characteristics that distinguish leaders from non-leaders. Surprisingly, the trait approach has not been successful in explaining leadership. Instead, such factors as the needs of followers, cultural norms, prior group history, and situational variables come into play. Nevertheless, cumulative research suggests that certain traits, most of which can be learned, increase the likelihood of becoming a leader, although they don’t guarantee it. These include ambition; energy; the motivation or desire to lead; intelligence; integrity, or high correspondence between actions and words; a “can-do attitude,” or self-confidence; the ability to grasp and interpret large amounts of information; and the flexibility to adapt to the needs and goals of others.5


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