Are the Great Man Theory and Trait Theory still relevant in Contemporary Society?

Peer Leader: Ackeena Drummond

Group: The Melancholies

The Great Man Theory refers to the belief that certain individuals were born to be leaders. The entire theory may be summed up in the quote “great leaders were born and not made”. The theory came into being in the 1880’s however, it has been manifested throughout historic societies long before it was identified eg; the Egyptians, Incas, Amerindians etc. These societies did not choose their leaders, they were born of noble birth. Despite the fact that they may not have had any leadership qualities, it believed that they were ‘born to lead’, which is the basic tenet of the Great Man theory. The General Elections have become a modern day manifestation of what the Great Man Theory represents; a group of individuals who believe they were born to lead with no prior leadership training assuming these roles and behaving as though they are lost sheep throughout their tenure. The term ‘Great Man Theory’ came out of a time when the popular belief was that only men were capable of being great leaders however, in modern societies there are many females’ leaders who are doing absolutely well; hence, it leaves us to question the relevance of the theory.

The Trait Theory is somewhat similar to the Great Man Theory; it looks for the imputable characteristics. It speaks to the notion that some people have inherent qualities which makes them exceptional leaders.  However, these qualities/characteristics are often very wide and hard to pinpoint, which leaves us to speculate as to whether or not everyone with these traits are leader.  Moreover, in the case you have fallen short of one or two trait, does this makes you any less of a leader. Unrealistic isn’t it?

Thus, one may conclude that the “Great Man Theory” and Trait Theory have become artifacts of literature whose only relevance in contemporary society is purely for academic reference.

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