Peer Leader: Michelle Douse
“You must admit that the genesis of a great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown…. Before he can remake his society, his society must make him.”
—Herbert Spencer, The Study of Sociology
The unanimous decision of our group is that the Trait Theory is definitely a more relevant theory of leadership than the Great Man Theory in today’s society. Our thoughts vary on the extent to which each is relevant but at the end of our deliberations, the Trait Theory was undoubtedly the victor. The essence of how we arrived at such a conclusion is succinctly stated in the quote above in which Herbert Spencer, a renowned sociologist, discredits such a theory. However, for greater clarity the theories must first be dissected and inspected.
The Great Man theory postulates that great leaders are simply born that way. This straight forward and simple means of examining leadership was in our humble opinion insufficient and faulty. For it left many questions to be answered and many to be asked. How is it that one can justify great leadership by simply saying, “He was born that way?” There must be a better answer, one that takes into account socialization, one’s personal development and other factors. Are great leaders simply born that way or were they ‘raised’ or ‘trained’ to be that way? This theory is indeed lacking and primitive as it is in our human nature to grow and improve and this does not happen overnight.
The Trait Theory on the other hand, focuses on various characteristics that make one a great leader. Examples of such characteristics include but are not limited to honesty, integrity and self-confidence. The Trait Theory in focusing on certain traits, acknowledges that a leader is made through socialization as it is one’s upbringing that determines various characteristics in an individual. We are of the view that traits are what constitute a great leader and leader can become even better if he/she builds upon those leadership traits he/she already possesses.
On a side note, the best consensus we could come to was that, it is likely that some persons are naturally more inclined to leadership than others, but even in those circumstances socialization is key to sharpen those innate leadership abilities. However, we still remain firm in our stance that the Trait Theory is of greater relevance.