An estimate of variance due to traits in leadership

  • Kenny D
  • Zaccaro S
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Abstract

The literature on leadership has failed to produce consistent evidence of a specific personality trait that distinguishes leaders from followers. Barnlund (1962) used a rotational design to investigate the emergence of leaders in groups, varying both group composition and the type of task groups performed. Subjects were rotated across 6 groups of 4 members each, with each group performing a different task and each subject interacting only once throughout the sessions with any other subject. Analysis of group member rankings of leaders revealed that leadership emergence varied across groups, suggesting that it is not a stable personality trait. A re-analysis of Barnlund's data using the Social Relations Model of Kenny (1981) indicates that leadership variance across groups was a function of some stable personality characteristic. This characteristic may enable individuals to understand the needs and goals of group members, and to adapt their personal approaches to the situations faced by their groups.

Author-supplied keywords

  • leadership as stable characteristic vs function of group situation, reanalysis of D. C. Barnlund's data

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Authors

  • David A. Kenny

  • Stephen J. Zaccaro

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