Profiling Leadership in Public Administration
By studying successful leaders researchers distinguish several traits and skills that effective leaders possess. These traits and skills include adaptability, ambitiousness, cooperativeness, assertiveness, decisiveness, dependability, energy, self-confidence, tolerance to stress, and a willingness to take responsibilities. Skills include being clever or intelligence, conceptually skilled, creative, diplomatic, organized, persuasive, and socially skilled. These traits can be found in successful leaders, regardless of leadership style, and the absence of only a few of these traits can create an ineffective leader.
Although many people might not agree with his political views and actions, Ronald Reagan was widely considered a great leader. His ability to cope with crisis and to make the American people feel safe was an ability derived from his many traits of leadership. As a transformational and authoritative leader, President Reagan held all of the leadership traits of an effective leader. Reagan exhibited all of Stodgill’s traits of leadership and this made him effective even when his policies were controversial (Kettl, 2002). Despite this finding, many researchers see leadership trait theory as an ineffective, even Stodgill admits that:
In the trait theory, studies reveal the traits that effective leaders possess, but Stodgill concludes that, “a person does not become a leader by virtue of the possession of some combination of traits” (1948, pg. 64). Additionally, it was concluded that because there was no real pattern to the findings, no single characteristic could distinguish leaders from non-leaders. The trait theory also excludes situational factors, which many, including Stodgill, understand as affecting leadership abilities (Kettl, 2002).
Reagan had a long successful leadership history prior to being President. He was captain of his college swimming team, a captain in the military, president of the screen actors guild, and governor of California. Reagan was a successful leader throughout his life and all his career choices.
Kettl, D. (2002). The Transformation of Governance: Public Administration for Twenty-First Century America. New York: Century.