Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001

Leadership Traits

What are the leadership traits that are essential for survival in business?

Lifestyle leaders, those individuals who set up in business solely to achieve the status and income for the lifestyle they desire, tend to have the following leadership traits:

Themes identified in the lifestyle leader are the absence of strong leadership traits, the absence of a growth vision, the absence of teamwork, and consequently an absence of trust resulting in the leader making all of the decisions.

As already stated (see Leadership quality), the leader must have an above average enterprise tendency if the organization is to survive, either as a growth or a lifestyle organization. A leader with a below average enterprise tendency may result in organizational failure. The leadership trait of 'high enterprise' is essential.

One study revealed that ninety per cent of all organizations studied (both growth and lifestyle) had leaders with high enterprise tendencies, as measured by Caird's (1989) General Enterprise Tendency test.1 Thus it appears that a high enterprise tendency is an essential leadership trait required by the CEO if the organization is to survive.

There is considerable evidence in the literature that strong, effective leadership is essential for an organization to grow.2 Conversely, poor leadership will result in a lifestyle organization at best. Poor leaders are characterized by the absence of a growth vision, the absence of teamwork in their senior management team, and consequently an absence of trust. This will inevitably result in the leader making most or all of the decisions. Other characteristics that have been identified in lifestyle leaders relate to reactive styles of management (planning not considered important); failure to recognize their own weaknesses; their desire to lead from the front, making the decisions without consultation; and an aversion to taking risks, as opposed to growth leaders who will take calculated risks.

The advantage of the leader having a higher educational attainment identified in the growth organizations does not appear to be important in respect of lifestyle leaders, who may or may not have a high level of educational attainment.

A 'lifestyle' leader has a lifestyle vision

There are a number of psychometric tests that are available commercially and that claim to be applicable to team working and measurement of leadership traits. The 'Myers-Briggs Type Indicator' (MBTI)3 and Cattell's '16PF Personality Questionnaire'4 have already been discussed (see Leadership quality). Also the Team Management Systems (TMS)5, 6, 7 and Belbin's Self-Perception Inventory (SPI).8, 9 As stated, the usefulness of the TMS (also known as TMPQ) is limited, bur Belbin's SPI may give a fairly accurate measure of an individual's leadership strength. There is research evidence that that the lifestyle leaders tend to score badly in the leadership team roles of Coordinator (originally Chairman) and Shaper.10

A lifestyle leader will logically have a lifestyle vision. As already stated (see Leadership quality), there is no way of measuring the extent of a leader's vision, whether growth or lifestyle. However, it is possible to identify his or her direction of vision through analysis of the leader's current behaviour (decision making etc) and past achievements.

If you want to know more about the leadership traits essential for survival, read Narcissism: Behind the Mask.

1, 10 Thomas, D.K., Murphy, W.D. and Fearn, G. (2001), 'Analysis of senior management teams in growth and lifestyle SMEs', The 24th ISBA National Small Firms Policy and Research Conference, Leicester, Conference Proceedings, Vol. 1, pp. 433-452.
2 E.g. Vyakarnam, S., Jacobs, R.C. and Handelberg, J. (1999), Exploring the formation of entrepreneurial teams: The key to rapid growth business? Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 6, No. 2. pp. 153-165.
3 Myers, I. and Briggs, K. (1976), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Consulting Psychologists' Press, Palo Alto, CA. 4 Cattell, R.B., Eber, H.W. and Tatsuoka, M.M. (1992), Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, Institute for Personality and Ability Testing Inc., Champaign, IL.
5 Mergerison, C.J. and McCann, D.J. (1985), How to lead a winning team, MCB University Press, Bradford.
6 Mergerison, C.J. and McCann, D.J. (1989), How to improve team management, MCB University Press, Bradford.
7 Mergerison, C.J. and McCann, D.J. (1990), Team management: Practical New Approaches, Mercury, London.
8 Belbin, R.M. (1981), Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail, Heinemann, London.
9 Belbin, R.M. (1993), Team Roles at Work, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.