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Developing leadership practice in voluntary organisations
Developing leadership practice in voluntary organisations

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Week 2: Leadership as person: traits leadership


During this week you will be introduced to the idea of leadership as embodied in the figure of the individual leader. This is the dominant approach to leadership in academic studies, despite the fact that such research is fraught with conceptual weaknesses. Traditional trait views of leadership are also problematic in the sense that they tend to promote a certain kind of leader, often masculine and white, over alternatives.

Despite its weaknesses, viewing leadership ‘as a person’ does involve a definite figure who you can identify, criticise or praise. As a result, this approach includes a certain amount of accountability which is missing in other accounts of leadership. With this in mind, we will encourage you to think about an ideal, albeit imaginary person evoked by your organisation and ask that you reflect on how (a) this person is brought to life through practices and processes and (b) how this image might be challenged, questioned and adapted.

After completing this week, you will be able to:

  • describe the basic features of the leadership traits perspective
  • describe the strengths and weaknesses of the traits perspective of leadership in relation to a specific case, that of Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company
  • evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation’s leader preferences.