Trait Theory Debunked

Although Trait Theory has been recently challenged and mostly debunked, it is still interesting to look at those in leadership positions through these lenses. Although a leader cannot be spotted simply because of their height or gender, there is still some clear indications that this idea is still in effect today. Sotheby’s is a very progressive company with an equally progressive parent company (Realogy) where old power structures are not obvious and measures are taken to oust old stereo types. However, those are hard molds to break. In my company specifically, the CMO is the tallest man in the office with a booming voice and didactic tone. When his is in the office, you know. When you see him, you think, “He was born to be a leader”. Now these traits alone did not secure him the job, however it had to have helped along the way. Above him, the CEO is an older man with the same didactic tone (a few inches shorter) but has at leas 10 years on everyone else in the office. Age usually corresponds to knowledge and experience, which undoubtedly helped him secure his position. Again, when he is in the office, everyone knows. As Antonakis would say, his look of competence helped him secure his position of leadership. Their interactions with everyone are not very personal because they do not spend as much time in the office as everyone else, so when they are it is strictly business. My interactions with them are much more formal than with others, as they expect a certain level of professionalism from everyone. 

It is even more interesting to then look at my boss, who is right under the CMO. She is a younger woman, born out of the country, and could not be more welcoming and amiable. She is just as professional and effective as those previously mentioned, but just with a more personable attitude towards those under her. Everything that Trait Theory defends is contradictory to her and her methods of leadership. In this case, LMX theory would apply much more relevantly where relationships play a big part in the success of a leader, as opposed to simply their height, gender, or a certain personality trait. 

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