Conversation about leadership traits can be dangerous because it presumes that people possess inherent and immutable personality traits that make them leaders. I strongly disagree with that view because I believe that anyone can learn attitudes, skills and behaviors that make them a leader in their unique ways. In addition, nobody is a leader by themselves. The time for a lone hero leader is gone. Leaders emerge in team or group environments, and as such leadership can shift from person to person and even evolve into co-leadership. However, the popular magazines among leaders and leader-wannabes regularly publish lists about the three, five or seven traits that make a leader. Obviously, there continues to be a yearning to know what qualities one has to groom in order to become an effective leader.
As the conversation about women as leaders has exploded, the interest in what makes an effective female leader has also become popular. Often the results of studies in which a handful of successful women have been interviewed are reported in popular literature with generalizations about the leadership traits of women. Again, dangerous ground. Generalizations that are based on stereotypes are a way for us to categorize things we don’t understand. This kind of a meaning making mechanism simplifies matters and makes things seem black and white. The more we understand, the more shades of all kinds of colors we’ll find.