The article presented in this summary is “Applying Traits Theory of Leadership to Project Management.” It was written by Dean H. Gehring, the general manager of resource development for Kennecott Utah Copper Company. The article was published in March 2007 in the Project Management Journal. The article, as the title suggests, is dedicated to traits theory, and its application to project management. It reflects on the historical significance of the theory, introduces the recent research on the subject, discusses competency clusters and Meyers-Briggs type indicator, and provides methods of theory application. The study concludes that personality traits play an important part in leadership and project management.
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The first part of the text addresses the history of traits theory. It was disregarded for the majority of the 20th century as inconclusive or just plain wrong. The theoretical efforts were sparked by a growing need to identify potential leaders among the personnel to appoint as project managers. The first attempts were made in the early 1900s. The researchers attempted to identify personality traits that make a great leader by analyzing many famous historical figures, such as Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Benito Mussolini, Henry Ford, Theodore Roosevelt, and others. They managed to compile a list of 79 leadership traits, based on 20 research projects on the subject. These research works received plenty of criticism. The very notion of an effective historical leader was debatable; and, in many cases, the research failed to distinguish leaders from non-leaders.
The traits theory was given a second chance in the eyes of the researchers only at the end of the 1980s when several publications concerning project management were made. The following studies drifted away from the broad historical notions of leadership and focused on a much narrower topic. In project management, the success of a project could be measured. This lead to the creation of the PMCD Framework in 2002, which received many appraisals for its comprehensive outlook at how personality traits and project success rates. The framework outlined six distinguishing competencies necessary for project success: achievement and action, human service, impact and influence, managerial factors, cognitive factors, and personal effectiveness. Each unit of competence was then subdivided into competency clusters, 19 in total.
The third section of the article is dedicated to project leadership competency and traits. The author states that it is not humanly possible to possess all the traits that make a great manager and leader. However, studies indicate that there are combinations of personality traits that may be more or less suited for leadership roles. The Meyers-Briggs Type indicator is a tool that could be used to classify the respondents into one of 16 base personality types, each having different leadership success scores, and each suited to different types of projects. The indicator classifies personalities based on 8 personality traits, such as extraversion, introversion, sensing, intuition, thinking, judgment, feeling, and perception. The data used for compiling the matrix was received through questionnaires sent to over 50 top managers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and America.
The article concludes with a summary of study results and a statement that traits theory could be an important and effective tool for gauging a person’s predisposition toward leadership and project management. However, the article stresses that trait theory and its practical applications should not be used as a sole basis for excluding certain people from leadership positions based on their personality trait scores alone.