Leaders establish a vision of the future and align people and resources through any number of leadership approaches, inspiring and directing others. Effective leadership begins with the selection process and recognition that the best leaders are not necessarily the most intelligent, courageous, or intuitive. Good leaders, however, possess the ability to absorb, digest, and use information to motivate others into action. Leadership is about relationship building, challenging the status quo, and the ability to not only visualize one's own perspective, but also the desires and dreams of others. Leadership involves harnessing organizational resources and setting a direction toward achieving both individual and organizational goals. Leaders are expected to establish a course, set standards, challenge current processes and realities, build trust, and encourage right action. The challenge is to transform organizational mediocrity into competitive advantage through effective and ethical leadership. The purpose of this research was threefold. It sought to further investigate and advance understanding surrounding the influence of personal and professional characteristics/traits on leadership development. Such understanding includes the identification and prioritization of specific characteristics/traits, as well as determining their immutability. The findings provide organizations with a foundation toward building tools that support or reject current leadership hiring, promoting, and development practices. This research also sought to increase knowledge surrounding the relative importance of ethics in leadership development compared to other characteristics/traits of contemporary leaders. A qualitative approach identified, prioritized, and assessed the flexibility of the characteristics/traits most relevant in the development of effective and ethical leaders, as defined by a Delphi panel of experts from for-profit, not-for-profit, and governmental organizations. The study found that both ethical and effective characteristics/traits are associated with predicting successful managerial leaders. Ten general categories of characteristics/traits were identified as important in such prediction, some more and some less important than others. Leaders must reassess hiring and training practices to maximize the return on investment from their efforts. The results of this study confirm that managerial hiring must consider both core and behavioral values, with recognition that core values are the less malleable of these two categories of critical leadership characteristics/traits.
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