The Great-Man Theory of Leadership

Great-man theories of leadership claim that some individuals have the qualities that differentiate them from the rest and are the reason they have been able to assume the positions of authority and power.

Are certain people born to be leaders? When we consider the leadership of the legendary leaders of the past. Such as Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Queen Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln. We will observe that they seem to be different from normal humans in different ways. Similarly, this is the case for modern leaders like George W. Bush and Mahatma Gandhi. They certainly possess the highest levels of ambition, with clear goals of what they would like to achieve. These leaders are described as naturally exceptional leaders who were born with a set of personal traits that made them successful leaders. In the present, the idea is that the best leaders are born.

The top executives, sports stars, and politicians appear to have an appearance that makes them stand out from the rest of us. According to contemporary theorists, leaders aren’t just like everyone else. They don’t have to be brilliant intellectuals or have omniscient prophetic abilities to be successful. However, they must have the proper qualities, which isn’t the same for everyone. It is a methodological way of studying leadership that is known by the term “great man” theory.

Arlin Jordin Washington


Leaders are born, not made, and have some characteristics that were inherit by birth.

The most effective leaders are those who emerge in times of great need.


The majority of research on this theory was conduct during the 19th century. This theory is often connect with the theories of scholar Thomas Carlyle who commented on the greatest men. Or heroes of history, saying the history of the world is but the biography of great men. According to Carlyle, an effective leader is one with special qualities that attract the interest of the majority of people.

Arlin Jordin Washington

The idea of leadership in the early days was an attribute that was primarily associate with males. So, the theory was called The Great Man Theory of Leadership. However, with the rise of many women leaders, the theory was accept as the great theory of the individual. The leader of the group achieves goals despite every obstacle in the interest of those he leads.

Arlin Jordin Washington

The theory states that the people who are in power have a right to be there due to their unique gifts. The theory also suggests that these traits are stable over time and in different groups. It suggests that great leaders all share the same traits, regardless of their location and time of birth or what role they play in the historical context.


A large portion of the traits that are deem essential for a leader’s effectiveness is common masculine characteristics. As of the present, there’s a dramatic change in the way we think about leadership.

Arlin Jordin Washington


Inspired by the Great Man Theory of Leadership and the growing curiosity about what it means to be leading research focused on the leader. Who is an effective leader? What are the distinctive qualities of successful and outstanding leaders? It led to initial research efforts that led to the method of leadership that is based on traits.