The Pitfalls of the Leadership Attributes Models


Dave Ulrich, Jack Zenger, and Norm Smallwood



Though leadership attributes models, in particular the ARE-DO-KNOW approach, received enormous attention in the past, they have a number of pitfalls. In particular, they reduce leadership improvement to development of leader's attributes only. Results are not emphasized.

"Leaders exhibiting attributes without results have ideas without substance."


Leadership Attributes

Leadership Qualities

Characteristics of an Effective Leader

Traits and Habits of a Successful Leader




"They teach what they have not learned. They can talk a good scenario and even act on sound general principles, but they fail to deliver. These means attributes have become their end. Often popular because of their charm or charisma, they are not long remembered because their leadership depended more on who they are and how they behave than on what they accomplish."




Pitfalls of the Leadership Attributes Models





Rely on past and present attributes. Don't focus on future and don't anticipate new desired attributes.


Start Change with Yourself




Rather generic, resemble each other; are not tailored to specific requirements and don't reflect unique challenges of a firm.


Situational Leadership

Pros and Cons




Theory-based models; don't focus enough on behaviors.

Concept-based leadership attribute models don't have the power to build leadership excellence and effect change; behavior-based one do.

Leadership attributes models need to be deployed and used, not just created.




Leadership attributes models must define qualities of all leaders and self-leaders, not just those at the top echelon.

HR-created models are less effective than line-created and owned attribute models. You must involve heavily line managers in crafting attribute models to increase their commitment to them.






Your growth boosters


Teaching by Example