You know who Gary Vaynerchuk (aka @GaryVee) is, don’t you? He’s the guy that is being predicted to become “bigger than Oprah” [source], and mostly due to his passion, drive, and authenticity. To me Gary is living proof of the fact that the trait approach has the right to live (in a slightly modified form, but still).
The trait approach, which dominated the scene up to late 1940’s, was one of the earlier approaches to leadership which attempted to study various leadership traits in order to determine what made certain people great leaders. A number of scholars assumed that the Y-chromosome was indispensable for ‘born leaders’, and that it was through this chromosome that leadership qualities were inherited. Several scholars that worked separately from one another arrived at sets of traits and characteristics, some of which echoed one another. Among the common characteristics, there were intelligence and cognitive ability, initiative, persistence, (self-)confidence, integrity and responsibility. Most of these can be found both in the great historical leaders, as a well as in prominent business leaders of our times. However, the trait approach “suffers from the difficulties (a) of specifying the traits that constitute effective leadership and (b) of explaining how much of each trait one needs in order to cope best in different situations” (source: Leadership in Times of Change by W.G. Christ).
So, the approach was abandoned for several decades to be resurrected in 1991 by Kirkpatrick and Locke who, believing that individual characteristics can predict leadership behavior, developed a variation of the trait approach in their assessment center technique. Their technique is based on a belief that there are 6 core traits on which leaders differ from non-leaders. These are: (i) drive, (ii) desire to lead, (iii) honesty/integrity, (iv) self-confidence, (v) cognitive ability, and (vi) knowledge of the business. It is also important to mention that the developers of the assessment center technique went away from the deterministic undertone of the trait approach, and used the 6 traits as positive pre-conditions of becoming a successful leader, leaving room for personal initiative to condition the rest.
Back to Gary. Jason Keath summarized the essence of Vaynerchuk’s success in the following 6 (very actionable) principles:
- Be Genuine — Be true to yourself
- Hustle — Put in more work than the other guy
- Pursue Your Passion — If you are not working on what you love, you won’t make it
- Delegate — Learn how to partner and connect with others to get it done
- Watch the Tools — “always pay attention to the nerds, when the nerds talk I listen – the tech scene is the future”
- Be the Expert — Learn everything you can about your industry, know more than the other guy
Do they correspond to the six positive pre-conditions that Kirkpatrick and Locke talked about? Not word for word, but the essence is definitely there! Gary is all about the drive, desire to lead, integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability and knowledge of the business. His personal initiative has turned these into the right direction, shaping him into the man that he is now. To me it’s a good modern-day example of how, while not necessarily being deterministic, certain personal characteristics do help an individual become an excellent leader and influencer.