Attempts to compare the characteristics of effective and ineffective leaders – the second category of leadership trait studies are more recent and fewer in number but they too have generally failed to isolate traits strongly associated with successful leadership. One study did not find that intelligence, initiative and self-assurance were associated with high managerial levels and performance. However, this study also found that the single most important factor related top managerial level and performance was the manager’s supervisory ability that is, his or her skill in using supervisory methods appropriate to the particular situation. Most other studies in this area also have found that effective leadership does not depend on a particular set of traits, but rather on how well the leader’s traits match the requirements of the situation.
Some researchers have also found that although women are still less likely than men to emerge as leaders they are just as effective when they do. Even though an increasing number of people believe in equality of ability and opportunity, persistent often unconscious, sexual stereotyping continues to hamper the recognition of women as potential leaders. Women who do become leaders, however, not only perform as well as male leaders according to objective measures, but also are generally perceived as equally effective by their employees.
Anita Roddick of The Shop is one example of a woman who is a successful leader Susie Tompkins of Esprit is another. Like Roddick, Tompkins believes in corporate social responsibility. We can be a company that inspires its employees, that tries to do more in the community, that tries to make a more conscientious product, Tompkins noted. The wave of the ‘90s is about soul searching. Such a philosophy led to the announcement that ran in the Esprit catalog during the late 1980s with detailed information about to avoid contracting AIDS. Tompkins was pleased by the positive response Esprit received to the announcement. It was the first time she could see the difference between a letter congratulating for making a difference and one congratulating for creating a nice, cute collection.
As a leader Tompkins has made differences. Esprit initiatives have also included attention to the environment. The company now uses more enzymes and fewer chemical pollutants in its manufacturing. In the ‘80s they gave their employees French lessons. Now they are giving them character building opportunities.
Racial stereotyping of course is another problem when attempting to identify the connections between traits and leadership qualities because leadership qualities may go unrecognized and untapped. Although the number of African Americans in managerial ranks has been growing, very few have made it to the highest echelons in organizational hierarchies However, such organizations as GM, AM International, Xerox, Avon, Godfather’s Pizza, IBM, and Procter & Gamble have initiated programs to enhance the placement of black men and women in leadership positions.
Members of minorities are doing what they can to gain a foothold in the business world. Outside networking across corporations is one way that black business people are helping build economic growth for African Americans. An informal but powerful system of contacts and relationships called ‘the network’ is creating strong beachheads in variety of fields ranging from communications and entertainment to consumer goods. By working together they are forming pools of capital and new opportunities that are helping to overcome the traditional barriers to success.
Many minority group members are finding a degree of success in small business endeavors, although they remain particularly vulnerable to economic conditions. Edward Owens, for example is struggling to hold on H F Owens Movers the moving company that his father began. During the 1980s, Owens prospered as Owens Cos. Ventured into construction, real estate, and warehousing as well. He had to be a star, he confessed. He wanted to show Boston that a black man could be successful. And he was that is until the New England economy collapsed in late 1987.