Personality Traits and Leadership


Certain personality traits are positively related to leader effectiveness and team performance. These personality traits include surgency, emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. Even though there are no universal personality traits that are predictors of leader effectiveness in all situations, some situations and organization cultures require specific personality traits and leadership styles relative to the follower’s expectations of a leader (Hogan et al., 1994). “Personality traits, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, openness, neuroticism, and self-monitoring influence implicit leadership theories. Specifically, individuals characterize a leader similar to self as ideal” (Keller, 1999).

Hollenbeck (2000) developed an integrated theory of person-organization fit in which the structure of an organization is compared to the personality traits of the organization’s people. Typically, organizations develop a functional structure that enables it to successfully integrate with its external environment. The functional structure characteristics create unique internal environment conditions that require organization members of particular personality traits in order to attain organization efficiency. In addition, Hollenbeck (2000) suggested that successful organizations employ people that have personality traits that enable the workers to fit well into both the organization’s internal and external environments.

Senior executives often select people for a leadership role solely based on the criteria of the candidate’s operational efficiency or experience. Sorcher (2002) suggests that the selection should be made on a broad range of soft leadership criteria including personal integrity, cultural background, and personality. Hogan (1994) states, “In our judgment, the best way to forecast leadership is to use a combination of cognitive ability, personality, simulation, role play, and multi-rater assessment instruments and techniques” (p. 497). In addition, personality measures are efficacious in predicting effective leadership.

Proactive personality was positively associated with both self-reported objective success criteria of salary and promotions as well as the subjective success-criteria of career satisfaction (Seibert, 1999). In a study of six hundred fifty-two employees composing 51 work teams it was determined that relationships of team member’s ability, personality and social cohesion contributed positively to team viability and team performance. “With respect to composition variables, teams higher in general mental ability, conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion, and emotional stability received higher supervisor ratings for team performance” (Barrick, 1998, 377). In addition, the three personality characteristics of autonomy, control, and motivation orientation influence performance and achievement through achievement goal patterns, goal level, and mental focus. “Research suggests that global personality traits can help researchers to understand and predict the motivational strategies that people use while working toward goals in achievement settings” (Lee, 2003, p. 256).

A U.S. Army study examined criteria for leader effectiveness using both military and civilian subjects and discovered the importance of personality and leadership. Connelly (2000, p. 77) declares, “The Army study emphasizes the importance of creative thinking, complex problem solving skills, and social judgment skills, while the civilian study serves as a reminder that other leader attributes, such as personality and motivation, are critical to a leader’s success.” Military and civilian senior executives often select people for a leadership role solely based on the criteria of the candidate’s operational efficiency or experience. Sorcher (2002) suggests that the selection should be made on a broad range of soft leadership criteria including personal integrity, cultural background, and personality.

Prior research has shown that personality characteristics can be accurately assessed using of the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (Witt, 2000; Young, 2001), DiSC®, (Morgan, 2000), Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (George, 1990), and the Five Factor Model (Barrick, Mount, & Judge, 2001; Larson et al., 2002). Judge (2002, p. 1) declared, “Overall, the five-factor model had a multiple correlation of .48 with leadership, indicating strong support for the leader trait perspective when traits are organized according to the five-factor model”. In fact, considerable personality-leadership effectiveness research has been conducted using the Big Five Personality Model or Five Factor Model (hereafter referred to as FFM). Barrick and Mount (2001) summarized the results of 15 meta-analytic studies, conducted over the prior 50 years that focused on the relationship of FFM personality characteristics to prediction of job performance. Results, summarized in Table 1, indicated that there is a positive relationship of FFM dimensions to job performance. In particular, conscientiousness and emotional stability were positively correlated to job performance in all jobs while the other FFM dimensions only had positive correlation to specific occupations. Salgado (2003) reached a similar conclusion in a study of Western European firms.

Table 1: Correlation Between the FFM Dimensions and Job Performance.

FFM TableLarsen (2002) declared, “For understanding an individual’s total personality, it is absolutely necessary to know something about the kinds and intensity of his interests” (p.217). In fact, for decades researchers have suggested there is a direct link between personality and vocational interests. In an effort to determine correlation between personality and vocational interests, studies were conducted using Holland’s Big Six domains of vocational interest and the Big Five model of personality traits (Barrick et al., 2003; Furnham, 2001; Larson et al., 2002). Results of the study showed a clear link between personality type and vocational interests. Larson declared, “Of the 30 correlations, five appeared to be substantial for both men and women and across interest measures. They are Artistic-Openness (r = .48), Enterprising-Extraversion (r = .41), Social-Extraversion (r = .31), Investigative-Openness (r = .28), and Social-Agreeableness (r = .19)” (Larson, 2002, p. 217). Barrick’s (2003) research yielded similar results with Enterprising-Extraversion (r = .41) and Experience-Openness (r = .39). Overall conclusions of these studies, however, indicate that while Big Five personality traits are directly related to the Big Six vocational interests, they are not substitutes for each other.

In the next blog post,  we will discuss the Five Factor Model of Personality in greater detail and examine their effect on leadership performance.


Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1993). Autonomy as a moderator of the relationship between the Big-Five personality dimensions and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology,78(1), 111-118.

Barrick, M. R., Mount, M. K., & Judge, T. A. (2001). Personality and performance at thebeginning of the new millennium: What do we know and where do we go next? International Journal of Selection & Assessment, 9(1/2), 9-31.

Barrick, M. R., Mount, M. K., & Gupta, R. (2003). Meta-analysis of the relationship between the five-factor model of personality and Holland’s occupational types. Personnel Psychology, 56(1), 45-75.

Furnham, A. (2001). Vocational preference and P-O fit: Reflections on Holland’s theory ofvocational choice. Applied psychology: An International Review, 50(1), 5-29.

Connelly, M. S., Gilbert, J. A., Zaccaro, S. J., Threlfall, K. V., Marks, M. A., & Mumford, M. D. (2000). Exploring the relationship of leadership skills and knowledge to leader performance. Leadership Quarterly, 11(1), p65, 22p.

Larson, L. M., Rottinghaus, P. J., & Borgen, F. H. (2002). Meta-analysis of big-six interests and big-five personality factors. Journal of Vocational Behaivior, 61(2), 217-239.

Salgado, J. F. (2003). Predicting job performance using FFM and non-FFM personality measures. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 76(3), 323-347.

Sorcher, M., & Brant, J. (2002). Are You Picking the Right Leaders? Harvard Business Review, 80(2), 78-86.

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Relationship Between Leadership and Personality

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This is the start of a series of blog posts addressing the relationship between leadership and personality. Considerable research has been conducted into this relationship and has produced intriguing insight into subject, correlation between leadership and personality, and direction for additional research.

People who have task-oriented personality types tend to have considerable focus on details. They are not comfortable initiating an action-plan until they are satisfied they have all the necessary facts. On the other hand, people who have relations-oriented personality types tend to have considerable focus on the result and are comfortable initiating an action-plan when they have just the essential facts (Blake & Mouton, 1982). Therefore, it is important for a leader to understand personality and accurately adjust leadership style to the management situation. Bass
(1990) states,

Personality theorists tended to regard leadership as a one-way effect: Leaders possess qualities that differentiate them from followers. But these theorists did not acknowledge the extent to which leaders and followers have interactive effects by determining which qualities of followers are of consequence in a situation. (p. 12)

Personality predicted leadership emergence across a variety of people and settings. Lord (1986) states, “In short, personality traits are associated with leadership emergence to a higher degree and more consistently than popular literature indicates” (p. 407). In addition, Barrick and Mount (1993) have found a significant association between personality and job performance.

The combination of leadership style and personality type appears to meld into a psychological combination that produces the ethos of a leader. “Leaders are not just identified by their leadership styles, but also by their personalities, their awareness of themselves and others, and their appreciation of diversity, flexibility, and paradox” (Handbury, 2001, p. 11). In addition, McGregor (1960) states, “It is quite unlikely that there is a single basic pattern of abilities and personality trait characteristics of all leaders. The personality characteristics of the leader are not unimportant, but those which are essential differ considerably depending on the circumstances”
(p. 180). Therefore, it may indeed, make a difference in ascertaining personality type in order to determine the correct job match between an employee and his or her colleagues.


Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1993). Autonomy as a moderator of the relationship between the Big-Five personality dimensions and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology,78(1), 111-118.

Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press. Blake, R. R., & Mouton, J. (1982). A comparative analysis of situationalism and management by principle. Organizational Dynamics (Spring 1982), 20-43.

Lord, R. G., DeVader, C.L, & Alliger, G.M. (1986). A meta-analysis of the relation between personality traits and leadership perceptions: An application of validity generalization procedures. In B. M. Bass (Ed.), Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: Theory, research, & managerial applications (3 ed., pp. 90). New York: The Free Press.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

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Moral Leadership


There seems to be considerable attention focused on the moral attributes of leaders such as honesty, integrity, compassion, and courage.  O’Toole (1996) describes this phenomenon as “values-based leadership” and posits that good ethics and morality directly influence a person’s leadership quality.  He points out that leadership based solely on contingency theory typically relies on a relativistic approach to ethics. Leaders, consequently, will employ tactics that are relative to achieving acceptable results in the current situation without regard for long-term effects, and this is exactly the phenomenon we see as the product of the leadership exhibited by the President and many congressional leaders. In addition, if a leader has good core values, he should work to induce his followers to adopt these values as their own and in so doing, will reduce resistance to leadership.

In addition to good core values, leaders should be fully cognizant of the relationship between honesty and trust especially since followers regard honesty as the most important leadership characteristic according to the following table.  In fact, Covey (Mahoney, 1997) points out that honesty is the basis for building trust between leaders and their followers.  Trust provides the foundation of establishing mutual respect which should then produce mutual benefits such as increasing group synergy and improving understanding between leaders and their organization’s stakeholders.



Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1993). Credibility : how leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Mahoney, A. I. (1997). Senge, Covey, and Peters on leadership lessons. Association Management, 49 (1), 3.

O’Toole, J. (1996). Leading change: The argument for values based leadership. New York: Random House, Inc.


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Leadership and Management

Leader Characteristics


Although all managers perform the traditional management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, controlling and directing, it seems that the higher the management level within an organization the more important it is for the manager to practice a greater degree of leadership skills.  At high management levels the manager’s duties are concerned less with the minutia of running the organization and more on setting strategic goals and maintaining corporate direction while listening carefully to their subordinates and responding thoughtfully (O’Toole, 1996). Furthermore, Roby (1961, p. 383) declares,

The functions of leadership are to

(1)   bring about a congruence of goals among the members,

(2)   balance the group’s resources and capabilities with environmental demands,

(3)   provide a group structure that is necessary to focus information effectively on solving the problem, and

(4)   make certain that all needed information is available at a decision center when required

In developing a personal leadership action plan, not only is it important for the leader to be cognizant of leadership functions but she should also understand the different styles of leadership and how to apply them relative to various situations.  Research by Goldman (2000) suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of leadership skills, each in the right measure, and at just the right time.  The problem is that most leaders are not aware of all of the different types of leadership styles and those that do are not always sure how to use them. 

 Goleman (2000) conducted a study in which he found that effective leaders must have a certain level of emotional intelligence as well as leadership skill.  He defined emotional intelligence as a leader’s ability to manage themselves and their relationships relative to the four emotional capabilities of self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and social skill.  Next, the research showed that there are six leadership styles that spring from these emotional capabilities.  These are coercive, authoritative, affilitative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching.

The key to successful leadership, therefore, is determining under which situations to employ a given style and when to switch to another style.  A good example is Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric.  He is noted for using an affilitative style where he creates harmony and emotional bonds with his employees.  In certain situations, however, he may switch to a coercive style and demand immediate action such as getting employees to comply with federal regulations.  Other times he may use a democratic style to build consensus through participation.  He also serves as a pacesetter leader to demand excellence and self-direction.  Often Welch exhibits coaching leadership in order to develop employees for the future.

Goleman (2000, p. 12) recommends that leaders master as many of the six leadership styles as possible and use them to create a state of “fluid leadership”.  His research shows that leaders that do this are generally more successful than those who do not.


Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, 78 (2), 12.

O’Toole, J. (1996). Leading change: The argument for values based leadership. New York: Random House, Inc.

Roby, T. B. (1961). The executive function in small groups. In B. M. Bass (Ed.), Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership theory, research, and managerial applications (3 ed., pp. 383). New York: The Free Press.



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Leadership Characteristics


 From ancient time to the postmodern period, theorists have produced a wide array of personal characteristics and skills in their effort to define an ideal leader. Early period attributes related to a leader being a singular source of authority and being endowed with unique qualities that allowed them to capture their follower’s imagination. Many of these attributes emphasized a leader’s physical characteristics, social background, and personality. However, the evolution of leadership theory has produced additional leadership characteristics that emphasize a leader’s personal interrelationship with followers. In fact, Stogdill’s 1970 leadership characteristics survey indicated that the most important leadership attributes are sociability and interpersonal skills; a 40% increase over a similar survey conducted in 1948 (Bass & Stogdill, 1990, p. 81).

 Certain core leadership characteristics appear to be consistent over time. These include honesty, morality, high energy levels, and respect for followers. In addition Bass (1990) states:

The leader is characterized by a strong drive for responsibility and completion of tasks, vigor and persistence in the pursuit of goals, venturesomeness and originality in problem solving, drive to exercise initiative in social situations, self-confidence and a sense of personal identity, willingness to accept the consequences of his or her decisions and actions, ready to absorb interpersonal stress, willingness to tolerate frustration and delay, ability to influence other people’s behavior, and the capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand (p. 87).

 Leaders not only need these characteristics but they should keep focused on the future, maintain a systems approach in their thinking, and be oriented toward developing a network of contacts that provide long term benefit his organization (Kantor, 1995).

 Being aware of leadership characteristics is an important component of developing a personal action plan to become a more effective leader. It seems logical, however, to determine the relative importance of various characteristics in order to focus more attention on higher ranking attributes. In this regard, Kouzes and Posner (1993) conducted a survey where they had their subjects rank leadership characteristics in order of importance. The results listed in Table 1 show that the top rated characteristics concern honesty, vision, and inspiration. These findings agree  with similar importance posited by other leadership authorities including O’Toole (1996), Kantor (1995), and Kidder (1995).


 In our next post, we will discuss differences between management and leadership.



 Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.

Kantor, R. M. (1995). World class: Thriving locally in the global economy. In F.Hellelbein & M. Goldsmith & R. Beckhard (Eds.), The leader of the future : new visions,strategies, and practices for the next era (pp. 89-98). San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

 Kidder, R. M. (1995). Universal human values: Finding an ethical common ground. In J.T. Wren (Ed.), The leader’s companion : insights on leadership through the ages (pp. 500-508).New York: The Free Press. 

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (1993). Credibility : how leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

 O’Toole, J. (1996). Leading change: The argument for values based leadership. New York: Random House, Inc.

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The Concept of Leadership


There are a myriad of leadership definitions and they vary in complexity. For instance, Dwight Eisenhower made a simple, pragmatic definition when he stated, “Leadership is the ability to decide what is to be done, and then getting others to do it” (Larson, 1968).  A more complex definition, however, was presented by Cleeton and Mason (1934) when they stated, “Leadership indicates the ability to influence men and secure results through emotional appeals rather than through the exercise of authority.”

The key concept in these as well as most other leadership definitions appears to be a person’s ability to organize their followers and directing them toward a common goal.  The way to do it depends on factors such as the conditions of their situation and the nature of the people being lead.  For instance, an authoritarian monarch may command his subjects and expect unquestioned obedience.  A corporate executive, on the other hand, may take a democratic approach of seeking the opinion of his or her subordinates in developing a strategy to achieve a mutually desired outcome.  Consequently, the meaning of leadership may depend on the kind of institution in which it is found (Bass & Stogdill, 1990).

In addition to being institution dependent, leadership is more precisely defined in the context of other dimensions.  Bass (Wren, 1995) summarizes these when he stated,

Leadership has been conceived as the focus of group processes, as a matter of personality, as a matter of inducing compliance, as the exercise of influence, as particular behaviors, as a form of persuasion, as a power relation, as an instrument to achieve goals, as an effect of interaction, as a differentiated role, as initiation of structure, and as many combinations of these definitions (p. 38).

It appears, therefore, that leadership definitions are, at a minimum, a function of people, place, position, personality, power, and purpose.

Our next blog post will discuss the characteristics of effective leadership.


Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.

Cleeton, G. U., & Mason, C. W. (1934). Executive ability – its discovery and development. In B. M. Bass (Ed.), Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership theory, research, and managerial applications (3 ed., pp. 14). New York: The Free Press.

Wren, J. T. (1995). The leader’s companion : insights on leadership through the ages. New York: Free Press.

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Considerations for Successful Innovation Management

In an ambitious, global environment it is important for businesses to achieve competitive advantages that can enable their organization to earn better than average returns. Competitive advantage can be achieved by possession of important assets, control of natural resources, or economies of scale.  The pattern, however, is increasingly coming to favor those organizations that can mobilize knowledge, technological skills, and experience to create novelty in their offerings and in the ways in which they create and deliver those offerings. This novelty is the result of Innovation in product, process, position, or paradigm (Godin, 2010).

 Innovation, therefore, is driven by the ability to see connections, to spot opportunities and to take advantages of them. In essence, innovation is about bringing something new into the world: an idea, a behavior (or action) or an object. Innovation Management, on the other hand, is the practice of managing new and creative ideas (Godin, 2010) (Chesbrough, 2011). This means firms need to address multiple determinants at distinct levels, from the individual to the organizational, to enhance their open innovation management. For instance, Procter & Gamble improved its innovation management capability by setting up dedicated organizational structures and establishing incentives for employees who initiated innovation efforts (Lichtenthaler, 2011).

 One of the key issues in innovation management is mapping their organization’s innovation space.  An organization’s marketing space defined their marketing mix that is a set of variables that are to a large extent controllable by the company, and normally referred to as the four Ps of product, price, place and promotion.  Similarly, the four Ps of innovation include product, process, position, and paradigm innovation. Each of the 4Ps of innovation can take place along an axis running from incremental through to radical change (Tidd, Bessant, & Pavitt, 2005). 

 Innovation is a challenge to accumulate and deploy knowledge resources in a strategically effective fashion.  The knowledge produced by an organization through its R&D activities is a valuable commodity that could be applied internally to produce new innovations or be sold as an end-product itself. The decision to sell knowledge assets or use it internally largely depends on whether the organization has an open or closed innovation perspective.

 An important consideration of innovation management is managing knowledge processes. Most medium-size and large firms simultaneously make-and-buy in knowledge exploration, integrate-and-relate in knowledge retention, and keep-and-sell in knowledge exploitation (Chesbrough, 2011).

 Innovation in a global environment presents unique problems and opportunities for post-industrial organizations.  Managers that successfully control their firm’s innovation activities recognize that innovation can help give their firm a distinctive competence, enabling it to provide goods and services better than competitors. In addition, successful innovation managers recognize that Innovation is more than simply coming up with new ideas; it is the process of growing them into practical use.  But, in order to develop an organization that has a successful innovation perspective, managers need to complete the development and exploitation aspects of new knowledge, not just its invention (Tidd, Bessant, & Pavitt, 2005) (Lam, 2010).

 Successful innovation managers will transform their organizations to operate with a process of sustained growth through continuous invention and adaptation thereby enabling the firm to achieve above average rates of return.

 Click the following link to view the video that accompanies this blog post:



 Chesbrough, H. (2011, Winter). Bringing Open Innovation to Services. MIT Sloan Management Review , 52 (2), pp. 85-90.

Godin, B. (2010, July). Innovation Without the Word: William F. Ogburn’s Contribution to the Study of Technological Innovation. Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning & Policy , 48 (3), pp. 277-307.

Lam, Y. Y. (2010). Impact of Globalization on Higher Education. International Education Studies , 3 (4), 73-85.

Lichtenthaler, U. (2011, Feb). Open Innovation: Past Research, Current Debates, and Future Directions. Academy of Management Perspectives , 25 (1), pp. 75-93.

Tidd, J., Bessant, J., & Pavitt, K. (2005). Managing Innovation: Integrating Technological, Market and Organizational Change (3rd. ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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