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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