What Personality reveals about Leadership | the edge

Personality may not factor exclusively in the assessment of leadership potential or relative fit for position. Personality differences reflect the settings our motivational system—the set of brain mechanisms that drive behaviour (what personality tests reveal | fast company). Personality determines the differences between people in the way they behave and react to circumstances. Each person has a motivational system that is tuned slightly differently to the world.

A five factor model (FFM) is a widely examined theory of five broad dimensions that psychologists use describe personality (McCrae & John, 1991) . It describes the five factors as

  • Openness to Experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Competence is not really a personality characteristic and leadership potential is not a personality characteristic (Art Markman, 2016). Motivation, for instance, most certainly contributes to good leadership but assessing motivation requires a set of underlying personality characteristics to be determined and then requires comparing those characteristics against leadership competency criteria.

I have recently come across an instance of leadership in which personality has certainly not made up for ineptitude and an instance of leadership success in which personality may have scored paltry 2/5. These two instances have confirmed my belief that behaviour is the ultimate determinant of perceived leadership and may be the determinant of their success in the long term.

Behaviour always reflects an interaction between motivational characteristics and situation. Ultimately, awareness of limitations of competence and personality characteristics is key to how a leader “shows up.” A created response to situations always favours an automatic reaction in determining leadership perception.



What Personality Tests Really Reveal | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

McCrae, R. & John, O, (1991). An Introduction to the Five-Factor Model and Its Applications. University of California, Berkley.

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