Predicting Leader Effectiveness: Personality Traits and Character Strengths

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Personality traits have been used extensively over the past forty years in assessing leadership potential, with varying degrees of success. A major limitation of this research has been the measures of personality. Another important limitation has been the availability of quantifiable measures of leader effectiveness. A third limitation is the lack of longitudinal studies. Because of these limitations, researchers have had difficulty determining the strength of personality traits as predictors of leadership effectiveness over time. Recent studies have used the Five Factor Model of personality to predict leadership effectiveness (e.g., Hogan, Curphy, & Hogan, 1994; Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002; McCormack & Mellor, 2002); and researchers in positive psychology (e.g., Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) have suggested that character strength and virtues (i.e., courage, temperance, and transcendence) might also offer an approach useful in predicting leadership success. This research builds on these approaches and examined two trait-based instruments, the Big Five instrument (NEO-PI-R) and the Values in Action Inventory of Strength (VIA-IS) instrument as they relate to leader effectiveness. Using undergraduates at the United States Military Academy as participants, the research examines the relationship and efficacy of the NEO-PI-R and the VIA-IS in predicting leadership effectiveness over a two and a half year study. Regression analysis demonstrated that conscientiousness was the most significant predictor of leadership effectiveness. However, latent growth curve analysis suggests that there are three distinct patterns of leadership effectiveness. Using mixture modeling, these trajectories are best explained by the personality factors and virtue variables of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and temperance. The findings of this study have broad implications for emergent leader selection, leader development programs, and executive coaching in organizations.






O'Neil, Dennis P (2007). Predicting Leader Effectiveness: Personality Traits and Character Strengths. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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