Future Leaders Are Predicted by Personality Traits

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Asselmann and coworkers recently examined the differences between aspiring leaders and non-leaders, as well as leaders’ own development before and throughout their terms in office, publishing their findings in the Journal of Personality.
Researchers discovered that aspiring leaders trusted people more and were more open to new experiences, as well as being more extroverted, open, emotionally stable, conscientious, and risk-taking than those who did not see themselves as future leaders.
In addition, “leaders-to-be grew steadily more extraverted, open, ready to take chances, and felt also to have greater control of their lives” (when they were approaching a leadership role, particularly males). “After becoming a leader, however, they were less extroverted, less eager to take chances, and less conscientious, but gained self-esteem.”

Future Leaders Are Predicted by Personality Traits
Future Leaders Are Predicted by Personality Traits

Leadership is influenced by personality and context.

The ordinary individual isn’t as outgoing or receptive to new experiences as a leader. Perhaps this is because those who are naturally outgoing and extroverted get more satisfaction from leading by example and are more inclined to strive for leadership roles with more responsibilities and prestige.
Individuals with aspirations of leadership may also seek out situations or occupations (such as taking charge of smaller projects or making connections) that play to their strengths as leaders. Over time, the confidence, extroversion, and open-mindedness you get by taking the reins of initiatives or expanding your professional network might help you achieve your personal goals.
The findings revealed that leaders reported an increase in self-esteem and maintained high levels of perceived control and openness after taking on their new role. But agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness all went down. Why?
Perhaps leaders were more introverted as a consequence of increased work demands because they lacked the time and energy to maintain active social relationships. Additionally, when they shifted their attention from building to defending their position, they were less ready to take chances.
In addition, the authors note that “leaders would frequently need to flexibly transition between multiple projects, delegate responsibilities, prioritise, and compromise” due to the increased likelihood of conflict when everyone is very dedicated to their work. They may grow more relaxed and tolerant of mistakes as they get more experience in leadership roles.


Gender and leadership

The results varied somewhat depending on whether the subject was male or female. Female leaders were less pleasant than their non-leader counterparts, despite the fact that women are normally more agreeable than males. Why?
Perhaps this is because women, more so than men, feel the need to drastically alter their behaviour after receiving a promotion. After all, it’s often held that leaders need to be formidable foes in order to succeed. Nonetheless, these characteristics are often associated with men.
Additionally, the results indicated that men in leadership roles “thought they had greater control over their lives than same-sex non-leaders after commencing a leadership job.” This is likely due to the fact that males “are regarded and judged more favourably in leadership positions.” As a result, individuals can feel that they have more power over the situation.
Furthermore, only men who aspired to leadership roles were more extroverted over time.
Among aspiring leaders, males who grow more extroverted are evaluated more positively than extraverted women. This may be due to the fact that the archetypal man and leader are both supposed to be sociable and outgoing.


Several traits have been linked to effective leadership. The list is extensive: ambition, eloquence, authenticity, care, diplomacy, intelligence, ethics, adaptability, health, openness, optimism, popularity, responsibility, self-assurance, social connections, trustworthiness, and wisdom.
Exactly where do leaders learn to cultivate these qualities?
Leaders-to-be exhibit some leadership qualities (particularly openness and extroversion) long before being promoted, but as the aforementioned studies demonstrate, nobody is born a leader.
As a matter of fact, most aspiring leaders go through personality shifts as they get ready for their new job and subsequently, as they acquire expertise in their position.
Some of the shifts in character are just temporary. For example, promotions generally cause a short-lived boost in a person’s extraversion and risk-taking, which quickly returns to pre-promotion levels. However, the improvements in receptivity and sense of mastery stay longer.
What do these results suggest? Personality attributes, such as sociability and curiosity, should be taken into account throughout the hiring process.
Furthermore, treatments aimed at altering one’s personality may promote the growth of characteristics that contribute to the emergence and success of leaders.


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