Using the Big Five to Identify Leadership Traits Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Is There an Inextricable Relationship between Personality Type and Leadership?


While the debate over nature versus nurture remains unresolved, there has been growing interest in determining whether there is an inextricable relationship between personality type and leadership. Many organizational behaviorists maintain that certain types of personalities are naturally better suited to assume leadership position while others counter that leadership skills can be learned and applied in virtually any setting. To determine the facts, this paper provides a systematic review of the relevant literature concerning personality and leadership in general and the five factor model of personality in particular together with the results of a survey of business practitioners concerning their views on these issues. The results of the analysis of the secondary and primary data provided significant support for the notion that personality and leadership are in fact inextricably related but that it is not the only factor that contributes to effective leadership.

Keywords: Leadership, five factor model, personality


The connection between effective leadership and organizational performance has been well documented, but it remains less clear the extent to which personality contributes to an individual’s ability to lead. To help address this gap in the existing body of knowledge, this study was guided by the following research objective:

Research objective: To determine whether the five factor model of personality (i.e., openness, conscientious, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) contributes to leadership.

The literature review that follows below was used to develop the information needed to achieve this overarching research objective.

Literature Review

The five-factor model of personality consists of a series of five general trait dimensions: (a) openness, (b) conscientious, (c) extraversion, (d) agreeableness, and (e) neuroticism which are frequently termed “the Big Five” (Soto & Jackson, 2018). These five trait dimensions conceptualize personality in the following general terms:

1. Openness: Highly open individuals have a broad rather than narrow range of interests, are sensitive rather than indifferent to art and beauty, and prefer novelty to routine;

2. Conscientious: Conscientious individuals are task-focused and orderly, rather than distractible and disorganized;

3. Extraversion: Highly extraverted individuals are assertive and sociable, rather than quiet and reserved;

4. Agreeableness: Agreeable individuals are cooperative and polite, rather than antagonistic and rude; and,

5. Neuroticism: Neurotic individuals are prone to experiencing negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and irritation, rather than being emotionally resilient (Soto & Jackson, 2018, para. 3).

These conceptualizations underscore the fact that some general personality traits can in fact contribute to effective leadership. For example, it is reasonable to posit that individuals with high levels of extraversion are better suited for leadership position by virtue of their assertive and sociability while neurotic individuals would be far less effective as leaders. Moreover, studies have shown that the five factor model is sufficiently comprehensive to be applicable to a wide range of national cultures (Rai & Kumar, 2012). Consequently, the five-factor model does appear to provide a useful framework in which to evaluate the…

Sources Used in Document:


Chiu, K. H. & Chen, T. (2012, July). Leadership as situational factor on personality-performance relationship. International Journal of Business and Management Science, 5(1), 1-4.

Lather, A. S. & Jain, S. (2015, July 1). Mapping personality traits of high performers: A study of middle and lower management. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 41(2), 217-222.

Rai, S. & Kumar, V. V. (2012, October). Five Factor Model of Personality & role stress. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 48(2), 341-346.

Soto, C. J. & Jackson, J. J. (2018, February 26). Five-factor model of personality. Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved from document/obo-9780199828340/obo-9780199828340-0120.xml.

Starbuck, C. R. (2015, January). An investigation of the relationship between follower perceptions of leader openness to experience and follower job satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 19(1), 118-122.

Wagner, B. B. (2017, June). Reflections on leadership in government and private practice. Stanford Law Review, 69(6), 1847-1851.

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