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R.G. Lord, C.L. de Vader, G.M. Alliger (1986)

R.G. Lord, C.L. de Vader, G.M. Alliger (1986)

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Journal of Applied Psyeholoffy Copyright 1986 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.1986, Vol. 7 I, No. 3, 402--410 0021-9010/86/$00.75
A Meta-Analysis of the Relation Between Personality Traits andLeadership Perceptions: An Application ofValidity Generalization Procedures
Robert G. Lord, Christy L. De Vader, and George M. AUiger
University of AkronThis article reexamines the relation between personality traits and leadership perceptions or extentof leader emergence. We maintain that prior research on trait theories and leadership has beenmisinterpreted as applying to a leader's effect on performance, when it actually pertains to the rela-tion of leadership raits to leadership emergence. Further, based on current theories of social percep-tions, several traits were expected to be strongly related to leadership perceptions. Using the recta-analytic technique of validity generalization, results supported this expectation with intelligence,masculinity-femininity,and dominance being significantly related to leadership perceptions. Also,findings showed that variabilityacross studies in the relation of these traits to leadership perceptionscould be explained largely by methodological factors, indicating that contingency theories of leader.ship perceptions may not be needed. Both of these results contrast with the conclusions of earliernonquantitative literature reviews on traits and leadership perceptions and with conventional think-ing in the leadership area.Trait theories have not been seriously considered by leader-ship researchers since Mann (1959) and Stogdill (1948) re-ported that no traits consistently differentiated leaders fromnonleaders across a variety of situations. The thesis of this arti-cle is that, first, these reviews have often been misinterpreted,and second, there are both theoretical and methodological rea-sons for reconsidering the relations between the traits of po-tential leaders and their tendency to be perceived as leaders byothers.The findings of the Mann and Stogdill reviews have been mis-interpreted in three respects. First, though both reviews dealtwith only leadership emergence or the perception of leadershipin groups with no formal leader, many current theorists (Landy,1985; Muchinsky, 1983) report that their conclusions pertainto the topic of leadership effectiveness. This confusion probablystems from the title of Mann's (1959) review, "A Review of theRelationships Between Personality and Performance in SmallGroups" Though Mann mentions performance, the relationshe investigated were between personality and attained leader-ship status as indexed by peer ratings, observer ratings, or bybeing formally nominated as a leader by group members. Noneof the leadership studies he reviewed used group task perfor-mance or ratings of group effectiveness by observers as depen-dent variables. Second, there were many consistently significantThe authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments ofRalph Alexander on an earlier version of this article.Christy De Vader is now at the Department of Psychology, Universityof Wisconsin, Oshkosh. George Alliger is now at the Department ofPsychology, SUNY-Albany.Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Robert G.Lord, Department of Psychology, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio44325.402relationships between personality and leadership emergence inboth reviews. For example, Mann (1959, p. 247) reported that88% of the 196 relations between intelligence and leadershipwere positive, 92 of these 196 relations were significant, and99% of the significant relations were in the positive direction.Nevertheless, Mann chose to emphasize the low median corre-lations between leadership and traits such as intelligence ratherthan the consistency in the trends he uncovered. Others haveprimarily restated his conclusions rather than critically reevalu-ating his empirical evidence. Third, the number of studies uponwhich Mann based his conclusions is far fewer than most peoplerealize. Mann's unit of analysis was the relation between everymeasure of leadership and every measure of personality, not theaggregate findings of a particular study. Thus, whereas he inves-tigated 196 relations between intelligence and leadership, thesenumerous relations came from only 28 independent studies, Forother traits, such as masculinity-femininity, only 9 indepen-dent studies produced the 70 relations he investigated.The net impact of Stogdill's and Mann's reviews was substan-tial. Current experts in the leadership area (Mitchell, 1982,p. 370; Yukl, 1981, pp. 69-70) have noted the substantial im-pact of Stogdill's review on subsequent trait research. This neg-ative perspective on trait theory is also reflected in current textson applied psychology. For example, Muchinsky (1983, p. 403)notes that there is "little or no connection between personalitytraits and leader effectiveness," and Landy (1985, p. 428) citesthe Stogdill and Mann reviews as having demonstrated "no re-lationship between personality factors and leadership effective-ness,'In short, what has occurred in the scientific literature is anovergeneralization of findings on personality and leadership
to the issue of how personality relates to leader
Moreover, the actual empirical results seem to havebeen interpreted too pessimistically by Mann, and even StogdiU
TRAITS AND LEADERSHIP PERCEPTIONS 403(1974, p. 72) has noted that his 1948 review was interpreted toonegatively. But if one focuses on the question of how personalityrelates to leadership perceptions or emergence, as we do here,there are sound theoretical and methodological reasons for acareful reevaluation.Theoretical work in the social-cognitive area suggests thattraits should affect social perceptions. For example, Mischel(1973), in a cogent criticism of trait theory, suggests that traitsare important constructs for perceivers, helping them to orga-nize perceptions of others. More recent work (Winter & Ule-man, 1984) indicates that people unintentionally make trait in-ferences when encoding information into memory. Further,work applying categorization theory to the leadership domain(Lord, Foti, & De Vader, 1984) found several traits that werethought to characterize leaders in many situations. Thus, from
the perceiver's perspective, the
assessment of the traits of othersshould affect perceptions of other's leadership qualities. Hence,a cognitive perspective would argue that the traits of potentialleaders should affect the extent to which they are perceived asleaders by others.Methodologically, there have been a number of important de-velopments in statistically aggregating results across studiessince the Mann and Stogdill reviews were published. Tech-niques such as meta-analysis give better estimates of populationparameters than the median correlation used by Mann and byStogdill, and they can also indicate the proportion of variabilityin results across studies explainable by methodological artifacts(Hunter, Schmidt, & Jackson, 1982; Pearlman, Schmidt,Hunter, 1980; Schmidt & Hunter, 1977). The purpose of thepresent work is to apply such techniques to the literature inves-tigated by Mann in his 1959 review and to subsequent studiesrelevant to this area.In the following sections, we take a more detailed look at thesocial-cognitive perspective regarding leadership perceptions,provide more information on Mann's and StogdiU's reviews,and explain the advantages of validity generalization as a formof recta-analysis. We then use the validity generalization ap-proach to reexamine the Mann data base and discuss the im-plications of the resulting findings.lSocial-Cognitive Explanation of Leadership PerceptionsThe social-cognitive perspective explains social perceptionsin terms of perceiver information processing, paying particularattention to selective attention, encoding, and retrieval of infor-mation. Following this perspective, Cantor and Mischel (1979)argue that perceivers develop systems of cognitive categories inwhich people can be grouped. Categories are defined in refer-ence to prototypes, which are abstract collections of the attri-butes most commonly shared by category members. Becauseclassifying others into categories involves matching stimuluscharacteristics to appropriate perceiver prototypes, prototypesshould be key constructs for understanding person perception.If prototypes are widely shared in our culture and if they in-clude many trait terms, traits should be important perceptualconstructs, and our perceptions of others should be based ontheir match with the traits in our prototypes.This general theory of person perception is consistent withwork in the leadership area. Hollander and Julian (1969) arguedin an important theoretical paper that leaders emerged in groupsituations by fitting the shared conceptions of followers, empha-sizing the role of perceiver constructs in leadership processes.Though not stated in cognitive terms, Hollander and Julian'sview is quite compatible with the prototype matching view ofleadership emergence explained above. Stated somewhatdifferently, Hollander and Julian's work implies that followerswould tend to
others to lead when those others matchedfollowers' ideas of what good leaders should be.This perspective on leadership emphasizes lay people's con-ceptualizations of leadership---that is, their implicit leadershiptheories (ILTs). Extensive work on ILTs has demonstratedwidely shared beliefs about leader behaviors and traits (Eden &Leviatan, 1975; Lord et al., 1984; Rush, Thomas, & Lord, 1977;Weiss & Adler, 1981), that guide perceiver's encoding of rele-vant information (Phillips, 1984; Phillips & Lord, 1981, 1982),their formation of leadership perceptions (Fraser & Lord, 1983;Lord et al., 1984), and their reconstructive recall of leadershipinformation (Lord, 1985). Attempting to develop a cognitivedefinition of ILTs, Lord, Foti, and Phillips (1982) argued thatILTs were simply a type of category system. Their theory em-phasized the role of leadership categories and prototypes, show-ing that the prototypicality of behavior or trait information ex-plained both leadership perceptions and distortions in memoryabout leaders.More recent work along these lines extensively investigatedthe specific attributes associated with leadership in different sit-uations. Lord et al. (1984) argued that leadership was a superor-dinate category and that leadership, in conjunction with vari-ous contexts (business, military, education), defined basic levelcategories. They found that several traits characterized leadersin many of these contexts. Although scientific and lay defini-tions of traits differ, many of these traits can be associated withthe trait constructs investigated by Mann (1959). Based on thecorrespondence of traits presented in Table 1, intelligenceshould predict leadership emergence or perception in almost allsituations; extroversion-introversion and masculinity-femi-ninity should predict leadership perceptions in many situa-tions. Interpersonal sensitivity, dominance, conservatism, andadjustment probably would not predict leadership.In short, consistent with the social-cognitive perspective, re-search on ILTs shows that cognitive schema composed primar-ily of traits are important perceptual constructs that should pre-dict leadership perceptions or leadership emergence. This im-plication contrasts with more traditional thinking in theleadership area based on common interpretations of the Stog-dill and Mann reviews.Reviews by Stogdill and by MannThe prevalent belief that traits do not predict leadership per-ceptions can be traced directly to two widely cited reviews byStogdill (1948) and by Mann (1959). Stogdill reviewed studiesThe Mann data was chosen in preference to the data reviewed byStogdill because it (a) was more recent, (b) included studies that tendedto provide more of the information necessary for a meta-analysissuchas N size, and (c) did not include studies in which children were subjects,as did Stogdill.
Correspondence Between Traits in Implicit LeadershipTheories and Predictors of LeadershipPerceptions From Mann (1959)
Mann's traits ILT traitsFamilyresemblancevaluesIntelligence Intelligence .91Extroversion-introversion Outgoing .55Verbal skills .45Masculinity-femininity Aggressive .36Decisive .27Unemotional .18Interpersonal sensitivity Sensitive .00Caring .27Understanding .45Interested .09Concerned .09Dominance Determined .36Directive .09Tough .09Cooperative .09Flexible .09Conservatism Conservative .09Strict .18Authoritarian .18Disciplined .09Adjustment
ILT = implicit leadership theory. Numbers are Family Resem-blance Values from Lord et al. (1984), which indicate the proportion ofI 1 different situations in which subjects' combined implicit leadershiptheories indicated that a trait characterized leaders.from 1904 to 1947 that used physical characteristics or person-ality traits to differentiate leaders from nonleaders. For mostpredictor variables, he found quite variable results across stud-ies, although it should be noted that the measures of leadership,predictor variables, and population investigated also variedwidely across these studies. His most consistent findings per-tained to the relationship between intelligence and leadership.He cited 23 studies that indicated that the
average child or stu-dent leader
surpassed the average member of his group in intel-ligence, 5 studies that found no difference in intelligence, and 5studies that indicated that too large a difference was detrimentalto leadership. Of the 17 studies reporting correlations, the high-est correlation was .90, and the average correlation was .28.Clearly, there was a significant trend indicating that leadershipand intelligence were associated.Mann (1959) updated Stogdill's review, focusing on the rela-tionship between personality variables and leadership percep-tions in small groups. His review covered over 1,400 relations(p. 245) between personality and leadership, popularity, or taskactivity. In the reviewed studies, personality was defined in nu-merous ways, but Mann was able to organize over 350 differentpersonality measures into groupings involving seven major di-mensions: intelligence, adjustment, extroversion-introversion,dominance, masculinity-femininity, conservatism, and inter-personal sensitivity. He then catalogued the trends in results be-tween measures of these personality dimensions and leadership.Several findings from Mann's (1959) review are noteworthy.First, trends were strongly supportive of relationships betweenpersonality variables and leadership perceptions. For example,the percentage of studies indicating positive relationships withleadership was 88% for intelligence and
was greater than 70%for all other personality variables except conservatism.
Resultswere even more dramatic when the percentage
of significant
re-suits (which probably had larger N sizes) in the positive direc-tion was examined. For intelligence, 99% of the significant re-suits were in the positive direction, and this was 96% for adjust-ment, 94% for sensitivity, 92% for masculinity, 85% forextroversion, 71% for dominance, and 15% for conservatism.Thus, there were significant and consistent trends in the relationof personality to leadership emergence. However, in spite ofthese impressive trends, Mann emphasized the variability in re-suits and the low median correlations he found. For example,he concluded his review by reporting that "in no case is themedian correlation between an aspect of personality coveredhere and performance higher than .25, and most of the mediancorrelations are closer to. 15" (p. 266).The thesis of the present article is that Stogdill's and Mann'sfindings have been misinterpreted. The variability in resultsthey report may be due as much to methodological artifacts asto the variable relationship between personality and leadershipperceptions. Further, the low relationships often found may re-fleet unreliability of measures or range restriction in the sam-pies investigated. Finally, median correlations probably do notprovide very good estimates of population parameters, andthus, conclusions based on median correlations may be quitemisleading. Current methodology provides more precise waysto aggregate results over studies and to estimate population pa-rameters. These approaches are described in the following sec-tion.Validity GeneralizationValidity generalization, one type of meta-analysis, was devel-oped within the context of industrial/organizational psychology(Schmidt & Hunter, 1977; Schmidt, Gust-Rosenberg, &Hunter, 1980). (See Appendix for studies included in the Valid-ity Generalization Analysis.) Validity generalization has severaladvantages over other meta-analytic techniques. First, it cor-rects for some sources of artifactual variance across studies.Second, it provides an estimate of the population effect size,whereas many meta-analyses focus only on cumulating signifi-cance indices. Third, it provides a test of homogeneity of vari-ance, which gauges whether the studies' results came from asingle population or whether situational variables may moder-ate the effect size distribution (Hunter et al., 1982).Validity generalization postulates seven sources of artifactualvariance that may act to reduce or attenuate individual studyresults: sampling error, differences across studies in criterionand predictor reliability, differences across studies in range re-striction, clerical errors, criterion contamination, and mistakesin analysis. The three sources of error that are practical to esti-mate when cumulating studies are error due to sampling, pre-dictor unreliability, and range restriction.It is interesting to note that sampling error has accountedfor the majority of explained variance in validity generalization

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