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Personality and Leadership

Personality and Leadership

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Published by Caylie Hake

A brief essay exploring the role of personality in leadership

A brief essay exploring the role of personality in leadership

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Published by: Caylie Hake on Jan 17, 2013
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09/17/2013

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What role do you think personality plays in leadership?

A person acts in particular ways based partially on their personality, and a person’s personality is generally defined in terms of multiple traits. Leadership style and ability, which are determined by the interaction between a situation and a person’s traits, are thus related to personality. Personality directly affects what a person finds interesting, significant, or worthy of discussion and thus what they feel should be their platform as a leader. Their beliefs, values, morals, and convictions form their platform, or what will become their public identity.

The significance of personality in leadership is huge, and it’s important to acknowledge that incredible variations in leadership styles result from personality variations. On a spectrum, leadership styles could be arranged from least to most hands-on or least to most ambitious. Alternatively, styles could be arranged from easygoing to demanding, from quiet to ostentatious, or from passive to aggressive. Leaders can have unique combinations of these characteristics and thus can fall at different points on each spectrum.

Personality plays a role in how leaders address the issues of establishing themselves as a leader, gathering like-minded people, becoming more influential, interacting with group members, sharing and balancing power or control, and organizing the group. However, the overarching issue, which affects and encompasses all of the others, is how to make decisions. Decision-making methodology and ability result in part from personality.

Some people are inclined to make decisions quickly and then deal with whatever problems or successes result, whereas others are more likely to mull over options extensively, and perhaps excessively. The faster decision-makers might be more laid-back or feel less invested, possibly viewing the risk of one choice or another as a moot point. The slower decision-makers might have a more anxious personality or a perfectionist-type outlook. These people may feel more personally invested in the outcome of the decision. Of course, both personalities and decisions are complex, so situational differences could arise depending on the traits of each. If leadership power is shared among multiple people, the decisionmaking process becomes even more complicated, especially if all personalities involved tend to be hands-on.

Just as personality played a key role in decision-making, so it plays a role in how people establish themselves as leaders. Some have very outgoing, confident personalities that enable them to spread awareness, attract interest, and fall into the leadership position naturally. Others might be confident but less outgoing; they might come into a position of leadership via nomination, debate, and election. After taking the position, their confidence allows them to fulfill the duties of their new office.

One of the duties of leadership might be to spread the organization’s influence, sharing and exchanging ideas with people in the group and outside of it. For example, a leader could be required to speak publicly to an audience interested in the group. Some personalities would be happier to do this than others. Alternatively, maybe the group needs informative and eye-catching posters to present some information. The leader might make the final design decision, which could be affected by their dryness or quirkiness.

While expanding its influence, a group also develops its identity. The things that make the group recognizable, such as logos or shirts, and memorable, such as strong values and thoroughly researched information, all contribute to the organization’s identity. The public identity also helps draw in likeminded people. Group activities and values that are noticed by people from outside of the group can positively impact membership as these people begin to see how their own values and interests align with those of the organization. The leader’s personality can contribute immensely to the gathering of new members (and retention of the old ones). Because a leader can become a significant, recognizable part of an organization’s identity, the personality traits presented to the public are important. An extraordinarily intimidating leader, for instance, might hinder the group’s ability to gain more members, but an open-minded and pleasant leader could attract more potential followers.

Personalities have a huge effect on how a leader interacts with other group members. A pretentious leader would tend to look upon his underlings as people he must guide through everything, holding their hands or forcing them onward. A down-to-earth leader would be more likely to work closely with other members of the group, valuing all input as important. Such clear-cut personality traits aren’t the only ones affecting a leader’s interactions with the rest of the organization. Encouraging, excitable, optimistic, restrictive, and cautious are additional examples of personality traits that would have a bearing on such interactions.

The issue of group structure and cohesiveness is unavoidable and the setup used greatly impacts how decisions are made and how the group must function to stay active and socially relevant. Important questions such as the following must be addressed: how many leaders should there be; what is the hierarchy of members within the group; how many people and which people share the power; what is the extent of a leader’s power; how should leaders be chosen; should the group be divided into subgroups; and what issues should the group tackle? Different personalities yield diverse answers. If a leader has a domineering personality, for example, he might be more inclined to resist sharing power with others. On the other hand, someone with a less overbearing personality would probably be willing to balance power among multiple leaders. Responses to “Which issues should be the group’s focal points?” differ based on personalities, as well. Leaders could vary in ambition, tact, confidence, and other traits that could cause them to want to focus on issues of various complexities or consequences.

Infinite situations exist in which personality affects leadership; the interactions between the leader and the situation depend on the leader’s unique combination of personality traits. From deciding how to structure the hierarchy in a group to choosing the best way to spread the group’s influence, every person will act their own specific way. Leadership ability is so connected to personality that someone whose personality traits do not fit the group’s situation or environment has a greater chance of leading poorly. This may or may not prove detrimental to the organization, but the group has more opportunity for success if they chose a leader with the right traits to deal with the situation at hand. All considered, a group must carefully seek out a leader with a suitable array of traits given the situation at hand. No particular, defined set of personality traits will always work; some unique combination of traits will always prove best.

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