Personality Traits in Leadership Behavior

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 8
Words: 2370
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD

Literature Review

This section reviews and evaluates the literature on personality traits seen in leadership behavior. Through this section, readers will be able to better understand what leadership is and how personality traits impact the style of leadership that is being implemented. The literature in this review is drawn from the following EBSCO databases: Academic Search Premier, MasterFILE Premier; as well as Jstore and various internet sources when applicable. Keywords used either individually or in conjunction include leadership, personality traits, employee, motivation and accountability.


As indicated by Derue et al. (2011) four characteristics are in demand within a technology-oriented enterprise, namely: high market responsiveness, fast developments, low cost, and finally high levels of creativity, innovation and efficiency (Derue et al. 2011, pp. 7-52). What must be understood though is that such characteristics are dependent upon the type of technical teams that are the backbone of the company wherein through the utilization of a variety of management practices a seamless integration of vertical and horizontal means of collaboration need to be implemented in order to create a stable organizational structure for proper operations and product development (Detert & Burris 2007, pp. 869-884). It is due to this that an effective leadership structure and leader must be put in place so as to properly guide employees and develop them into the sort of person that would take the company “to the next level” so to speak.

The Dubai Government and Leadership Programs

The Dubai government utilizes a constitutional monarchy framework as the basis behind its form of governance. It is due to this that many of its local governmental systems are in place primarily to assist in the development of city planning initiatives, citizen services (i.e. trash collection, police, etc.), and the maintenance of roads, buildings, and other such government facilities within the region. All in all, the Dubai government has 36 different public departments which encompass services such as Government Departments, Public Corporations, Law Enforcement Bodies, the office of the crown prince, Academic & Training Institutions, Public Authorities, Judicial Entities, Councils and centers. Its leadership program focuses on both a practical and knowledge-based method of development wherein individuals within the “leadership track” of the local government is placed into the Dubai School of Government in order to better understand public policy and what methods of leadership are necessary in order to enable operations within Dubai to run smoothly and safely. What must be understood is that method of training employees to become better government leaders actually encourages them and results in better leadership performance in the long term.

When it comes to continuous training development programs it is interesting to note that researchers such as Kaiser & Overfield (2011), indicate that by continuing to develop employees for them to accomplish multiple different tasks and become leaders, this actually results in a greater degree of job satisfaction since it takes away factors related to repetitious actions that actually cause job dissatisfaction (Kaiser & Overfield 2011, pp. 89-109). From the perspective of Kant (2013), an employee actually loses satisfaction with their job over time unless some degree of variability or encouragement is included to make the job more interesting (Kant 2013, p. 106). For example, various studies in psychology that have attempted to use economic theories as a means of explaining certain types of human behavior state that a job can be construed as being similar to the concept of marginal utility wherein the more you consume a particular product the more likely you will consume less of it later on (Burke 1965, p. 60). The same can be said for doing the same job over and over again wherein it will eventually reach a point where the marginal utility derived from doing it will be negative thus resulting in job dissatisfaction. To avoid such an occurrence, the Dubai government utilizes continuous training development programs in the form of the Dubai School of Government which allows government employees to assume different job roles as well as sufficient progress in their career as an optimum method for increasing job satisfaction since this enables them to “reset’ their marginal utility so to speak as they are placed into new roles (Kalshoven et al. 2011, pp. 349-366). This creates continued interest, the desire to learn and improve which results in a smarter, better, and more motivated leader.

About leadership

Effective leadership is defined as the ability to successfully integrate the individual talents of various individuals into a cohesive and cooperative whole that can effectively work together towards a perceived goal (Kenis 1978, p. 99). Based on this definition, the characteristics of an effective leader consists of being able to create cooperation and cohesiveness within a team setting, promote and guide the individual talents of team members, create effective and open lines of communication within the team and set appropriate goals and expectations in order for people to understand what is expected of them (Van Eeden et al. 2008, pp. 253-267). The true measure of an effective leader can thus be seen in two things: how the team arrives at a goal and the culture apparent in the team setting. The two aspects reflect on the ability of the leader to foster and create a cooperative setting for the team by which they are able to successfully and effectively meet target goals. The better the inherent culture is within the team the more it is that they will be able to meet goals and exceed expectations (Den Hartog & Belschak 2012, pp. 194-202).

Personality Traits

Hyun (2012) states that personality traits for leaders can range from effective conflict management skills, the ability to empathize with employees, analytical abilities to think without getting personal and a variety of other similar characteristics that define good business leadership (Hyun 2012, pp. 14-19). Every individual has their own specific set of personality traits with certain characteristics being more dominant than others. It is these dominant characteristics that shape an individual’s ability to become a successful leader since they define what he/she is capable of doing (Giberson, Resick & Dickson 2005, pp. 1002-1010). These strengths can support success by:

  1. Enabling a person to make necessary instead of emotional choices
  2. Giving the means to understand and empathize with employees in order to understand their strengths and limitations
  3. Creating an effective work environment by reducing the causes of conflict and mitigating problems as they arise
  4. Creating a mindset that takes into consideration all possible outcomes and views before making a decision

It is based on this that it can be stated that an individual’s behavior can be considered an important predictor of leadership effectiveness. For example, managers who showed that they were more conscientiousness of their employee’s individual needs and personalities as well as possessed a certain degree of extraversion were noted by upper management and individual employees as being better leaders since they tend to know what methods need to be implemented in order to get a team to work properly together within a workplace environment (Rubin, Munz & Bommer 2005, pp. 845-858). The same was said for leaders that possessed a high level of conscientiousness and agreeableness since employees felt that they were more willing to follow the instructions of such individuals as compared to those that had an aggressive and harsh stance on employee performance (Michel & LeBreton 2011, pp. 688-694).

Another factor that should be taken into consideration when it comes to assessing the leadership qualities in certain individuals is their view on accountability. In essence, the concept of individual accountability is a unit of measurement which refers to how a person is accountable for their actions and how this reflects on the success of a particular goal or stratagem (Walumbwa & Schaubroeck 2009, pp. 1275-1286). For the members of a group, this is reflected in their accountability in doing their job right in order for the group as a whole to succeed. For a leader, this means that he/she will be held accountable for all decisions made whether successful or not (Felfe & Schyns 2010, pp. 393-410). It must be noted that the measure of an effective leader is the ability to accept one’s own individual accountability in the face of an unsuccessful operation. A leader that “passes the buck” so to speak and relegates the blame to the efforts of the team is a type of leader that will never grow and will run any company into the ground. Individual accountability helps a leader take note of his/her failings, learn from his/her mistakes and move forward (Oshagbemi & Ocholi 2013, pp. 102-115). It is only through the acceptance of responsibility and all that it entails that an effective leader can truly be made (Kornør & Nordvik 2004, pp. 49-54).

Impact of Personality Traits on Leadership Behaviors

Through the study of Robertson & Myers (1969), it was seen that individual personality traits had a distinct impact on the type of leadership style that was implemented (Robertson & Myers 1969, pp. 164-168). Extroverted individuals tend to have a more proactive style of leadership wherein they are more hands-on, sociable, interact more with their employees, and focus on developing long-lasting relationships that ensure employees want to stay with the company since they enjoy working for the leader in question (Oostrom et al. 2012, pp. 335-353).

On the other end of the spectrum are individuals with introverted personality traits, these leaders tend to be more passive, less hands-on, and focus on a more “by the book strategy” as compared to their extroverted counterparts who focus on taking the initiative and developing more creative policies (Zacher 2011, p. 43). In the case of introverts, it is usually seen that they tend to be separated into two distinct categories, namely those who are noted for their inaction or those that focus on merely relaying instructions without actually helping the employee carry out the activity with a plan of action (Walter, Cole & Humphrey 2011, pp. 45-59). The main problem with leaders that are noted for their inaction is that they tend to get very little done and this adversely affects the organization as a whole. On the other hand, introverted leaders that merely hand out instructions without sufficient planning tend to create poor results from employees since such employees tend to be lost as to what their work is meant to accomplish (Bucur 2012, pp. 133-138).

It should also be noted that of the most important impacts of personality on leadership behavior is the difference between ethical and unethical behaviors. The fact is that some management styles unfairly use the situations of employees in order to derive every single ounce of performance out of them while at the same time paying them a mere pittance. Such practices are beneficial for the bottom line of the company but are considered unethical since it is a form of abuse (Church & Waclawski 1998, pp. 99-125). One example of this can be seen in Foxconn (one of Apple’s major suppliers) and how they supposedly abuse their employees in China in order to get them to work more. The final point of interest in this section is instances where serious problems are overlooked in favor of having work continue as usual (Bono 2012, p. 132). This can come in the form of environmentally damaging practices or employee abuse. The reason this is important is due to the fact overlooking such factors is highly unethical and would reflect badly on the company if discovered (Cogliser et al. 2012, pp. 752-784).

For example, the recent scandal of bribery in Mexico involving Wal-Mart definitely reflects badly on the company. What you have to understand is that all the negative factors indicated within this section are indicative of company management practices that actually result in adverse effects on a company’s talent pool (Walter & Bruch 2009, pp. 1428-1452). For example, practices which involve making an employee work harder than they should employ ethically dubious methods of operation, as well as other similar factors, are actually detrimental to leadership practices since they either create a situation where employees are more likely to leave the company or the company would develop employees that are distinctly unethical in their own method of working (Marshall et al. 2012, pp. 707-723). It is based on this that any examination of an organization regarding its leadership practices should involve the manner in which they treat their workers and the nature of the ethical codes of conduct of the company (Levine et al. 2010, pp. 576-591). Ethically sound companies are able to retain workers more effectively and develop better talent pools since such practices encourage employees to stay with the company due to the overall positive regard for the company’s practices (Ali et al. 2011, pp. 610-617).


When it comes to becoming a successful leader, one must always take into account three distinct factors namely: the decisions that you will make in the future, how you will treat your employees and how to acknowledge personal mistakes when they are made. When it comes to the process of making decisions critical thinking plays an important role in being able to make the right decisions at the right time. There is an old saying that states “time waits for no one” such a statement exemplifies the decision-making process in most businesses where critical evaluations must be done quickly, effectively, and above all correctly in order to ensure the success of the business. On the other hand, being a business leader also entails the level of interaction one has with his/her employees or team. Effective leadership must always take into account the various nuances that compose a team and learn to effectively mitigate problems, guide individuals appropriately and be a leader that is open to communication and new ideas. This ensures that a leader is able to trust his team explicitly resulting in better and more successful goals in the future. Lastly, leadership success is always measured by the amount of accountability a person takes for his actions. Whether in success or failure, accountability is the ability of a person to accept responsibility for one’s actions and learn from them, a trait that is important in being able to make sound leadership decisions in the future.

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