Traits That Drive Great Leaders

Leaders in business and government often have a number of personality traits and behaviors that contribute to their greatness. Some leaders inspire an entire generation, like Steve Jobs. Franklin Roosevelt reinvigorated the U.S. during the Great Depression, and JFK is considered by many to be one of the greatest Presidents we’ve ever had, even if he didn’t serve a full term.

When we see leaders fail, however, we wonder what got in the way of success. Did they not have the right stuff? Are there traits that contribute to greatness and some that hinder it?

The answer is yes! Here are our top 3 personality traits that a leader needs to be successful.

Not Too Agreeable
Does this strike you as a bit odd? Think about it… a person who is overly agreeable, giving in to everyone’s wishes, trusting by nature, overly forgiving of mistakes… this person might make a great customer service rep (or best friend), but they’d probably make a lousy President.

Our research has found that people who score in the average or slightly below average range on the Agreeableness scale of our Personal Characteristics Inventory® (PCI) make better leaders. They can make the hard decisions. They’re respectful, yet objective in their dealings with people and decision making.

Highly Conscientious

A conscientious leader will be hard working, goal-oriented, persistent, and always striving for continuous improvement. Their inherent ability to plan ahead and set long-term goals will help a company grow and succeed. They may not be spontaneous, but they see the road to the future and ensure the company stays on course.

Emotionally Stable

Steering a ship isn’t always a day in the sun. Storms and waves can threaten progress, and the captain must be able to make decisions under pressure without letting emotion swamp the boat. This might make a leader seem distant or uncaring, but in reality, they care deeply about their employees and the success of the company.

We measure for several other traits, including extraversion and openness, when assessing a leadership candidate. At the end of the day, however, it’s not about how a person might behave, but how they do behave. Help executives at your firm understand that, and use personality assessments to continue to develop your workforce. 

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