By Hughes, R.L., Ginnett, R.C., Curphy, G.J.

Edited by Paul Ducham


What Is Personality? Despite its common usage, Robert Hogan noted that the term personality is fairly ambiguous and has at least two quite different meanings. One meaning refers to the impression a person makes on others. This view of personality emphasizes a person’s social reputation and reflects not only a description but also an evaluation of the person in the eyes of others. From the standpoint of leadership, this view of personality addresses two distinct issues: “What kind of leader or person is this?” and “Is this somebody I would like to work for or be associated with?” In a practical sense, this view of personality comes into play whenever you describe the person you work for to a roommate or friend. For example, you might describe him or her as pushy, honest, outgoing, impulsive, decisive, friendly, and independent. Furthermore, whatever impression this leader made on you, chances are others would use many of the same terms of description. In that vein, many people would probably say that U.S. President Barack Obama is smart, self-confident, outgoing, articulate, ambitious, and level-headed.

   The second meaning of personality emphasizes the underlying, unseen structures and processes inside a person that explain why we behave the way we do—why each person’s behavior tends to be relatively similar across different situations, yet also different from another person’s behavior. Over the years psychologists have developed many theories to explain how such unseen structures may cause individuals to act in their characteristic manner. For example, Sigmund Freud believed that the intrapsychic tensions among the id, ego, and superego caused one to behave in characteristic ways even if the real motives behind the behaviors were unknown to the person (that is, unconscious). Although useful insights about personality have come from many different theories, most of the research addressing the relationship between personality and leadership success has been based on the trait approach, and that emphasis is most appropriate here.

Traits refer to recurring regularities or trends in a person’s behavior, and the trait approach to personality maintains that people behave as they do because of the strengths of the traits they possess. Although traits cannot be seen, they can be inferred from consistent patterns of behavior and reliably measured by personality inventories. For example, the personality trait of conscientiousness differentiates leaders who tend to be hardworking and rule abiding from those who tend to be lazy and are more prone to break rules. Leaders getting higher scores on the trait of conscientiousness on personality inventories would be more likely to come to work on time, do a thorough job in completing work assignments, and rarely leave work early. We would also infer that leaders getting lower scores on the trait of conscientiousness would be more likely to be late to appointments, make impulsive decisions, or fail to follow through with commitments and achieve results.

  Personality traits are useful concepts for explaining why people act fairly consistently from one situation to the next. This cross-situational consistency in behavior may be thought of as analogous to the seasonal weather patterns in different cities. We know that it is extremely cold and dry in Minneapolis in January and hot and humid in Hong Kong in August. Therefore, we can do a pretty good job of predicting what the weather will generally be like in Minneapolis in January, even though our predictions for any particular day will not be perfect. Although the average January temperature in Minneapolis hovers around 20°F, the temperature ranges from 230°F to 30°F on any single day in January. Similarly, knowing how two people differ on a particular personality trait can help us predict more accurately how they will tend to act in a variety of situations. .

    Just as various climate factors can affect the temperature on any single day, so can external factors affect a leader’s behavior in any given situation. The trait approach maintains that a leader’s behavior reflects an interaction between his or her personality traits and various situational factors (see, for example, Highlight 6.1). Traits play a particularly important role in determining how people behave in unfamiliar, ambiguous, or what we might call weak situations. On the other hand, situations that are governed by clearly specified rules, demands, or organizational policies— strong situations —often minimize the effects traits have on behavior.

    The strength of the relationship between personality traits and leadership effectiveness is often inversely related to the relative strength of the situation; that is, personality traits are more closely related to leadership effectiveness in weak or ambiguous situations. Given the accelerated pace of change in most organizations today, it is likely that leaders will face even more unfamiliar and ambiguous situations in the future. Therefore, personality traits may play an increasingly important role in a leader’s behavior. If organizations can accurately identify the personality traits of leadership and the individuals who possess them, they should be able to do a better job of promoting the right people into leadership positions. And if the right people are in leadership positions, the odds of achieving organizational success should be dramatically improved. The next section describes some research efforts to identify those personality traits that help leaders build teams and get results through others.

Personality and the Presidency


Traits are unseen dispositions that can affect the way people act. Their existence can be inferred by a leader’s consistent pattern of behaviors. For example, one way of examining a leader’s standing on the trait of achievement orientation is to examine her or his achievements and accomplishments over a life span. Leaders with higher levels of achievement orientation tend to set high personal goals and are persistent in the pursuit of these goals. When considering the following leader’s achievements and accomplishments, think about this person’s standing on this personality trait, and try to guess who this person might be:

Age 23: lost a job.

Age 23: was defeated in a bid for state legislature.

Age 24: failed in a business venture.

Age 25: was elected to state legislature.

Age 26: sweetheart died.

Age 27: experienced several emotional problems.

Age 27: was defeated in a bid to be speaker of the house.

Age 34: was defeated for nomination to Congress.

Age 37: was elected to Congress.

Age 39: lost renomination to Congress.

Age 40: was defeated in a bid for land office.

Age 45: was defeated in a bid for U.S. Senate.

Age 47: was defeated for nomination to be vice president.

Age 49: was defeated in a second bid for U.S. Senate.

Age 51: was elected president of the United States.

The person was Abraham Lincoln.


Although personality traits provide a useful approach to describing distinctive, cross-situational behavioral patterns, one potential problem is the sheer number of traitlike terms available to describe another’s stereotypical behaviors. As early as 1936 researchers identified over 18,000 trait-related adjectives in a standard English dictionary. Despite this large number of adjectives, research has shown that most of the traitlike terms people use to describe others’ behavioral patterns can be reliably categorized into five broad personality dimensions. Historically this five-dimension model was first identified as early as 1915 and independently verified in 1934, but over the years a number of researchers using diverse samples and assessment instruments have noted similar results. Given the robustness of these findings, a compelling body of evidence appears to support these five dimensions of personality. These dimensions are referred to in personality literature as the Five Factor Model (FFM) or OCEAN model of personality, and most modern personality researchers endorse some version of this model. 

At its core, the Five Factor or OCEAN model of personality is a categorization scheme. Most, if not all, of the personality traits that you would use to describe someone else could be reliably categorized into one of the five OCEAN personality dimensions. A description of the model can be found in Table 6.1. The five major dimensions include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The first of these dimensions, openness to experience, is concerned with curiosity, innovative thinking, assimilating new information, and being open to new experiences. Leaders higher in openness to experience tend to be imaginative, broad-minded, and curious and are more strategic, bigpicture thinkers; they seek new experiences through travel, the arts, movies, sports, reading, going to new restaurants, or learning about new cultures. Individuals lower in openness to experience tend to be more practical, tactical, and have narrower interests; they like doing things using tried-and-true ways rather than experimenting with new ways. Note that openness to experience is not the same thing as intelligence—smart people are not necessarily intellectually curious.

     A key research question is whether people who are curious and bigpicture thinkers are more effective leaders than those who are more pragmatic. Research has shown that openness to experience is an important component of leadership effectiveness and seems particularly important at higher organizational levels or for success in overseas assignments. People with higher openness to experience scores take a more strategic approach to solving problems, and this can help CEOs and other senior leaders keep abreast of market trends, competitive threats, new products, and regulatory changes. And because people with higher openness to experience scores also like new and novel experiences, they often enjoy the challenges associated with living and leading in foreign countries. Nonetheless, there are many leadership positions where curiosity, innovation, and big-picture thinking are relatively unimportant. For example, production foremen on assembly lines, store managers at McDonald’s, or platoon leaders for the U.S. Army do not need to be particularly strategic. These jobs put a premium on pragmatic decision-making rather than developing elegant solutions, so being higher in openness to experience in these roles can harm leadership effectiveness.

Conscientiousness concerns those behaviors related to people’s approach to work. Leaders who are higher in conscientiousness tend to be planful, organized, and earnest, take commitments seriously, and rarely get into trouble. Those who are lower in conscientiousness tend to be more spontaneous, creative, impulsive, rule bending, and less concerned with following through with commitments. The characters Bart and Lisa Simpson from the television show The Simpsons provide a nice illustration of low and high conscientiousness trait scores. Lisa is organized, hardworking, and reliable and never gets into trouble; Bart is disorganized, mischievous, and lazy and rarely keeps promises. Research shows that individuals with higher conscientiousness scores are more likely to be effective leaders than those with lower scores.

   In many ways conscientiousness may be more concerned with management than leadership. That is because people with higher scores are planful, organized, and goal oriented and prefer structure; but they are also risk averse, uncreative, and somewhat boring and dislike change. Although the situation will determine how important these tendencies are for building teams and getting results, research has shown that conscientiousness is a good predictor of leadership potential. Along these lines, conscientiousness seems to be a particularly good predictor of leadership success in jobs that put a premium on following procedures, managing budgets, coordinating work schedules, monitoring projects, and paying attention to details. People having higher scores on conscientiousness would probably do well in the production foreman, store manager, and platoon leader jobs but may not be as effective if leading sales or consulting teams, college professors, or musicians.

    Extraversion involves behaviors that are more likely to be exhibited in group settings and are generally concerned with getting ahead in life. Such behavioral patterns often appear when someone is trying to influence or control others, and individuals higher in extraversion come across to others as outgoing, competitive, decisive, outspoken, opinionated, and self-confident. Individuals lower in extraversion generally prefer to work by themselves and have relatively little interest in influencing or competing with others. Because leaders’ decisiveness, competitiveness, and self-confidence can affect their ability to successfully influence a group, build a team, and get results, it is not surprising that leaders often have higher extraversion scores than nonleaders. You can see differences in people’s standing on extraversion every time a group of people gets together. Some people in a group are going to be outgoing and will try to get the group to do certain things; others are more comfortable going along with rather than arguing over group activities.

   This strong need to assume leadership positions in groups is often associated with taking risks, making decisions, and upward mobility. Many of the candidates on the television show The Apprentice have high extraversion scores. These candidates are willing to make decisions and vociferously argue why they shouldn’t be fired when their projects go poorly. Those with lower extraversion scores often get “run over” by those with higher scores on their project teams. But as various episodes on this television show demonstrate, being the most decisive and domineering individual in a group does not guarantee project success. Many times those with the highest extraversion scores make poor decisions about their projects or fail to get the people on their projects to work together effectively. Although possessing too much extraversion can be problematic, in general people who are more decisive, self-confident, and outgoing seem to be more effective leaders, and thus extraversion is an important measure of leadership potential.

   Another OCEAN personality dimension is agreeableness, which concerns how one gets along with, as opposed to gets ahead of, others. Individuals high in agreeableness come across to others as charming, diplomatic, warm, empathetic, approachable, and optimistic; those lower in agreeableness are more apt to appear as insensitive, socially clueless, grumpy, cold, and pessimistic. Differences in agreeableness can easily be seen on the television show American Idol. Ellen DeGeneres has a high agreeableness score and never has a harsh word to say about any candidate, no matter how poorly he or she performs. Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi have moderate agreeableness scores and try to provide both positive and negative feedback to candidates. Simon Cowell has a very low agreeableness score and seemingly couldn’t care less about how candidates feel about his feedback.

    Although people with high agreeableness trait scores are well liked and tend to be better at building teams than those with lower scores, they can struggle with getting results through others. This is because persons with higher scores often have trouble making unpopular decisions or dealing with conflict and performance issues, which can negatively erode the effectiveness of their teams. Because of these difficulties, research has shown that agreeableness has had mixed results in predicting leadership effectiveness.

     Neuroticism is concerned with how people react to stress, change, failure, or personal criticism. Leaders lower in neuroticism tend to be thick-skinned,calm, and optimistic, tend not to take mistakes or failures personally, and hide their emotions; those higher in neuroticism are passionate, intense, thin-skinned, moody, and anxious and lose their tempers when stressed or criticized. Followers often mimic a leader’s emotions or behaviors under periods of high stress, so leaders who are calm under pressure and thick-skinned can often help a group stay on task and work through difficult issues. Unfortunately the opposite is also true.

    Differences in neuroticism can easily be observed in the judges on American Idol. Ellen DeGeneres has a high neuroticism score and readily shares her emotional reactions with candidates; Simon Cowell has a low neuroticism score and rarely displays any emotion on the show. Differences in emotional volatility certainly can affect a person’s ability to build teams and get results, and research has shown that neuroticism is another good predictor of leadership potential. Although lower neuroticism scores are generally associated with leadership effectiveness, people with low scores can struggle to rally the troops when extra effort is needed to achieve results or drive change. This is because these individuals are so flat emotionally that they have a hard time exhibiting any passion or enthusiasm. Charismatic leaders, on the other hand, often have higher neuroticism scores.

Table 6.1



The trait approach and the Five Factor or OCEAN model of personality give leadership researchers and practitioners several useful tools and insights. Personality traits help researchers and practitioners explain leaders’ and followers’ tendencies to act in consistent ways over time. They tell us why some leaders appear to be dominant versus deferent, outspoken versus quiet, planful versus spontaneous, warm versus cold, and so forth. Note that the behavioral manifestations of personality traits are often exhibited automatically and without much conscious thought. People high in extraversion, for example, will often maneuver to influence or lead whatever groups or teams they are a part of without even thinking about it. Although personality traits predispose us to act in certain ways, we can nonetheless learn to modify our behaviors through experience, feedback, and reflection.

    As shown in Figure 6.1 , personality traits are a key component of behavior and are relatively difficult to change. Moreover, because personality traits tend to be stable over the years and the behavioral manifestations of traits occur somewhat automatically, it is important for leaders and leaders-to-be to have insight into their personalities. For example, consider a leader who is relatively high in the trait of neuroticism and is deciding whether to accept a high-stress/high-visibility job. On the basis of his personality trait scores, we might predict that this leader could be especially sensitive to criticism and could be moody and prone to emotional outbursts. If the leader understood that he may have issues dealing with stress and criticism, he could choose not to take the position, modify the situation to reduce the level of stress, or learn techniques for effectively dealing with these issues. A leader who lacked this self-insight would probably make poorer choices and have more difficulties coping with the demands of this position.

    The OCEAN model has proven useful in several other ways. Most personality researchers currently embrace some form of this model because it has provided a useful scheme for categorizing the findings of the personality– leadership performance research.  Because research has shown personality to be an effective measure of leadership potential, organizations now use the results of OCEAN personality assessment for hiring new leaders, for giving leaders developmental feedback about various personality traits, and as a key component in planning succession to promote leaders.

   One advantage of the OCEAN model is that it is a useful method for profiling leaders. An example of a school principal’s results on an OCEAN personality assessment can be found in Figure 6.2 . According to this profile, this leader will generally come across to others as self-confident, goal oriented, competitive, outgoing, liking to be the center of attention, but also distractible and a poor listener (high extraversion); optimistic, resilient, and calm under pressure (low neuroticism); reasonably warm and approachable (medium agreeableness); moderately planful, rule abiding, and earnest (medium conscientiousness); and a pragmatic, tactical thinker (low openness to experience). Other leaders will have different behavioral tendencies, and knowing this type of information before someone gets hired or promoted into a leadership position can help improve the odds of organizational success.

   Another advantage of the OCEAN model is that it appears universally applicable across cultures.  People from Asian, Western European, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and South American cultures seem to use the same five personality dimensions to categorize, profile, or describe others. Not only do people from different cultures describe others using the same five-factor framework—these dimensions all seem to predict job and leadership performance across cultures. For example, in a comprehensive review of the research, Salgado reported that all five of the OCEAN dimensions predicted blue-collar, professional, and managerial performance in various European countries. But the strength of the personality–job performance relationship depends on the particular job. Some jobs, such as sales, put a premium on interpersonal skills and goal orientation (extraversion and agreeableness), whereas manufacturing jobs put more of a premium on planning and abiding by safety and productivity rules (conscientiousness). Researchers often get much stronger personality–job performance relationships when the personality traits being measured have some degree of job relatedness.


Figure 6.1

Table 6.2


Traits are not the only way to describe stereotypical behaviors. An alternative framework to describe the differences in people’s day-to-day behavioral patterns is through types, or in terms of a personality typology . Superficially there may appear to be little difference between traits and types; even some of the same words are used to name them. Extraversion, for example, is the name of a factor in the OCEAN model, but another framework may talk about extraverted types . And these differences are more than skin-deep. We will emphasize only one aspect of these differences—the one we believe is most fundamental conceptually. Each personality factor in the OCEAN model (such as neuroticism) is conceptualized as a continuum along which people can vary, typically in a bellcurve distribution. A person may be relatively lower or higher on that trait, and the differences in behavioral patterns between any two people may be thought of as roughly proportional to how close or far apart they are on the scale. Types, on the other hand, are usually thought of as relatively discrete categories .

    This distinction may be clearer with an example. Let us take the trait of dominance and compare it with a hypothetical construct we will call a “dominant type.” Psychological typologies are often expressed in terms of polar opposites, so let us further suppose that our typology also refers to the bipolar opposite of dominant types, which we’ll call submissive types. Importantly, people are considered to be one or the other , just as everyone is either male or female. If you are a dominant type, you are considered to be more like all the other dominant types than you are like any submissive type; if you are a submissive type, you are considered to be more like every submissive type than you are like any dominant type. In other words, typologies tend to put people into discrete psychological categories and emphasize the similarities among all people in the same category regardless of actual score (as long as it is in the “right” direction). Furthermore, typologies tend to emphasize differences between people of different types (such as between dominant and submissive types) regardless of actual score.

    Figure 6.3 illustrates this point. The upper line refers to the continuum of the trait defined at one end by submissiveness and at the other end by dominance. The trait scores of four different individuals—Jim, John, Joe, and Jack—are indicated on the scale. You can infer from their relative positions on the scale that John is more like Joe than he is like either Jim or Jack. Now look at the lower line. This refers to the typology of submissive and dominant types. The theory behind personality types suggests that John is more like Jim than Joe, and Joe is more like Jack than John.

Figure 6.3


One popular personality typology involves psychological preferences, or what we might call “mental habits.” Like traits, our preferences play a role in the characteristic and unique ways we behave from day to day.

    According to Jung, preferences influence our choice of careers, ways of thinking, relationships, and work habits. Over 2 million people take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test every year, 39 which not only is the most popular measure of preferences but also makes it one of the most popular psychological test. The MBTI is often used in college-level leadership and adult education courses, formal leadership training programs, and various team-building interventions. Moreover, numerous books and articles have been published about how the MBTI can be used to better understand oneself, co-workers, partners in intimate relationships, children, and educational and occupational choices. Because of the overall popularity of preferences and the MBTI, we believe it is worthwhile to review this framework and its most popular assessment instrument in some detail.

     Somewhat paradoxically, one reason knowledge about our psychological preferences is important is precisely because it is so easy to forget about them. It is easy to forget how subjective and idiosyncratic preferences really are; we easily confuse our preferences with the way things are or ought to be . For example, those who value being organized may prefer everyone to be organized. They may get annoyed when working with others who are less organized than they are. In other words, it is easy to let preferences affect judgments about others (people “should” be organized, and therefore not being organized is a deficiency). Many people are unaware of the extent to which their preferences shape their perceptions of reality

    According to Myers and Myers, 40 there are four basic preference diménsions in which people can differ. These four dimensions include extraversion–introversion, sensing–intuition, thinking–feeling, and judging–perceiving. These four dimensions are bipolar, meaning that individuals generally prefer being either, say, extraverted or introverted. A more in-depth description of the day-to-day behavioral patterns of these four dimensions follows.

     The extraversion–introversion dimension is fundamentally concerned with where people get their energy. Some leaders are naturally gregarious and outgoing. Their spontaneous sociability makes it easy for them to strike up conversations with anyone about almost anything. Not surprisingly, extraverts have a breadth of interests and a large circle of acquaintances. There are energized by being around others, but their tendency to “think out loud” and speak whatever is on their mind can sometimes get them into trouble. Other leaders are more comfortable being alone or with just a few others. Introverts can interact effectively with others, but they are fundamentally both more reserved and more deliberate than extraverts. Introverted leaders prefer to think things through and announce only final decisions, and followers may have a difficult time understanding the process such a leader used to reach his or her conclusions. Because introverts find being around others to be draining, they may come across as less approachable than extraverts. This preference dimension can be easily seen at parties and social settings. Extraverts work the crowd and are often the last to leave; introverts keep to themselves or talk to a small group of friends and leave early. Of course everyone needs to act in both introverted and extraverted ways at various times; however, some of us are more comfortable with one than the other..

      The sensing–intuition dimension is concerned with how people look at data. Leader who prefer the sensing mode like facts and details; the focus of information gathering concerns the real, the actual, the literal, the specific, and the present. Hence sensing leaders tend to be practical, orderly, and down-to-earth decision makers. By contrast, leaders who rely on their intuition look for the big picture beyond particular facts and details; information is most meaningful for its pattern, trend, figurative meaning, and future possibilities. Intuitive leaders tend to be innovative and conceptual (though sometimes impractical) and are more comfortable with their hunches and inspirations. This preference dimension can often be seen in presentations. A sensing leader will use a relatively large number of slides to explain all the facts leading up to a practical decision. An intuitive leader will use a few slides to summarize key trends and describe the possible implications of these trends. Intuitive leaders sitting through a sensor’s presentation might get bored with the details and think, “They just don’t get it.” Sensing leaders sitting through an intuitive’s presentation will wonder, “Where are the data?” and ask questions about the assumptions and facts underlying the trends and conclusions.

     Whereas the sensing–intuition dimension is concerned with how leaders and followers look at data, the thinking–feeling dimension is concerned with the considerations leaders prefer when making decisions. Thinking leaders like to analyze, criticize, and approach decisions impersonally and objectively. They use their heads to adopt a relatively detached stance toward decisions and pay more attention to operational, bottom-line considerations. Feeling leaders naturally empathize and appreciate, and they prefer to approach decisions personally and subjectively. They value humaneness and social harmony and use their hearts to weigh the impact of any decision on people. As an example, say a thinking leader was the head of a customer service support center, and his feeling follower just got a call that her child was sick at school and she needed to go pick her up. The leader’s first thought might be “How will I be able to field customer calls during my follower’s absence?” whereas the follower’s first thought might be “I hope my child is okay.” Similarly, the CEO of a large home improvement retail organization was a strong thinker, and one of his division presidents was a strong feeler. The CEO would look at monthly financial reports and make decisions that would improve shareholder value. The division president would look at these decisions and immediately think about how they would affect his 26,000 employees. Both the CEO and division president looked at the same reports; they just approached their decisions differently based on their preferences.

     The judging–perceiving dimension describes the amount of information a leader needs before feeling comfortable making a decision. Judging leaders strive for closure; they like things settled and come across as decisive, methodical, and organized. Judgers get nervous before decisions get made and want to see only the minimal amount of information needed to make decisions. Although they make up their minds quickly, they may not have all the relevant facts and as a result can make poor decisions. Perceiving leaders like to keep their options open; they are curious, spontaneous, and flexible. Perceivers prefer to collect as much data as possible before making decisions and get nervous after they are made because they may not feel all the information was collected or analyzed correctly. Although perceivers are good at gathering and analyzing data, they sometimes are accused of suffering from “analysis paralysis.” This personality preference can readily be seen in meetings. Judging leaders prefer to have an agenda, stick to it, and make as many decisions as possible in the meeting. Perceivers dislike agendas, do not mind going off on tangents, and may or may not make any decisions at meetings. They also have no problem revisiting decisions made in earlier meetings if new information comes to light. Judging followers can get frustrated working. for perceiving leaders and vice versa over these meeting and decisionmaking issues.

     As with personality traits, many leaders and followers exhibit the behaviors associated with their preference dimensions almost automatically, particularly in weak or stressful situations. However, it is important to note that people are not locked into exhibiting only those behaviors associated with their preferences. Leaders can and do exhibit behaviors associated with the opposite side of any preference dimension, but it takes personal insight and conscious energy and effort to do so. Moreover, the more extreme a preference score, the more likely the associated behaviors will be exhibited and the more effort it will take to exhibit nonpreference behaviors. One advantage of this framework is that the predominant preferences can be used to create 16 psychological types. For example, someone with high preferences for introversion, sensing, thinking, and judging would be categorized as an ISTJ type. A listing of the 16 types can be found in Table 6.2, and preference researchers believe that individuals within any particular type are more similar to each other than they are to individuals in any of the other 15 types.


Preference advocates maintain that no one type is necessarily better than others in terms of leadership effectiveness, and that each type has unique strengths and potential weaknesses. There is little published evidence to support this claim, but evidence shows that leaders are disproportionately distributed across a handful of types. As shown in Table 6.2, many more leaders are ISTJs, ESTJs, and ENTJs than other types. More research is needed concerning how preferences affect leadership, but it seems reasonable that awareness and appreciation of them can enhance any leader’s effectiveness.

     Although the MBTI is an extremely popular and potentially useful instrument, leadership practitioners need to be aware of its limitations and possible misuses. The four preference dimensions can provide useful insights about oneself and others, but the fundamental concept of type is problematic. First, types are not stable over time. Some research indicates that at least one letter in the four-letter type my change in half the people taking the test in as little as five weeks. Data also show major development changes in distribution of types with age.  It is difficult to see how one should select individuals for teams or provide career guidance to others based on types if the types (or at least type scores) change, in some cases quickly. Furthermore, because the behavior of two people in the same type may vary as greatly as that of people of different types, the utility of typing systems remains uncertain.

     But perhaps the most serious problem in using typologies concerns the way they are sometimes misused. Unfortunately some people become so enamored with simple systems for classifying human behavior that they begin to see everything through “type” glasses. Some people habitually categorize their friends, significant others, and co-workers into types. Knowledge of type should be a basis for appreciating the richness and diversity of behavior and the capabilities in others and ourselves. It is not meant to be a system of categorization that oversimplifies our own and others’ behavior. Believing someone is a particular type can become a perceptual filter that keeps us from actually recognizing when that person is acting in a manner contrary to that type’s characteristic style. Another misuse occurs when someone uses “knowledge” of type as an excuse or a rationalization for his own counterproductive behaviors (“I know I’m talking on and on and dominating the conversation, but after all, I’m an extravert”). In this case the misuse of type can become a self-fulfilling prophecy that may make it difficult for a leader to change a follower’s behavior. The MBTI is a useful tool for enhancing awareness of oneself and others, but leaders need to understand that, like any tool, it can be misused.

Table 6.2



The first formal linkage between intelligence and leadership was established around 1115 BC in China, where the dynasties used standardized tests to determine which citizens would play key leadership roles in the institutions they had set up to run the country. Using intelligence tests to identify potential leaders in the United States goes back to World War I, and to a large extent this use of intelligence testing continues today. Over 100 years of very comprehensive and systematic research provides overwhelming evidence to support the notion that general intelligence plays a substantial role in human affairs. Still, intelligence and intelligence testing are among the most controversial topics in the social sciences today. There is contentious debate over questions like how heredity and the environment affect intelligence, whether intelligence tests should be used in public schools, and whether ethnic groups differ in average intelligence test scores. For the most part, however, we will bypass such controversies here. Our focus will be on the relationship between intelligence and leadership.

We define intelligence as a person’s all-around effectiveness in activities directed by thought. What does this definition of intelligence have to do with leadership? Research has shown that more intelligent leaders are faster learners; make better assumptions, deductions, and inferences; are better at creating a compelling vision and developing strategies to make their vision a reality; can develop better solutions to problems; can see more of the primary and secondary implications of their decisions; and are quicker on their feet than leaders who are less intelligent. To a large extent people get placed into leadership positions to solve problems, whether they are customer, financial, operational, interpersonal, performance, political, educational, or social in nature. Therefore, given the behaviors associated with higher intelligence, it is easy to see how a more intelligent leader will often be more successful than a less intelligent leader in influencing a group to accomplish its goals. Like personality traits, however, intelligence alone is not enough to guarantee leadership success. Plenty of smart people make poor leaders—just as few intelligent people are great leaders. Nevertheless, many leadership activities seem to involve some degree of decision-making and problem-solving ability, which means a leader’s intelligence can affect the odds of leadership success in many situations.

     As shown in Figure 6.4 , intelligence is relatively difficult to change. Like personality, it is also an unseen quality and can be inferred only by observing behavior. Moreover, intelligence does not affect behavior equally across all situations. Some activities, such as following simple routines, put less of a premium on intelligence than others. Finally, our definition of intelligence does not imply that intelligence is a fixed quantity. Although heredity plays a role, intelligence can be modified through education and experience.

Figure 6.4


Intelligence and leadership effectiveness are related, but there is still an ongoing debate about the nature of intelligence. Many psychologists have tried to determine the structure of intelligence: is intelligence a unitary ability, or does it involve a collection of related mental abilities? 

Other psychologists have said that the process by which people do complex mental work is much more important than determining the number of mental abilities. One of the most comprehensive and compelling theories of intelligence developed and tested over the past 20 years is Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence.  It also offers some of the most significant implications for leadership. The triarchic theory focuses on what a leader does when solving complex mental problems, such as how information is combined and synthesized when solving problems, what assumptions and errors are made, and the like. According to this theory, there are three basic types of intelligence. Analytic intelligence is general problem-solving ability and can be assessed using standardized mental abilities tests. Analytic intelligence is important because leaders and followers who possess higher levels of this type of intelligence tend to be quick learners, do well in school, see connections between issues, and have the ability to make accurate deductions, assumptions, and inferences with relatively unfamiliar information.

    There is still much, however, that analytic intelligence does not explain. Many people do well on standardized tests but not in life.  And some people do relatively poorly on standardized intelligence tests but develop ingenious solutions to practical problems. For example, Sternberg and his associates described a situation in which students in a school for the mentally retarded did very poorly on standardized tests yet consistently found ways to defeat the school’s elaborate security system. In this situation the students possessed a relatively high level of practical intelligence, or “street smarts.” People with street smarts know how to adapt to, shape, or select new situations to get their needs met better than people lacking street smarts (e.g., think of a stereotypical computer nerd and an inner-city kid both lost in downtown New York). In other words, practical intelligence involves knowing how things get done and how to do them. For leaders, practical intelligence is important because it involves knowing what to do and how to do it when confronted with a particular leadership situation, such as dealing with a poorly performing subordinate, resolving a problem with a customer, or getting a team to work better together.

    Because of its potential importance to leadership effectiveness, several other aspects of practical intelligence are worth noting. First, practical intelligence is much more concerned with knowledge and experience than is analytic intelligence (see Figure 6.4 ). Leaders can build their practical intelligence by building their leadership knowledge and experience. Thus textbooks like this one can help you build your practical intelligence. Getting a variety of leadership experiences, and perhaps more important, reflecting on these experiences, will also help you build practical intelligence. But you should understand that it takes some time before you will become an “expert” at leadership—research shows that it takes 10 years to truly master any particular topic.  

    Second, practical intelligence is domain specific. A leader who has a lot of knowledge and experience in leading a pharmaceutical research team may feel like a duck out of water when asked to lead a major fund-raising effort for a charitable institution. As another example, one of the authors worked with a highly successful retail company having over 100,000 employees. All the key leaders had over 20 years of retail operations and merchandising experience, but they also did poorly on standardized intelligence tests. The company had successfully expanded in the United States (which capitalized on their practical intelligence), but their attempt to expand to foreign markets was an abysmal failure. This failure was due in part to the leaders’ inability to learn, appreciate, or understand the intricacies of other cultures (analytic intelligence), their lack of knowledge and experience in foreign markets (practical intelligence), and in turn their development of inappropriate strategies for running the business in other countries (a combination of analytic and practical intelligence). Thus practical intelligence is extremely useful for leading in familiar situations, but analytic intelligence may play a more important role when leaders face new or novel situations.

    Third, this example points out the importance of having both types of intelligence. Organizations today are looking for leaders and followers who have the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed (practical intelligence) and the ability to learn (analytic intelligence). Fourth, high levels of practical intelligence may compensate for lower levels of analytic intelligence. Leaders with lower analytic abilities may still be able to solve complex work problems or make good decisions if they have plenty of job-relevant knowledge or experience. But leaders with more analytic intelligence, all things being equal, may develop their street smarts more quickly than leaders with less analytic intelligence. Analytic intelligence may play a lesser role once a domain of knowledge is mastered, but a more important role in encountering new situations.

    The third component of the triarchic theory of intelligence is creative intelligence, which is the ability to produce work that is both novel and useful.  Using both criteria (novel and useful) as components of creative intelligence helps to eliminate outlandish solutions to a potential problem by ensuring that adopted solutions can be realistically implemented or have some type of practical payoff. Several examples might help to clarify the novel and practical components of creative intelligence. The inventor of Velcro got his idea while picking countless thistles out of his socks; he realized that the same principle that produced his frustration might be translated into a useful fastener. The inventor of 3M’s Post-it notes was frustrated because bookmarks in his church hymnal were continually sliding out of place, and he saw a solution in a low-tack adhesive discovered by a fellow 3M scientist. The scientists who designed the Spirit and Opportunity missions to Mars were given a budget that was considerably smaller than those of previous missions to Mars. Yet the scientists were challenged to develop two spacecraft that had more capabilities than the Pathfinder and the Viking Lander. Their efforts with Spirit and Opportunity were a resounding success, due in part to some of the novel solutions used both to land the spacecrafts (an inflatable balloon system) and to explore the surrounding area (both were mobile rovers).

   Two interesting questions surrounding creativity concern The Role of Intelligence and the assessment of creative ability. Research shows that analytic intelligence correlates at about the .5 level with creative intelligence. Thus the best research available indicates that analytic intelligence and creativity are related, but the relationship is imperfect. Some level of analytic intelligence seems necessary for creativity, but having a high level of analytic intelligence is no guarantee that a leader will be creative. And like practical intelligence, creativity seems to be specific to certain fields and subfields: Bill Gates cannot write music and Madonna cannot do math.

    Assessing creativity is no simple matter. Tests of creativity, or divergent thinking, differ from tests that assess convergent thinking. Tests of convergent thinking usually have a single best answer; good examples here are most intelligence and aptitude tests. Conversely, tests of creativity or divergent thinking have many possible answers. Although Sternberg and his associates showed that it is possible to reliably judge the relative creativity of different responses, judging creativity is more difficult than scoring convergent tests. For example, there are no set answers or standards for determining whether a movie, a marketing ad, or a new manufacturing process is truly creative. Another difficulty in assessing creativity is that it may wax and wane over time; many of the most creative people seem to have occasional dry spells or writer’s block. This is different from analytic intelligence, where performance on mental abilities tests remains fairly constant over time.



Some 200 separate studies have examined the relationship between intelligence test scores and leadership effectiveness or emergence, and these studies have been the topic of major reviews.  These reviews provide overwhelming support for the idea that leadership effectiveness or emergence is positively correlated with analytic intelligence. Nonetheless, the correlation between analytic intelligence and leadership success is not as strong as previously assumed. It now appears that personality is more predictive of leadership emergence and effectiveness than analytic intelligence. Leadership situations that are relatively routine or unchanging, or that require specific in-depth product or process knowledge, may place more importance on personality and practical intelligence than analytic intelligence. Having a high level of analytic intelligence seems more important for solving ambiguous, complex problems, such as those encountered by executives at the top levels of an organization. Here leaders must be able to detect themes and patterns in seemingly unrelated information, make accurate assumptions about market conditions, or make wise levels of analytic intelligence are associated with top leaders can be found in Figure 6.5 .

    Although a high level of analytic intelligence is usually an asset to a leader, research also suggests that in some situations analytic intelligence may have a curvilinear relationship with leadership effectiveness. When differences in analytic intelligence between leader and followers are too great, communication can be impaired; a leader’s intelligence can become an impediment to being understood by subordinates. An alternative explanation for the curvilinear relationship between analytic intelligence and leadership effectiveness may have to do with how stress affects leader–subordinate interactions. Fiedler and his associates found that smart but inexperienced leaders were less effective in stressful situations than less intelligent, experienced leaders. An example of this finding was clearly demonstrated in the movie Platoon. In one frantic scene an American platoon is ambushed by the Viet Cong. An inexperienced, college-educated lieutenant calls for artillery support from friendly units. He calls in the wrong coordinates, however, and as a result artillery shells are dropped on his own platoon’s position rather than the enemy’s position. The situation comes under control only after an experienced sergeant sizes up the situation and tells the artillery units to cease firing. This example points out the importance of practical intelligence in stressful situations. Leaders revert to well-practiced behaviors under periods of high stress and change, and leaders with high levels of practical intelligence have a relatively broad set of coping and problemsolving behaviors to draw upon in these situations. Because of the levels of stress and change associated with many leadership positions today, systematically improving practical leadership skills through education and experience is important for leaders and leaders-to-be.

    With respect to creative intelligence, perhaps the most important point leaders should remember is that their primary role is not so much to be creative themselves as to build an environment where others can be creative. This is not to say that leaders should be uncreative, but rather that most innovations have roots in ideas developed by people closest to a problem or opportunity (that is, the workers). Leaders can boost the creativity throughout their groups or organizations in many ways, but particularly through selecting creative employees and providing opportunities for others to develop their creativity, and through broader interventions like making sure the motivation and incentives for others are conducive to creativity and providing at least some guidance or vision about what the creative product or output should look like.

    Leaders can do several things to improve the group and organizational factors affecting creativity. Leaders should be mindful of the effect various sorts of incentives or rewards can have on creativity; certain types of motivation to work are more conducive to creativity than others. Research has shown that people tend to generate more creative solutions when they are told to focus on their intrinsic motivation for doing so (the pleasure of solving the task itself) rather than focusing on extrinsic motivation (public recognition or pay). When they need to foster creativity, leaders may find it more effective to select followers who truly enjoy working on the task at hand rather than relying on rewards to foster creativity.

     Creativity can be hindered if people believe their ideas will be evaluated. Experiments by Amabile and Zhou showed that students who were told their projects were to be judged by experts produced less creative projects than students who were not told their projects would be judged. A similar phenomenon can occur in groups. When a group knows its work must ultimately be evaluated, there is a pronounced tendency for members to be evaluative and judgmental too early in the solution- generating process. This tends to reduce the number of creative solutions generated, perhaps because of a generally shared belief in the value of critical thinking (and in some groups the norm seems to be the more criticism, the better) and of subjecting ideas to intense scrutiny and evaluation. When members of a group judge ideas as soon as they are offered, two dysfunctional things can happen. People in the group may censor themselves (not share all their ideas with the group) because even mild rejection or criticism has a significant dampening effect, or they may prematurely reject others’ ideas through focus on an idea’s flaws rather than its possibilities. Given these findings, leaders may want to hold off on evaluating new ideas until they are all on the table, and should encourage their followers to do the same.

    Finally, leaders who need to develop new products and services should try to minimize turnover in their teams and give them clear goals. Teams with unclear goals may successfully develop new or novel products, but these products may have low marketability or usefulness. An example illustrates this point. In the 1980s Texas Instruments (TI) decided to delve into the personal computer business. TI had a reputation for technical excellence, and one of the best managers in the company was asked to head up the project. The manager did not have a clear sense of what customers wanted or what a personal computer should be able to do. This lack of clarity had some dramatic effects. As more and more engineers were added to the project, more innovative hardware ideas were added to the computer design. These additions caused the project to take much longer and cost a lot more than planned, but the TI personal computer ended up winning a number of major engineering awards. Unfortunately it was also a business disaster because the product failed to meet customer needs. Although Compaq computers arose from the ashes of TI’s failure, the TI project serves as a good example of a concept called creeping elegance. Leaders without a clear vision of what a final project should look like may end up with something that fails to meet customer needs. Leaders need to provide enough room for creativity to flourish, but enough direction for effort to be focused.

    One industry that places a premium on creativity is the motion picture industry. Because creativity is so important to the commercial success of a movie, it is relatively easy for a movie to succumb to creeping elegance. But how do movie directors successfully avoid creeping elegance when dealing with highly creative people having huge egos? Part of the answer may lie in the approach of two of Hollywood’s most successful directors. Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard have said that before they shoot a scene they first have a clear picture of it in their own minds. If they don’t have a clear picture, they sit down with the relevant parties and work it out. This shows the importance of having a clear vision when managing creativity.

Figure 6.5


In the preceding section we noted that intelligence may be a more important quality for leaders in some situations than others. You may be surprised to learn, however, that recent research actually suggests there are times when intelligence may be a disadvantage. A key variable affecting this paradoxical finding seems to be whether the leader is in a stressful situation. Recent research suggests that stress plays a key role in determining how a leader’s intelligence affects his or her effectiveness. While it is not surprising that stress affects behavior in various ways, Fiedler and Garcia developed the cognitive resources theory (CRT) to explain the interesting relationships between leader intelligence and experience levels, and group performance in stressful versus nonstressful conditions.

    CRT consists of several key concepts, one of which is intelligence. Fiedler and Garcia defined intelligence as we have earlier—it is one’s allaround effectiveness in activities directed by thought and is typically measured using standardized intelligence tests (in other words , analytic intelligence). Another key concept is experience, which represents the habitual behavior patterns, overlearned knowledge, and skills acquired for effectively dealing with task-related problems (that is, practical intelligence). Although experience is often gained under stressful and unpleasant conditions, experience also provides a “crash plan” to revert back to when under stress. As Fiedler observed, people often act differently when stressed, and the crash plan describes this change in behavior patterns. For most CRT studies, experience has been defined as time in the job or organization. A third key concept in CRT is stress. Stress is often defined as the result of conflicts with superiors or the apprehension associated with performance evaluation. This interpersonal stress is believed to be emotionally disturbing and can divert attention from problem-solving activities. In other words, people can get so concerned about how their performance is being evaluated that they may fail to perform at an optimal level. In sum, cognitive resources theory provides a conceptual scheme for explaining how leader behavior changes under stress to impact group performance.

     Cognitive resources theory makes two major predictions with respect to intelligence, experience, stress, and group performance. First, because experienced leaders have a greater repertoire of behaviors to fall back on, leaders with greater experience but lower intelligence are hypothesized to have higher-performing groups under conditions of high stress. Experienced leaders have “been there before” and know better what to do and how to get it done when faced with high-stress situations. Leaders’ experience levels can interfere with performance under low-stress conditions, however.

    That leads to a second hypothesis. Because experience leads to habitual behavior patterns, leaders with high levels of experience tend to misapply old solutions to problems when creative solutions are called for. Experienced leaders rely too much on the tried and true when facing new problems, even under relatively low stress. Thus leaders with higher levels of intelligence but less experience are not constrained by previously acquired behavior patterns and should have higher-performing groups under lowstress conditions. In other words, experience is helpful when one is under stress but can hinder performance in the absence of stress.

    These two major predictions of CRT can be readily seen in everyday life. For the most part, it is not the most intelligent but the most experienced members of sporting teams, marching bands, acting troupes, or volunteer organizations who are selected to be leaders. These leaders are often chosen because other members recognize their ability to perform well under the high levels of stress associated with sporting events and public performances. In addition, research with combat troops, firefighters, senior executives, and students has provided strong support for the two major tenets of CRT.

     Despite this initial empirical support, one problem with CRT concerns the apparent dichotomy between intelligence and experience. Fiedler and Garcia’s initial investigations of CRT did not examine the possibility that Gibson showed not only that many leaders were both intelligent and experienced, but also that these leaders would fall back on their experience in stressful situations and use their intelligence to solve group problems in less stressful situations.

    Another issue with CRT concerns the leader’s ability to tolerate stress. As Schonpflug and Zaccaro correctly pointed out, some leaders are better able than others to tolerate high levels of stress. Some leaders have personalities characterized by low neuroticism scores, and they may do well in high-stress situations even when they lack experience because of their inherent ability to handle stress. Further research on this issue seems warranted.

    In general, solid evidence appears to support the major tenets of CRT. Because of this research, CRT has several important implications for leaders. First, the best leaders may be smart and experienced. Although intelligence tests are good indicators of raw mental horsepower, it is just as important for leaders to broaden their leadership knowledge and experience if they want to succeed in high-stress situations. This latter point may be important today, when the additional stress of organizational downsizing may cause the performance of leaders to be scrutinized even more closely than in the past. In fact, this additional scrutiny may cause leaders who were previously successful to perform poorly.

    Second, leaders may not be aware of the degree to which they are causing stress in their followers. If followers perceive that their performance is being closely watched, they are likely to revert to their crash plans in order to perform. If a situation calls for new and novel solutions to problems, however, such leader behavior may be counterproductive. A key point here is that leaders may be unaware of their impact on followers. For example, they may want to review their followers’ work more closely in order to be helpful, but followers may not perceive it this way.

    Third, the level of stress inherent in the position needs to be understood before selecting leaders. Those filling high-stress leadership positions can either look for experienced leaders or reduce the stress in the situation so that more intelligent leaders can succeed. Another alternative could be to hire more intelligent leaders and put them through stress management training so the effects of stress are minimized. It is also possible that experienced leaders may get bored if placed into low-stress positions.


So far we have discussed the role personality traits and types play in a leader’s day-to-day behavioral patterns. We have also described the role analytic, practical, and creative intelligence play in solving problems and making decisions. And we have discussed how stress can affect a leader’s ability to solve problems. An overwhelming body of evidence shows that these enduring patterns of behaviors and mental abilities have a big impact on leadership effectiveness, but we have not discussed the role emotions play in leadership success. To put it differently, do moods affect a person’s ability to build teams and get results through others? Moods and emotions are constantly at play at work, yet most people are hesitant to discuss moods with anybody other than close friends. It also appears that moods can be contagious, in that the moods of leaders often affect followers in both positive and negative ways. And charismatic or transformational leaders use emotions as the catalyst for achieving better-than-expected results. Given the importance and prevalence of emotions in the workplace, there should be a wealth of research regarding mood and leadership effectiveness; but this is not the case. Researchers have begun to seriously examine the role of emotions in leadership only over the past 20 years.

   The relationships between leaders’ emotions and their effects on teams and outcomes became popularized by researcher Dan Goleman with the publication of the book Emotional Intelligence . But what is emotional intelligence (EQ), and how is it the same as or different from personality traits or types or the three types of intelligence described in this chapter? Unfortunately there appear to be at least four major definitions of emotional intelligence. The term emotional intelligence can be attributed to two psychologists, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, who studied why some bright people fail to be successful. Salovey and Mayer discovered that many of them ran into trouble because of their lack of interpersonal sensitivity and skills, and defined emotional intelligence as a group of mental abilities that help people to recognize their own feelings and those of others. Reuven Bar-On believed that emotional intelligence was another way of measuring human effectiveness and defined it as a set of 15 abilities necessary to cope with daily situations and get along in the world. Rick Aberman defined emotional intelligence as the degree to which thoughts, feelings, and actions were aligned. According to Aberman, leaders are more effective and “in the zone” when their thoughts, feelings, and actions are perfectly aligned. Daniel Goleman, a science writer for The New York Times, substantially broadened these definitions and summarized some of this work in his books Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence. Goleman argued that success in life is based more on one’s self-motivation, persistence in the face of frustration, mood management, ability to adapt, and ability to empathize and get along with others than on one’s analytic intelligence or IQ. Table 6.4 compares the Salovey and Mayer, Bar-On, and Goleman models of emotional intelligence.

    Although these definitions can cause confusion for people interested in learning more about emotional intelligence, it appears that these four definitions of EQ can be broken down into two models: an ability model and a mixed model of emotional intelligence. The ability model focuses on how emotions affect how leaders think, decide, plan, and act. This model defines emotional intelligence as four separate but related abilities, which include (1) the ability to accurately perceive one’s own and others’ emotions; (2) the ability to generate emotions to facilitate thought and action; (3) the ability to accurately understand the causes of emotions and the meanings they convey; and (4) the ability to regulate one’s emotions. According to Caruso, Mayer, and Salovey, some leaders might be good at perceiving emotions and leveraging them to get results through others, but have difficulties regulating their own emotions. Or they could be good at understanding the causes of emotions but not as good at perceiving others’ emotions. The ability model is not intended to be an all-encompassing model of leadership, but rather supplements the OCEAN and triarchic models of intelligence.  Just as leaders differ in neuroticism or practical intelligence, so do they differ in their ability to perceive and regulate emotions. The ability model of EQ is helpful because it allows researchers to determine if EQ is in fact a separate ability and whether it can predict leadership effectiveness apart from the OCEAN personality model and cognitive abilities.

    The Goleman and Bar-On definitions of EQ fall into the mixed model category. These researchers believe emotional intelligence includes not only the abilities outlined in the previous paragraph but also a number of other attributes. As such, the mixed model provides a much broader, more comprehensive definition of emotional intelligence. A quick review of Table 6.4 shows that the attributes of emotional intelligence are qualities that most leaders should have, and Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee maintain that leaders need more or less all of these attributes to be emotionally intelligent. Moreover, the mixed model of emotional intelligence has been much more popular with human resource professionals and in the corporate world than the ability model. But does the mixed model really tell us anything different from what we already know? More specifically, is the mixed model different from the OCEAN personality model? Research shows that the mixed model assesses the same characteristics as the OCEAN model and is no more predictive of job performance and other important job outcomes than OCEAN personality assessments. Goleman and Bar-On deserve credit for popularizing the notion that noncognitive abilities are important predictors of leadership success. But on the negative side, they also maintain that they have discovered something completely new and do not give enough credit to the 100 years of personality research that underlie many attributes in the mixed model.

Table 6.4


The publication of Emotional Intelligence has encouraged an industry of books, training programs, and assessments related to measurement and development of emotional intelligence. Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso’s Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) is a measure of the ability model of emotional intelligence; it asks subjects to recognize the emotions depicted in pictures, what moods might be helpful in certain social situations, and so forth. Bar-On has self, self–other, youth, and organizational measures of emotional intelligence, such as the Bar-On Emotional Quotient—360 or EQi-S.

     The Emotional Competence Inventory (ECi) was developed by Goleman and consists of 10 questionnaires. These questionnaires are completed by the individual and nine others; the responses are aggregated and given to the participant in a feedback report. Because these researchers have defined emotional intelligence differently and use a different process to assess EQ, it is not surprising that these instruments often provide leaders with conflicting results. Nevertheless, the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service has used the EQ-i to screen potential recruiters and found that candidates scoring higher on the attributes of assertiveness, empathy, happiness, self-awareness, and problem solving were much less likely to turn over prematurely in the position and had a 90 percent chance of meeting their recruiting quotas.

     One issue that most EQ researchers agree on is that emotional intelligence can be developed. Goleman and Aberman have developed one- to five-day training programs to help leaders improve their emotional intelligence; Bar-On has developed 15 e-learning modules that are available at EQ One big adopter of EQ training has been the sales staff at American Express Financial Advisors (AEFA). Leaders at AEFA discovered that the company had a well-respected set of investment and insurance products for customers, but many sales staff were struggling with how to respond to the emotions exhibited by clients during sales calls. Moreover, the best salespeople seem to be better able to “read” their clients’ emotions and respond in a more empathetic manner. Since 1993 more than 5,500 sales staff and 850 sales managers at AEFA have attended a five-day training program to better recognize and respond to the emotions exhibited by clients. AEFA found that sales staff attending this program increased annual sales by an average of 18.1 percent, whereas those who did not attend training achieved only a 16.1 percent increase. However, this sample was small, and the comparison is somewhat unfair because the control group did not receive any kind of sales training in lieu of the EQ training. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the EQ training content actually adds value over and above five days of sales training.


Aberman maintained that people can be extremely ineffective when their thoughts, feelings, and actions are misaligned—for example, arguing with someone on your cellular phone when driving on a highway. It seems likely that leaders who are thinking or feeling one thing and actually doing something else are probably less effective in their ability to influence groups toward the accomplishment of their goals. The EQ literature should also be credited with popularizing the idea that noncognitive abilities, such as stress tolerance, assertiveness, and empathy, can play important roles in leadership success. Today many organizations are using both cognitive and noncognitive measures as part of the process of hiring or promoting leaders. Finally, the EQ literature has also helped to bring emotion back to the workplace. Human emotions are important aspects of one-on-one interactions and teamwork, but too many leadership practitioners and researchers have chosen to ignore the role they play. When recognized and leveraged properly, emotions can be the motivational fuel that helps individuals and groups to accomplish their goals. When ignored or discounted, emotions can significantly impede a leader’s ability to build teams or influence a group. As discussed in the personality section of this chapter, leaders who can empathize and get along with others are often more successful than those who cannot.

    Some of the more recent research in emotional intelligence indicates that it moderates employees’ reactions to job insecurity and their ability to cope with stress when threatened with job loss. Employees with lower EQ reported more negative emotional reactions and used less effective coping strategies when dealing with downsizing than those with higher EQ. Along these lines, other researchers report relationships between leaders’ moods and followers’ moods, job performance, job satisfaction, and creativity. And Boyatzis, Stubbs, and Taylor accurately point out that most MBA programs focus more on cognitive abilities and developing financial skills than on those abilities needed to successfully build teams and get results through others. 

Given these results, is it possible to develop emotional intelligence? The answer to this question is yes, but the path taken to develop EQ would depend on whether the training program was based on an ability or mixed model of emotional intelligence. An ability-based EQ training program would focus on improving participants’ ability to accurately perceive one’s own and others’ emotions, generate emotions to facilitate thought and action, accurately understand the causes of emotions and the meanings they convey, and regulate one’s emotions. These programs make extensive use of videotapes, Role Plays, and other experiential exercises in order to help people better recognize, exhibit, and regulate emotion. Because the mixed model of EQ encompasses such a wide array of attributes, virtually any leadership development program could be considered an EQ training program.

Despite the positive contributions of emotional intelligence, the concept has several limitations. First, Goleman and his associates and Bar-On have not acknowledged the existence of personality, much less 100 years of personality–leadership effectiveness research. As shown in Table 6.5 , Goleman’s conceptualization of EQ looks similar to the OCEAN model found in Table 6.1 . At least as conceptualized by these two authors, it is difficult to see how EQ is any different from personality. Second, if the EQ attributes are essentially personality traits, it is difficult to see how they will change as a result of a training intervention. Personality traits are difficult to change, and the likelihood of changing 20 to 40 years of day-to-day behavioral patterns as the result of some e-learning modules or a five-day training program seems highly suspect. People can change their behavior, but it takes considerable effort and coaching over the long term to make it happen. Finally, an important question to ask is whether EQ is really something new or simply a repackaging of old ideas and findings. If EQ is defined as an ability model, such as the one put forth by Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso, then emotional intelligence probably is a unique ability and worthy of additional research (see Figure 6.6 ). A leader’s skills in accurately perceiving, regulating, and leveraging emotions seem vitally important in building cohesive, goal-oriented teams, and measures like the MSCEIT could be used in conjunction with OCEAN and cognitive abilities measures to hire and develop better leaders. But if EQ is defined as a mixed model, then it is hard to see that Goleman and his associates and Bar-On are really telling us anything new.

Table 6.5

Figure 6.6