Personality and Leadership; An exploratory study of trait dimensions using factor analysis

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Personality traits can be associated with qualities of leadership, as well as followership, and may even differ situationally, as in work place settings. This is an exploratory factor analysis study, to define any underlying personality trait differences between leaders and followers. 281 participants (M=129, F=152) aged between 18-79yo from a varied background of multiple nationalities living in the UK were approached using opportunistic sampling. Each participant completed a questionnaire, constructed to measure the three trait dimensions of heartless-compassionate, optimism-pessimism, adventurous-cautious. As per previous research, the authors propose a theory that leaders are less sensitive to criticism, more positive in outlook, and more likely to be active experiencers, taking more risks as a result. As a result, the theory also suggests this is opposed to followers; those suspected to be higher in sensitivity, more passive experiencers, and avoiding risk. The hypothesis predicts that factors will arise, that cluster together participants low in compassion, high in optimism and high in adventure, suggesting personality traits may be a predictor of their future leadership status. The results from this study demonstrate that there were 4 distinct factors; active experiencers (AE), passive experiencers (PE), active risk avoiders (ARA) and self oriented (SO). These factors match up with prior research whereby leaders are less sensitive, more positive in outlook and are more willing to take risks rather than avoid them, however as sensitivity is appealing to a follower, leaders may display false sensitivity to increase followership. This paper discusses all of these traits in relation to leadership and followers, but also suggests further research into existing leaders falling in different fields, as perhaps the industry or arena that leadership is shown could change the traits required to succeed in that specific field.

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