Personality Traits and Leadership

Table of Content

This paper will outline some of the many personality trait theories surrounding leadership and the ability to connect with people. Personality trait theories revolve around the idea that a leader will act, in most situations, according to their personality. The following theories will try to make sense of some of the ways leaders can be classified by their personalities and the positive and negative impacts of those personality traits and their theories. This paper will also outline how work may influence one’s personality and vise-versa. I chose to research personality trait theories because as an introvert, I’ve always believed you do not necessarily have to be an outgoing, outspoken individual to be a great leader and that personality traits do not always define who you are and who you can become.

There are hundreds of personality tests available online anywhere from “What kind of cat are you?” to the more professional, MBTI test. But one of the personality tests that can be found is based off of a popularly known type A and type B personality theory. This theory determines two personalities on different ends of the spectrum. Type A is known as the business type, all about the work and very time and task oriented, while type B is the more laid back personality. In the past, Type A personalities were often given top leadership roles in businesses because they are motivated and hardworking (Lipman, Yet, as more and more research comes out about personality and leadership it is found that a leader with type A personality could be detrimental when it comes to leading others. Because leaders with type A personalities are often seen as aggressive in their actions and highly stressed (Lipman,, it may lead to their followers and/or co-workers being stressed and it can create a un motivated and negative workforce.

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In addition to type A personality leaders causing a stressful environment, a study by Friedman and Rosenman found that there are correlations to those with type A personalities and cardiac issues. Because type A personality workers are always trying to achieve more even with less and less time it poses the issue that these high pressure situations, that they may be causing to themselves, are a link to type A personalities and coronary heart disease (Stickle & Scott, 2016). This is one example of how a personality type could influence their work. If an employee goes into a job with a type A personality, then that will outline how they do their job. That employee will make sure they get the job done no matter how hard they have to push themselves which may not always work for the employees around them, especially if the type A personality is the leader. Yet, another thing that could be said is that an employee could adapt to a fast paced, goal oriented job and therefore become a type A personality.

As for type B personality employees it has been found that even though they get a bad reputation, often labeled as lazy and laid back, type B personalities can be very committed and hard working when it comes to the workplace. Type B personalities are naturally less competitive and their sense of urgency is lower than their counterpart, type A (Stickle & Scott, 2016), but type B personality leaders could have the secret weapon to their followers happiness. Those with type B personalities have a naturally low stress output, even when faced with multiple deadlines their go-with-the-flow attitude can radiate calmness to their fellow employees. As Stickle & Scott mention in their article about personality types and workplace stress, “the difference is that Type B individuals seek fulfillment of these achievement oriented needs in a manner that doesn’t create the kind of psychological pressures that are commonly found in Type A individuals” (2016).

In regards to the personalities of the type A, type B theory, the article does not go into length about the future research or strategies that could be taken but they do go on to say that it would be important for businesses with high stress positions to have a “stress intervention policy” (Stickle& Scott, 2016) or a way for leaders and other workers with type A personalities to be able to de-stress and be able to re-focus on the tasks at hand.

Personality trait theories such as type A and type B can be useful in categorizing people very black and white, but another test is used to try to dig deeper into peoples personalities and why they behave the way they do. The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator test, or MBTI, is used among many businesses and schools to help individuals learn about their own personality traits and understand others personalities and values. In an article about the youth and what their leaders may look like the MBTI test is brought up. Afterall, over half of all leadership positions will be passed on to those in younger generations in the next decade as baby boomers are entering retirement and these roles will open (McElavry & Hastings, 2014). The test is used for training and theory but when taken honestly it can be useful. MBTI measures introversion & extroversion, senses or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving.

In a study performed by Owings and Nelson, the MBTI test was given to 147 state leaders and overall they showed high levels of extroversion, sensing and feeling (McElavry & Hastings, 2014). These results make sense when thinking about how these adults grew up. Since the test was back in 1976, these adults grew up without much technology at all meaning they had to be outgoing and have face to face relationships. That was also a time of going with your gut feelings, and sensing when things were wrong in situations because there was no internet to google solutions to problems or situations. As for the 149 student leaders tested, they showed high levels of thinking and judging (McElavry & Hastings, 2014). When digging into this I believe it is due to the fact that at this day and age we are able to search things so easily, weigh out the pros and cons and decide whether or not to act on something, before the situation even arises.

The MBTI test has been deemed by some as inconclusive and unreliable because it is a self-assessment. This meaning that one would have to be completely open and honest with themselves while taking it, not just taking the test for the result that they wish to have. In McElavry and Hastings’ article they propose that in future studies of this subject researchers should take into consideration the emotional intelligence of the youth participants in hopes that those with higher emotional intelligence will be able to conduct the self-assessment correctly, leading to more concrete data (2014).

When thinking about leaders and personality types, the words introvert and extrovert frequently pop up. Introverts are often mistaken as followers rather than leaders because they are less outspoken and tend to take more time to process concepts and issues rather that have an immediate reaction. Because many business owners are results centric, and extroverts tend to react quicker, these business owners may think that the extroverts are the best choice where they may just be the first choice. The argument that comes up is, which one is a better leader, the introvert or the extrovert? I believe it does not have to be one or the other but rather someone who has a few qualities of each, and it may also depend on the task or position at hand. If a business is looking for a sales clerk then they may very well end up choosing the extrovert for their skills in conversation and quick thinking. Yet, for a position that deals with fellow employees or a self-managing job, an introvert could be the best choice because they are able to analyze situations and come up with well thought out plans of action.

I have had to step up to a supervisors position in the past year and though I personally believe I am an introvert I believe that in certain situations I can talk to customers and can be a social person. In chapter 6 of the Leadership Challenge textbook, Cathryn Meyer talks about a conference in which the speaker “was not overly animated, he spoke genuinely and with thoughtfulness that conveyed his passion for his work” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). This is one example where someone who is an introvert can give the same message, if not more effectively than an extrovert, simply by being passionate. Kouzes & Posner also go on to mention “If you’re not excited about the possibilities, you can’t expect others to be. The prerequisite to enlisting others in a shared vision in genuineness” (2017).

In the last article I chose, writer Lu Chen suggests that one’s personality traits could influence their motivation to lead, as well as motivating other to lead (2016). Chen mentions that “personality traits positively predict motivation to lead” (2016) meaning the personality that a leader may have, such as an extroverted personality, predicts that that leader will be motivated by the opinions of others rather than an introvert who may get the motivation internally. In the article Chen focuses on the two extremes of personality traits, narcissism and humility. When most think of narcissism, they think stubborn people who think they are better than their peers. For some that could be true but Chen proposes that those narcissistic traits could have a positive effect such as self-confidence causing a naturally high motivation for a leadership position (2016).

When he goes on to discuss the counterpart, humility, he says that humility “carries positive components such as awareness of intrapersonal resources” (Chen, 2016). I found myself agreeing with a lot of his ideas about humility and how humble people have more realistic views of their abilities and their surroundings. Since humble people have a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses they know they may need other people to help with certain things, making them more likely to appreciate and give helpful feedback to their peers. Humble people tend to view leadership as their personality (Chen, 2016), which one could then say narcissistic people view leadership as their right.

These extreme measures of personality are just two examples of very strong and very possible ways of leadership and both can be a positive motivating factor in ones ability to lead their peers. In the future research section of the article Chen states that future researchers should try studying cross-cultural leadership traits and how they relate to development of the leader and its workforce as well as a more in depth understanding of the personality to leadership motivation link, such as conditional and situational factors (Chen, 2016).

In conclusion a leader must be able to move people in ways that could be difficult for them to achieve with their specific personality, but this is why different people are hired for different jobs. As stated in the first section of the paper, the types A and B personality theory is a very black and white theory only covering the two opposite ends of the spectrum, which could also be said about the introvert/ extrovert discussion. The MBTI test tries to cover the in-between parts of one’s personality, but where it is flawed is that the test is self-administered therefore creating varying results due to the emotional intelligence of the individual. After all, judging one’s ability to lead others solely on their personality would be careless. While personality may be part of a business’s decision to hire someone, it takes multiple factors to realize if someone is a fit for the job and a fit for the culture of the business.


  1. Chen, L. (2016). Linking Leader Personality Traits to Motivation to Lead. University of Electronic Science and Technology of China,1913-1924.
  2. Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations(6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  3. McElravy, L., & Hastings, L. (2014). Profiling the Youth Leader: Their Relationship to Leadership Skills. Journal of Agricultural Education,55(1), 134-145. doi:10.5032/jae.2014.01134
  4. Stickle, F., & Scott, K. (2016). Leadership and Occupational Stress. Western Kentucky University,137(1), 27-37. Retrieved September 12, 2018, from

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Personality Traits and Leadership. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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