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Personality and Leadership style Essay

1. Personality

Over six billion people live on this planet, yet no two of us are alike. Our differences are predominantly reflected in our distinctive actions and our personal appearances. For centuries, people have wondered what makes each of us act the way we do. During this wonderment, people have come to the conclusion that actions reveal our character traits, which in turn reveal our personality. Our personality makes us unique. Furthermore, people distinguish themselves from others by their personal blend of characteristics and the level of emphasis placed on each trait. This distinction reflects our personality and makes us who we are: one in six billion.

Personality is defined as a unique blend of traits characterizing individuals, and influencing their interaction with their environment. The terms personality, characteristics and traits are used interchangeably throughout this paper. They refer to those variables judged to be most important and relevant to a variety of human functions, specifically leadership, which further distinguish an individual and influence his/her interaction with his/her environment. In Army for example, the Army’s Leadership manual lists seven values, three attributes, four skills and three actions as the fundamental leadership characteristics for effective leaders. Character is described in terms of an individual’s values and attributes, and is the sum total of an individual’s personal traits.

2. Leadership styles

A combination of influencing others and accomplishing the desired goal is essential in defining leadership. A leader is a leader because he or she has followers. One thing that distinguishes the process of leading is the willingness of the followers. People with authority, such as police officers, can force people to do things they do not want to do, but this is not leadership. Leaders inspire, challenge, enable, empower and encourage others to want to follow them to accomplish their shared missions or goals. Leadership is a dynamic process that deserves study. Leadership is a quality and a skill, which is both admired and needed in our military and our society. As pointed out in the definitions, leadership is a relational process involving personal interactions between leaders and followers. Leaders must continue to expand their understanding of themselves, their role in leadership, and develop their own leadership skills. One way to understand leadership is to review the various leadership theories that have evolved over the past century.

Many organizations require from leaders the ability to set and communicate goals, motivate, inspire initiative and empower the followers and facilitate change. Such style of leadership is known as transformational. On the other hand they may require effectively coordinating the subordinates in accordance with procedures and standards; this type of leadership is typically referred as transactional. The attributes of transformational and transactional styles are further explained below. There is a link between an individual’s personality and the leadership style individuals are most comfortable with and more likely to use. The connection between personality and leadership style was noted by several researchers and leadership specialists (e.g. Bass, 2000, 2008; Pillai, Schriesheim, & Williams, 1999; de Charon, 2003).

It is important to understand your natural leadership style so you can capitalize on your natural leadership strengths (or be aware of and address your natural weaknesses) for your career development, self-fulfillment and success at the workplace. Jung Typology Profiler for Workplace™ determines the most likely natural leadership style of an individual based on personality type and the expressiveness of various behavioral qualities such as vision, power, resourcefulness, empathy and other behavioral qualities. Based on your personality assessment, the JTPW Career Development Profile provides practical tips for becoming a more effective leader (or a more content worker if leadership is not your strength) and indicates possible pitfall.

3. Relationship between Personality and Leadership styles

The question of personality influences on leadership has been off studied but still presents a source of controversy. The unique blend of traits of a leader’s personality creates his or her leadership style and determines the quality of their leadership ability. Individuals with certain personality traits including integrity and honesty, vision, personal courage, good judgment, compassion, intelligence and knowledge, self-confidence, perseverance, enthusiasm, and initiative are more likely to become effective leaders. Four personality types are more likely to become effective leaders. ISTJ, ESTJ, ENTJ, and INTJ account for roughly 78 percent of middle grade to flag rank officers in the United States military. All of these personality types include thinking and judging (TJ). These four types, however, make up only 30 percent of the general population. Ninety-five percent of senior military leaders are thinkers, leaving only five percent as compassionate feelers. People who have task-oriented personality types tend to have considerable focus on details. They are not comfortable initiating an action-plan until they are satisfied they have all the necessary facts.

On the other hand, people who have relations-oriented personality types tend to have considerable focus on the result and are comfortable initiating an action-plan when they have just the essential facts (Blake & Mouton, 1982). Therefore, it is important for a leader to understand personality and accurately adjust leadership style to the management situation. The combination of leadership style and personality type appears to meld into a psychological combination that produces the ethos of a leader. “Leaders are not just identified by their leadership styles, but also by their personalities, their awareness of themselves and others, and their appreciation of diversity, flexibility, and paradox” (Handbury, 2001, p. 11). In addition, McGregor (1960) states, “It is quite unlikely that there is a single basic pattern of abilities and personality trait characteristics of all leaders. The personality characteristics of the leader are not unimportant, but those which are essential differ considerably depending on the circumstances” | Relationship Between Leadership and Personality 2(p. 180). Therefore, it may indeed, make a difference in ascertaining personality type in order to determine the correct job match between an employee and his or her colleagues.

Hogan & Kaiser (2005) define leadership as being about the performance of groups / teams. They argue that measuring personality is a valid predictor of leadership capability, when looked at from two perspectives, firstly how you think about yourself, and secondly, how others think about you, (Reputation). The two aspects of reputation they identify are the bright side, or when our social performance is at its best (In interview for example), and the dark side, which reflects the impression you make when you are off guard, or at your worst. The behaviors or tendencies you display in the dark side tend to be concealed by well practiced social skills, but over a longer time period, for instance in a work/career scenario, the dark side will negatively impact relationships with others. Many well practiced and refined candidates perform well in interview, using their social skills to mask their true behavior as a leader. The use of a trait model, where certain personality characteristics are seen as predictors or indicators of good leadership, are able to give a below the surface profile of a potential leader, and provider sign posts to potential problems.

Hogan & Kaiser make the important connection between personality and organizational performance through the importance of leadership style (Shaped by personality) shaping employee attitudes and the effective functioning of the team, which subsequently drives, or hinders, organizational effectiveness. Where personality is shaped in are younger years, and therefore less developable during are adult years, the skills approach focuses on the skills and knowledge required by a leader to be successful. The skills approach uses 3 skill areas, technical, human and conceptual and postulates that leadership ability is trainable. That is not to say that the skills model completely excludes the importance of personality as one of the three components of the skills model involves personal attributes which includes personality, cognitive ability and motivation.

The style approach to leadership emphasis the importance of behavior, which is different from the personal characteristics approach of personality based models such as the trait approach. A big question of course is can leaders behave in a way that contradicts their natural characteristics or personality? Perhaps in the short term, but on an ongoing basis? Using a tool such as the leadership grid appears to oversimplify the behaviors of leadership and shows little connection between the model of style and business performance. What good is a model, if it lacks predictive capabilities? Likewise who is to say that there is a certain style of leadership most suited to a specific situation! Situational leadership recognizes that certain leaders are more successful in certain situations and espouses the need for leaders to flex and adapt their style to match the situation.

Leadership style within a situational model of leadership focuses on the two spectrums of support and direction, and requires behavior to be adapted across both. When you look at some of the underpinning drivers of leadership approaches such as style, situation, and skill, we would argue that personality plays an important part. Our issue with all these models, including the trait model, is that for all the research and academic debate that has gone on over the last half century, why are we still so poor at predicting leadership success? Perhaps leadership of more of an art than a science and therefore the factors of success are less definable than we may wish for, the trait approach can be a useful tool in identifying who will not be successful in a leadership role. However, using an endless list of traits, based on some theoretical model of leadership.

Using the big five however, (Myers 2007, pp618 -620) and being clear regarding the consequences of an individual’s profile on the role you are looking to fill can be a valuable process to undertake. For us, businesses spend too much time looking to select people into a role and not enough focus on selecting people out of a role. In other words, identify those key characteristics, such as emotional instability, low drive, and a lack of conscientiousness, that should exclude a candidate from a process, and then consider their skills, style, and ability to adapt to different situations to inform your choice.

A final though on this subject is the different between Abell’s approach to linking leadership with strategy, a forward looking approach, and the immobility of approaches such as the skills approach, which appear more focused on management tasks rather than the leadership of future success. We would argue that this gives more support to the idea of using a personality based approach, such as that proposed by Hogan & Kaiser (2005), looking for that magic ingredient of leader who can transform the organisation, and more importantly transform the hearts and minds of the workforce.

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