Personality and Leadership: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review
Timothy A. Judge
University of Florida Joyce E. Bono
University of Minnesota
University of Florida Megan W. Gerhardt
University of Iowa
This article provides a qualitative review of the trait perspective in leadership research, followed by a
meta-analysis. The authors used the five-factor model as an organizing framework and meta-analyzed
222 correlations from 73 samples. Overall, the correlations with leadership were Neuroticism ⫽⫺.24,
Extraversion ⫽.31, Openness to Experience ⫽.24, Agreeableness ⫽.08, and Conscientiousness ⫽.28.
Results indicated that the relations of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, and Consci-
entiousness with leadership generalized in that more than 90% of the individual correlations were greater
than 0. Extraversion was the most consistent correlate of leadership across study settings and leadership
criteria (leader emergence and leadership effectiveness). Overall, the five-factor model had a multiple
correlation of .48 with leadership, indicating strong support for the leader trait perspective when traits are
organized according to the five-factor model.
The great Victorian era historian Thomas Carlyle commented
that “the history of the world was the biography of great men”
(Carlyle, 1907, p. 18). This “great man” hypothesis—that history
is shaped by the forces of extraordinary leadership—gave rise to
the trait theory of leadership. Like the great man theory, trait
theory assumed that leadership depended on the personal qualities
of the leader, but unlike the great man theory, it did not necessarily
assume that leadership resided solely within the grasp of a few
heroic men. Terman’s (1904) study is perhaps the earliest on trait
theory in applied psychology; other discussions of the trait ap-
proach appeared in applied psychology in the 1920s (e.g., Bowden,
1926; Kohs & Irle, 1920). Cowley (1931) summarized well the
view of trait theorists in commenting that “the approach to the
study of leadership has usually been and perhaps must always be
through the study of traits” (p. 144).
Despite this venerable tradition, results of investigations relating
personality traits to leadership have been inconsistent and often
disappointing. Most reviews of the literature have concluded that
the trait approach has fallen out of favor among leadership re-
searchers. As Zaccaro, Foti, and Kenny (1991) noted, “trait expla-
nations of leader emergence are generally regarded with little
esteem by leadership theorists” (p. 308). The original source of
skepticism with the trait approach is often attributed to Stogdill’s
(1948) influential review. Although Stogdill did find some consis-
tent relations, he concluded, “The findings suggest that leadership
is not a matter of passive status or of the mere possession of some
combination of traits” (Stogdill, 1948, p. 66). As Bass (1990)
noted, after Stogdill’s (1948) review, “situation-specific analyses
took over, in fact, dominating the field” (p. 59). Indeed, Hughes,
Ginnett, and Curphy (1996) and Yukl and Van Fleet (1992) com-
mented that any trait’s effect on leadership behavior will depend
on the situation. Even today, with the renewed interest in dispo-
sitional explanations of attitudes and behaviors, there remains
pessimism about the relationship of personality variables to lead-
ership. Conger and Kanungo (1998) described the trait approach as
“too simplistic” (p. 38). House and Aditya (1997) concluded, “It
appeared...that there were few, if any, universal traits associated
with effective leadership. Consequently, there developed among
the community of leadership scholars near consensus that the
search for universal traits was futile” (p. 410).
Notwithstanding these stark assessments, all of the aforemen-
tioned reviews uncovered some traits that appeared to be related to
leadership emergence or effectiveness. Table 1 provides the results
of previous qualitative reviews of the leader trait perspective. In
preparing this table, we took several steps to reduce it to a
manageable level. First, several reviews were excluded from pre-
sentation in Table 1 (e.g., House & Howell, 1992, was excluded
because it focused on charismatic leadership; Stogdill, 1974, was
excluded because it was quite similar to reviews completed before
[Stogdill, 1948] and since [Bass, 1990; Yukl, 1998]). Second,
characteristics that were identified as not being personality traits
(motivation, knowledge, intelligence—see below) were excluded.
Finally, Bass’s (1990) comprehensive list was shortened to include
only those traits that were supported in 10 or more studies in his
Several aspects of the results in Table 1 are noteworthy. It is
clear there is some overlap in the traits identified by the reviews.
For example, self-confidence appears in all but two of the reviews,
and other traits (adjustment, sociability, integrity) appear in mul-
tiple reviews. On the other hand, despite some agreement, the
reviews are not overly consistent. C. R. Anderson and Schneier
(1978) commented, “These searches seemed to result in a myriad
Timothy A. Judge and Remus Ilies, Department of Management, Uni-
versity of Florida; Joyce E. Bono, Department of Psychology, University of
Minnesota; Megan W. Gerhardt, Department of Management, University
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Timothy
A. Judge, Department of Management, Warrington College of Business,
University of Florida, 211 D Stuzin Hall, Gainesville, Florida 32611-7165.
Journal of Applied Psychology Copyright 2002 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
2002, Vol. 87, No. 4, 765–780 0021-9010/02/$5.00 DOI: 10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.765
of characteristics, few of which recurred consistently across stud-
ies”(p. 690). For example, (a) masculinity emerged in two reviews
(Mann, 1959; Stogdill, 1948) and is absent in all others, (b)
dominance emerged as an important leadership trait in some re-
views (e.g., Mann, 1959) but was absent in others, (c) four traits
(persistence, initiative, responsibility, and insight) surfaced in
Stogdill’s (1948, 1974) reviews but were absent in all others, and
(d) some traits appeared in only one review (e.g., alertness [Stog-
dill, 1948]; drive [Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991]).
It is telling that, except for self-confidence, no trait emerged as
related to leadership in a majority of these reviews.
Even when the same traits are included in these reviews, they
are often assumed to be distinct and thus are labeled differently.
For example, adjustment and self-confidence are indicators of the
same construct—emotional stability (Hogan, Curphy, & Hogan,
1994)—yet were reviewed as distinct traits in two reviews (Mann,
1959; Stogdill, 1948). Similarly, persistence and determination are
indicators of Conscientiousness (Costa, McCrae, & Dye, 1991) yet
were studied separately as well (Northouse, 1997; Stogdill, 1948).
One of the biggest problems in past research relating personality to
leadership is the lack of a structure in describing personality,
leading to a wide range of traits being investigated under different
labels. As Hughes et al. (1996) noted, “the labeling dilemma made
it almost impossible to find consistent relationships between per-
sonality and leadership even when they really existed”(p. 179).
House and Aditya (1997) commented, “One problem with early
trait research was that there was little empirically substantiated
personality theory to guide the search for leadership traits”(p.
In the only meta-analysis on the subject, Lord, De Vader, and
Alliger (1986) found two traits—dominance and masculinity–
femininity—that had statistically significant (nonzero) relations
with leadership emergence. Thus, the Lord et al. (1986) review did
provide some important support for trait theory. However, we
limited our analysis to the traits identified in Mann’s (1959) review
of small groups leadership, and most of the studies Lord et al.
analyzed were limited to those included in Mann’s review. As a
result of these limitations, the results have not been fully integrated
into subsequent reviews of the literature. For example, except for
intelligence, several more recent reviews of trait theory include
none of the traits specifically identified in the Lord et al. review
(Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991, Exhibit 1; Northouse, 1997, Ta-
ble 2.2; Yukl, 1998, Table 10-3). Thus, despite the contributions of
the Lord et al. meta-analysis, if one were to ask five leadership
researchers, in general, whether trait theory was valid and, if so,
specifically which traits were valid, one would likely get five
The purpose of the remainder of this article is to provide a
quantitative review of the relationship between personality and
leadership. One possible reason for the inconsistent and disap-
pointing results from previous reviews is that, until recently, we
have lacked a taxonomic structure for classifying and organizing
traits. Accordingly, in this study we use the five-factor model of
personality as an organizing framework to estimate relations
between personality and leadership. Furthermore, we estimate
relations involving multiple criteria. Lord et al. (1986) made a
distinction between leadership emergence and leadership effec-
tiveness. Accordingly, we estimate personality–leadership rela-
tions according to two criteria—leadership emergence and leader
effectiveness. Finally, because there is much concern in personal-
ity research about whether broad or specific personality traits best
predict criteria (Block, 1995; Hough, 1992), we also investigate
the relative predictive power of broad versus specific measures of
the Big Five traits. Before exploring relations between personality
traits and leadership, we provide a brief review of the five-factor
model and of the dimensionality of leadership.
Five-Factor Model of Personality
Consensus is emerging that a five-factor model of personality
(often termed the Big Five) can be used to describe the most salient
aspects of personality (Goldberg, 1990). The first researchers to
Past Qualitative Reviews of the Traits of Effective or Emergent Leaders
Daft (1999) Stogdill (1948) R. Hogan et al. (1994) House & Aditya (1997) Mann (1959)
Alertness Dependability Surgency Achievement motivation Adjustment
Originality, creativity Sociability Agreeableness Prosocial influence motivation Extroversion
Personal integrity Initiative Conscientiousness Adjustment Dominance
Self-confidence Persistence Emotional stability Self-confidence Masculinity
Northouse (1997) Bass (1990) Yukl (1998) Kirkpatrick & Locke (1991) Yukl & Van Fleet (1992)
Self-confidence Adjustment Energy level and stress Drive (achievement, ambition, Emotional maturity
Determination Adaptability tolerance energy, tenacity, initiative) Integrity
Integrity Aggressiveness Self-confidence Honesty/integrity Self-confidence
Sociability Alertness Internal locus of control Self-confidence (emotional High energy level
Ascendance, dominance Emotional maturity stability) Stress tolerance
Emotional balance, control Personality integrity
Independence, nonconformity Socialized power motivation
Originality, creativity Achievement orientation
Integrity Low need for affiliation
766 JUDGE, BONO, ILIES, AND GERHARDT
replicate the five-factor structure were Norman (1963) and Tupes
and Christal (1961), who are generally credited with founding the
five-factor model. The five-factor structure has been recaptured
through analyses of trait adjectives in various languages, factor
analytic studies of existing personality inventories, and decisions
regarding the dimensionality of existing measures made by expert
judges (McCrae & John, 1992). The cross-cultural generalizability
of the five-factor structure has been established through research in
many countries (McCrae & Costa, 1997). Evidence indicates that
the Big Five are heritable and stable over time (Costa & McCrae,
1988; Digman, 1989).
The dimensions comprising the five-factor model are Neuroti-
cism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and
Conscientiousness. Neuroticism represents the tendency to exhibit
poor emotional adjustment and experience negative affects, such
as anxiety, insecurity, and hostility. Extraversion represents the
tendency to be sociable, assertive, active, and to experience posi-
tive affects, such as energy and zeal. Openness to Experience is the
disposition to be imaginative, nonconforming, unconventional,
and autonomous. Agreeableness is the tendency to be trusting,
compliant, caring, and gentle. Conscientiousness is comprised of
two related facets: achievement and dependability.
The Big Five traits have been found to be relevant to many
aspects of life, such as subjective well-being (e.g., DeNeve &
Cooper, 1998) and even longevity (Friedman et al., 1995). One of
the most popular applications of the five-factor model has been to
the area of job performance, in which eight meta-analyses have
been conducted (G. Anderson & Viswesvaran, 1998; Barrick &
Mount, 1991; Hough, Ones, & Viswesvaran, 1998; Hurtz & Don-
ovan, 2000; Robertson & Kinder, 1993; Salgado, 1997, 1998; Tett,
Jackson, & Rothstein, 1991). The most often cited of these meta-
analyses is Barrick and Mount (1991). In reviewing the literature
on the relationship between personality and job performance, these
authors noted (pp. 1–2):
The overall conclusion from these studies is that the validity of
personality as a predictor of job performance is quite low.... How-
ever, at the time these studies were conducted, no well-accepted
taxonomy existed for classifying personality traits. Consequently, it
was not possible to determine whether there were consistent, mean-
ingful relationships between particular personality constructs and per-
formance criteria in different occupations.
One could easily substitute “leadership”for “job performance”in
the above quotation. Thus, just as the five-factor model has pro-
vided a valuable taxonomy for the study of job performance, so it
might for the study of leadership. Having defined the traits com-
prising the five-factor model of personality, in the next section we
seek to define leadership and its components.
As R. Hogan et al. (1994) noted, leadership can be conceptual-
ized and measured in different ways. It is possible to separate
leadership into two broad categories: leadership emergence and
leadership effectiveness (Lord et al., 1986). According to R.
Hogan et al. (1994), “research on leadership emergence identifies
the factors associated with someone being perceived as leaderlike”
(p. 496). Thus, leader emergence refers to whether (or to what
degree) an individual is viewed as a leader by others, who typically
have only limited information about that individual’s performance.
In contrast to being perceived as a leader, leadership effectiveness
refers to a leader’s performance in influencing and guiding the
activities of his or her unit toward achievement of its goals (see
Stogdill, 1950). R. Hogan et al. (1994) suggested that leadership
effectiveness should be measured in terms of team, group, or
organizational effectiveness. In practice, however, assessments of
leadership effectiveness most commonly consist of ratings made
by the leader’s supervisor, peer, or subordinate (or some combi-
nation of these three). Such ratings, although they represent the
predominant method of assessing leadership effectiveness, can be
criticized as potentially contaminated. Because such ratings rep-
resent individuals’perceptions of leadership effectiveness rather
than objectively measured performance outcomes (e.g., team per-
formance), they may be influenced by raters’implicit leadership
theories (Lord, Foti, & De Vader, 1984). However, whether ratings
of leadership effectiveness are biased by implicit leadership theo-
ries or selective recall, or even halo, there is evidence that ratings
of leadership effectiveness converge with objective measures of
work group performance (R. Hogan et al., 1994), providing sup-
port for the use of supervisor and subordinate ratings as measures
of leadership effectiveness.
Conceptually, leadership effectiveness and emergence represent
two levels of analysis. Leadership emergence is a within-group
phenomenon, as evidenced by many early studies of leadership
that were conducted in groups with no formal leader (see Mann’s
 review)—that is, a leader emerged from within a group. In
contrast, leadership effectiveness, as defined above, represents a
between-groups phenomenon. Effectiveness refers to a leader’s
ability to influence his or her subordinates. Therefore, the individ-
ual being evaluated must first be a leader. Subsequent evaluation
of that leader’s effectiveness implies a comparison to the perfor-
mance of other leaders, generally (by necessity) in different
groups. Although leader emergence and leadership effectiveness
are distinct in concept, in practice the criteria sometimes become
blurred, particularly when measured perceptually (House & Pod-
sakoff, 1994). Nonetheless, in the development of our hypotheses,
we distinguish ratings of a leader’s effectiveness from perceptions
of leader emergence.
Relationship of Big Five Traits to Leadership
Below we consider possible linkages between personality and
leadership. We organize this discussion according to each of the
Big Five traits. We then consider overall relationships between the
Big Five traits and leadership and the issue of the relationship of
lower order personality constructs to leadership.
Lord et al.’s (1986) meta-analysis revealed a corrected correla-
tion of .24 between measures of adjustment and leadership per-
ceptions on the basis of a relatively small number of studies
cumulated in their analysis. This estimate, however, could not be
distinguished from zero. Bass (1990), in his review, indicated that
almost all studies on the relationship of self-confidence—indicat-
ing low Neuroticism—to leadership “were uniform in the positive
direction of their findings”(p. 69). Hill and Ritchie (1977) sug-
gested that self-esteem—another indicator of low Neuroticism
(Eysenck, 1990)—is predictive of leadership: “It appears that there
is convincing evidence for the inclusion of self-esteem as an
PERSONALITY AND LEADERSHIP
important trait of both superior and subordinate in analyzing
leadership effectiveness”(Hill & Ritchie, 1977, p. 499). Evidence
also indicates that neurotic individuals are less likely to be per-
ceived as leaders (R. Hogan et al., 1994). In light of this evidence
and these arguments, we would expect that Neuroticism is nega-
tively related to leader emergence and leadership effectiveness.
In Bass’s (1990) review, results linking Extraversion to leader-
ship were inconsistent. In early studies (those completed between
1904 and 1947), Extraversion was positively related to leadership
in five studies and negatively related in three, and there was no
relation in four. Other reviews, however, suggest that extraverts
should be more likely to emerge as leaders in groups. Extraversion
is strongly related to social leadership (Costa & McCrae, 1988)
and, according to Watson and Clark (1997), to leader emergence in
groups. R. Hogan et al. (1994) noted that Extraversion is related to
being perceived as leaderlike. Extraverts tend to be energetic,
lively people. Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) commented, “Leaders
are more likely than nonleaders to have a high level of energy and
stamina and to be generally active, lively, and often restless”(p.
50). Adjectives used to describe individuals who emerged as
leaders in leaderless group discussions included active, assertive,
energetic, and not silent or withdrawn (Gough, 1988). These are
the characteristics of extraverts. Indeed, Gough (1990) found that
both of the major facets of Extraversion—dominance and socia-
bility—were related to self and peer ratings of leadership. Consid-
ering this evidence, Extraversion should be positively related to
both leader emergence and leadership effectiveness, although
somewhat more strongly to leader emergence.
When Bass (1990) listed the traits that were the best correlates
of leadership, originality—a clear hallmark of Openness—topped
the list. Openness correlates with divergent thinking (McCrae,
1987) and is strongly related to both personality-based and behav-
ioral measures of creativity (Feist, 1998; McCrae & Costa, 1997).
Creativity appears to be an important skill of effective leaders.
Creativity was one of the skills contained in Yukl’s (1998) sum-
mary of the skills of leaders, which was based on Stogdill’s (1974)
earlier review. Research indicates that creativity is linked to ef-
fective leadership (see Sosik, Kahai, & Avolio, 1998), suggesting
that open individuals are more likely to emerge as leaders and be
Conceptually, the link between Agreeableness and leadership is
ambiguous. On the one hand, cooperativeness tends to be related to
leadership (Bass, 1990), and Zaccaro et al. (1991) found that
interpersonal sensitivity was related to leadership. That altruism,
tact, and sensitivity are hallmarks of an agreeable personality
would suggest that leaders should be more agreeable. On the other
hand, agreeable individuals are likely to be modest (Goldberg,
1990), and leaders tend not to be excessively modest (Bass, 1990,
p. 70). Furthermore, although it often is considered to be part of
Extraversion (Watson & Clark, 1997), many scholars consider
affiliation to be an indicator of Agreeableness (Piedmont, McCrae,
& Costa, 1991). Need for affiliation appears to be negatively
related to leadership (Yukl, 1998). These factors suggest that
Agreeableness would be negatively related to leadership. In light
of these conflicting justifications, the possible relationship be-
tween Agreeableness and leadership is ambiguous.
Bass (1990) commented, “Task competence results in attempts
to lead that are more likely to result in success for the leader,
effectiveness for the group, and reinforcement of the tendencies”
(p. 109). We know that Conscientiousness is related to overall job
performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991), and this suggests that
Conscientiousness will be related to leader effectiveness. Further-
more, initiative and persistence are related to leadership. As Kirk-
patrick and Locke (1991) noted, “leaders must be tirelessly per-
sistent in their activities and follow through with their programs”
(p. 51). Because conscientious individuals have more tenacity and
persistence (Goldberg, 1990), we expect that conscientious indi-
viduals will be more effective leaders.
Similar to meta-analyses involving job performance in which
various aspects of performance are combined into an overall
estimate (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991), we investigated the rela-
tionship of the Big Five traits to leadership pooling across the
leadership criteria (effectiveness and emergence). As noted earlier,
conceptually, leadership effectiveness and emergence are distinct
constructs. However, operationally, both are generally measured
via ratings or observations of others, which means that both criteria
represent individuals’perceptions of leadership. Because there is
good reason to believe that Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Open-
ness will be related to multiple leadership criteria, we believe that
these traits will display significant (nonzero) relationships with
leadership in the combined analysis.
Relevance of Facets
One of the most prominent criticisms of the five-factor model is
that it provides too coarse a description of personality (Block,
1995; Hough, 1992). Although some researchers have argued for
fewer than five traits (e.g., Eysenck, 1992), most personality
psychologists who criticize the number of factors do so on the
basis of too few factors. As Block (1995) noted, “for an adequate
understanding of personality, it is necessary to think and measure
more specifically than at this global level if behaviors and their
mediating variables are to be sufficiently, incisively represented”
(p. 208). In industrial–organizational psychology, the relative mer-
its of broad versus specific traits (framed in terms of the
bandwidth–fidelity issue) also have been debated with respect to
the Big Five traits. Some researchers have argued in favor of traits
more numerous or specific than the Big Five. Hough (1992) argued
that the Big Five obscures important relations between traits and
criteria. She concluded, “If prediction of life outcomes or criteria
is important in evaluating personality taxonomies, the Big Five is
an inadequate taxonomy of personality constructs”(Hough, 1992,
p. 153). Conversely, Ones and Viswesvaran (1996) argued that
“broader and richer personality traits will have higher predictive
validity than narrower traits”(p. 622).
768 JUDGE, BONO, ILIES, AND GERHARDT
In accordance with the reasoning of the five-factor model critics,
the Big Five traits may be too broad to predict the leadership
criteria, thus potentially masking personality–leadership relations.
For example, the two main facets of Extraversion—dominance
and sociability (referred to by Hogan [e.g., R. Hogan et al., 1994]
as ambition and sociability and by Hough, 1992, as potency and
affiliation)—may correlate differently with leadership, and each
has been investigated separately as predictors of leadership (Bass,
1990). Similarly, the two primary facets of Conscientiousness—
achievement and dependability (Mount & Barrick, 1995a)—may
display differential relations with leadership. Finally, evidence
suggests that self-esteem and locus of control indicate the same
factor as Neuroticism (Judge, Locke, Durham, & Kluger, 1998). In
fact, Eysenck (1990) considered self-esteem to be a facet of
Neuroticism. However, because these traits have usually been
investigated separately rather than as facets of Neuroticism, it is
important to determine their individual predictive validity. As
Vickers (1995) noted, “no study has systematically sampled
leadership-relevant facets within the general personality domains”
(p. 15). Because there are arguments on both sides of the issue, we
investigated the relative predictive power of more specific facets
of the Big Five traits with respect to (a) dominance and sociability,
(b) achievement-orientation and dependability, and (c) self-esteem
and locus of control.
We conducted our search for studies on the personality–leadership
relationship in two stages. In the first search, we entered the keywords
personality and leadership and each of the Big Five traits and leadership
in the PsycINFO database (1967–1998; at that time, PsycINFO did not
contain studies prior to 1966). That search resulted in 998 studies. In
addition to the electronic search, we also manually searched journals
thought to be particularly relevant (e.g., Leadership Quarterly), as well as
the most comprehensive reviews of the literature (Bass, 1990; Lord et al.,
1986; Mann, 1959; Stogdill, 1974) to identify pre-1967 studies. After
examining these abstracts, articles, and dissertations, it became clear that
our search excluded some studies in which particular traits were included
as keywords but personality was not. Accordingly, we searched the
PsycINFO database (1887–1999) and used leadership and 48 additional
traits (e.g., self-esteem, locus of control, modesty, and self-control) known
to have been studied in relationship to leadership (Bass, 1990). In both
searches, disordered populations were excluded from the searches, as were
non-English articles. This search resulted in 1,447 abstracts, many of which
we had previously examined (as a part of the original 998). In reviewing all
of the abstracts, we eliminated studies in which reports of personality and
leadership were not in reference to the same person (i.e., several studies
reported a correlation between follower personality and leader behaviors),
studies of leadership that were specific to a particularistic criterion (e.g.,
opinion leadership or fashion leadership), studies without data (e.g., liter-
ature reviews or theoretical works), and studies at the group or organiza-
tional level of analysis.
For the remaining 263 journal articles and 77 doctoral dissertations, we
examined each study to determine whether it contained a personality
measure for leaders, a criterion measure, and the data necessary to calculate
a correlation between the two. Sixty studies (73 independent samples in
all), containing 222 correlations that were classified into one or more of the
five-factor traits, met these criteria. Additionally, 20 studies involving
self-esteem or locus of control were coded, including two of the 60
five-factor model studies noted above. These 78 studies are identified in the
reference list. In accordance with our a priori definition of the population
and relationships of interest, several exclusionary rules were established.
First, many, if not most, early studies on leadership (pre-1950) failed to
report the data necessary to obtain a correlation (e.g., studies that reported
percentages or proportions, studies that reported means with no standard
deviations, or studies that provided only a narrative summary of the
results). Second, although we used a broad definition of leadership—
including teacher reports of students’leadership in the classroom, peer
nominations of leaders in formal and informal groups, the number of
elected positions held in high school, superior ratings of military leader-
ship, and leadership behaviors exhibited in the classroom or at work—we
excluded studies that operationalized leadership as salary level, career
success, or the person most liked by peers. We also excluded self-reports
of leadership (e.g., Armilla, 1967). In terms of personality, we excluded
studies wherein the personality measure was a combination of more than
one trait or could not be identified clearly as a personality trait subsumed
within the five-factor model. Thus, traits such as field dependence, per-
sonality clusters such as California Psychological Inventory leadership, or
typologies such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) types were
not included; studies that reported individual MBTI traits (e.g., I/E [intro-
vert/extrovert]) rather than types (e.g., INTJ [Introvert Intuitive Thinking
Judging]) were included.
Personality measures were classified according to the coding procedure
developed and used by Barrick and Mount (1991). Specifically, in their
meta-analysis, they classified personality measures on the basis of an
examination of the measures and decisions made by six expert judges. For
example, the achievement and order scales from the Adjective Checklist
(see Gough, 1990) were classified by the experts as measures of Consci-
entiousness, and the warm and suspicious (reverse scored) scales from
the 16 PF were classified as measures of Agreeableness. We followed their
classification closely with the following exceptions: (a) On the basis of R.
Hogan et al. (1994) and House and Howell (1992), need for power was
classified as a measure of Extraversion; (b) items contained in the Femi-
ninity subscale of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem, 1974) appeared to
assess Agreeableness (e.g., compassionate, gentle, tender, sympathetic
warm, understanding, yielding)—thus, this measure was classified as
Agreeableness; (c) although self-monitoring per se was not coded as a Big
Five trait, in one study an Extraversion subscale of a self-monitoring
measure was used—thus, this subscale was classified as Extraversion; (d)
when ad hoc personality measures were used, we classified them according
to our best judgment.
For measures of the facets of personality, we
generally only classified those traits that were identified by the same label
(e.g., only traits specifically labeled as sociability, dominance, and achieve-
ment were coded as such); the only exceptions were dependability (de-
pendability, order, and dutifulness were coded as dependability) and dom-
inance (dominance and need for power were classified as dominance).
In terms of the criterion, studies were coded as representing leader
emergence or leadership effectiveness based on our a priori definitions.
Specifically, ratings were coded as measures of leadership effectiveness in
cases in which a leader’s effectiveness was assessed. There were no cases
in which group performance was the effectiveness measure. The predom-
inant measure of the leadership effectiveness was assessment by subordi-
nates or supervisors. For example, in Johnson, Luthans, and Hennessey
(1984), an average of four subordinates per leader reported “how much
influence they felt their supervisor had on the productivity and overall
effectiveness of their unit.”In other cases, effectiveness ratings were less
specific—subordinates and supervisors rated leader success or leader ef-
For example, Drake (1944) related 74 individual traits (e.g., self-
confidence, originality, sociability) to leadership. We classified 53 of these
individual traits as measures of one of the Big Five traits on the basis of our
knowledge of the literature, and then computed an average correlation
between the traits corresponding to the relevant Big Five trait and
PERSONALITY AND LEADERSHIP
fectiveness. In contrast, ratings were coded as leadership emergence when
leadership was defined as a comparison of leaders versus nonleaders (e.g.,
some held a leadership position in high school and others did not), leader
rankings by other members of a leaderless group, nominations of leaders by
other group members or observers, sociometric ratings, and participation in
leadership activities. Similar to meta-analyses in the personality–job per-
formance area (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991), in addition to reporting
meta-analysis results separately for each criterion, we pooled the two
leadership criteria together for purposes of an overall analysis.
Although we tried to make our coding procedures as clear and objective
as possible, as is the case in all meta-analyses, some discretion was
required in classifying the personality traits. To ascertain the reliability of
the coding process, two individuals randomly divided the articles and
coded each. Once that initial process was completed, a third individual
coded the articles again.
This third rater was not aware of the initial coding
decisions made by the two other raters. Across all traits, the third rater
agreed with the decisions of the other two in 91% of the cases. Disagree-
ments were resolved by Timothy A. Judge after a reconsideration of the
In conducting the meta-analysis, we followed the procedures of Hunter
and Schmidt (1990). First, we calculated a sample-sized weighted mean
correlation for each of the personality traits with leadership. Second,
correlations were individually corrected for measurement error in both the
predictor and the criterion. Estimates were not corrected for range restric-
tion. As was noted by Barrick and Mount (1991) and Lord et al. (1986)
with respect to the personality traits included in their analyses, it was
relatively unusual for studies to report reliability data. The same was true
for the present study. Accordingly, for the Big Five traits, we averaged the
reliabilities for all known measures of the five-factor model: Big Five
Inventory (Benet-Martı´nez & John, 1998), Big Five Questionnaire
(Caprara, Barbaranelli, Borgogni, & Perugini, 1993), Hogan Personality
Inventory (R. Hogan & Hogan, 1995), International Personality Item Pool
(Goldberg, 1999), NEO Personality Inventory—Revised (NEO-PI–R;
Costa & McCrae, 1992), NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI; Costa &
McCrae, 1992), and Personality Characteristics Inventory (Mount & Bar-
rick, 1995b). The average reliabilities were as follows: Neuroticism ⫽.88,
Extraversion ⫽.85, Openness to Experience ⫽.81, Agreeableness ⫽.78,
Conscientiousness ⫽.84; These values were used in the analysis. In the
case of self-esteem and locus of control, we used the average reliabilities
reported in Judge and Bono (2001) in their review of these literatures. The
average reliabilities for self-esteem and locus of control were .81 and .73,
respectively. Finally, for the other facets of the Big Five traits, we used the
average reliabilities reported for these facets in many personality invento-
ries. Four of these inventories were the five-factor model measures de-
scribed above that also reported facet reliabilities (Hogan Personality
Inventory, International Personality Item Pool, NEO Personality Inventory,
and Personal Characteristics Inventory). Three other inventories were not
explicitly designed as five-factor model inventories but nonetheless re-
ported reliabilities for the relevant facets (16 PF [Cattell & Stice, 1957],
California Psychological Inventory [Gough, 1957], and Personality Re-
search Form [PRF; Jackson, 1967]). Across these inventories, the average
reliabilities were as follows: dominance ⫽.76, sociability ⫽.74, achieve-
ment ⫽.74, and dependability ⫽.72. Again, these values were used in the
Measures of leadership were supplied by others’ ratings, rankings, or
nominations. Therefore, one would seek to generalize to another equally
knowledgeable rater or raters, and in such a case, interrater reliabilities
should be used to estimate measurement error (Viswesvaran, Ones, &
Schmidt, 1996). The statistics that were used to correct leadership ratings
for measurement error depended on the source of the ratings and the
number of ratings. In terms of source of the ratings, we used Viswesvaran
et al.’s (1996) estimates of the reliability of supervisor ratings of leadership
(teachers’ ratings of the leadership behaviors of students were treated as
supervisory ratings) and peer ratings of leadership. Viswesvaran et al. did
not report an estimate of the reliability of subordinate or follower ratings of
leadership. Because the reliability of ratings of job performance in their
review was quite similar to Viswesvaran et al.’s estimates of the reliabil-
ity of leadership ratings, we used Conway and Huffcutt’s (1997) meta-
analytic estimate of the reliability of subordinate performance ratings as an
estimate of subordinate or follower ratings of leadership. When multiple
raters supplied ratings of leadership in a particular study, the reliability
estimates were corrected upward on the basis of the Spearman-Brown
prophecy formula. Studies in which the source of the ratings was not
provided or could not be determined, the average corrected reliability
across all sources and number of ratings was used (the average reliability
In addition to reporting estimates of the mean correlations, it is also
important in meta-analysis to describe variability in the correlations. Ac-
cordingly, we report 80% credibility intervals and 95% confidence inter-
vals (CIs) around the estimated population correlations. CIs provide an
estimate of the variability around the estimated mean correlation; a 95% CI
excluding zero indicates that if we repeatedly sampled the population of
correlations, 97.5% or more of the intervals would exclude zero (the
other 2.5% of the average correlations would lie in the other tail of the
distribution). Credibility intervals provide an estimate of the variability of
individual correlations in the population; an 80% credibility interval ex-
cluding zero indicates that more than 90% of the individual correlations in
the population will exclude zero (another 10% will lie above the upward
limit of the interval). Thus, CIs estimate variability in the estimated mean
correlation whereas credibility intervals estimate variability of the individ-
ual correlations in the population of studies.
As noted earlier, because we believe emergence and effective-
ness to be related but distinct criteria, we first conducted an overall
analysis combining the two criteria. Results of the meta-analyses
relating the Big Five traits to leadership are provided in Table 2.
As is shown in the table, Extraversion (
⫽.31) was the strongest
correlate of leadership. Conscientiousness (
⫽.28) and then
Neuroticism and Openness to Experience (
respectively) displayed the next strongest correlations with lead-
ership. Both the confidence and credibility intervals excluded zero
for these traits, indicating that we can be confident that the rela-
tionship of four of the Big Five traits to leadership is distinguish-
able from zero across situations. Finally, Agreeableness showed a
relatively weak correlation with leadership (
⫽.08), although the
confidence interval excluded zero. Across the five traits, 23.1% of
the variance in the correlations was accounted for by statistical
Table 3 provides the results of the analyses linking the lower
order personality traits to leadership. Four traits displayed moder-
ately strong correlations with leadership—sociability, dominance,
achievement, and dependability. However, all mean correlations
are nonzero (the limits of the 95% CIs excluded zero). Further-
more, when one examines the credibility intervals, only for locus
of control did it include zero. Thus, most of the lower order traits
included in the analysis had nonzero effects on leadership. Results
provided mixed support for differential validity of the lower order
We did not assess the reliability of our coding of dissertations because
one author had independently coded each dissertation at the remote loca-
tion where the dissertations were received. Because our coding of other
studies exhibited high reliability and because it was costly to the library to
request dissertations, we did not re-request them.
770 JUDGE, BONO, ILIES, AND GERHARDT
traits when compared with the higher order Big Five traits. Locus
of control and self-esteem displayed lower correlations with lead-
ership than did Neuroticism (see below), but the indicators of
Extraversion (sociability and dominance) and Conscientiousness
(achievement and dependability) were somewhat more strongly
related to leadership compared with the overall effects in Table 2.
Thus, results for the so-called levels of analysis issue (Mount &
Barrick, 1995a) were mixed.
An emerging body of research suggests that self-esteem and
locus of control indicate the same factor as Neuroticism (e.g.,
Judge et al., 1998). Judge et al. labeled this broader concept core
self-evaluations. On an exploratory basis, we conducted an overall
analysis whereby these two traits were included as measures of
Neuroticism. Accordingly, in an overall analysis paralleling the
analysis reported in Table 2, the relationship between Neuroticism
and leadership was estimated, including self-esteem and locus of
control as measures of Neuroticism (scores were coded to reflect
external locus of control or low self-esteem). The statistics result-
ing from this meta-analysis were as follows: k⫽81; N⫽19,134;
⫽.15; 80% credibility inter-
val ⫽⫺.40–⫺.01; 95% CI ⫽⫺.24–⫺.16. These results are
slightly weaker than the overall analysis results reported in Ta-
ble 2, which makes sense in light of the fact that locus of control
displayed a relatively weak correlation with leadership (
Table 4 displays the meta-analyzed correlations between the Big
Five traits and the two leadership criteria. Across criteria, results
reveal areas of consistency and some inconsistencies in the relation
of the traits to the criteria. Extraversion and Openness displayed
nonzero correlations with both criteria, and most traits (except for
Agreeableness and leader emergence) showed nonzero mean cor-
relations with the leadership criteria. Only for Extraversion and
Openness, however, did the credibility intervals exclude zero
across the criteria. For Conscientiousness, the credibility interval
excluded zero for leader emergence but not for leadership effec-
tiveness. For Neuroticism, that pattern was reversed. For neither of
the criteria did the credibility intervals for Agreeableness exclude
Another analysis investigated the degree to which personality–
leadership relations generalized across different study settings. We
divided the studies into three categories: (a) business—studies
completed in business contexts, mostly those involving managers,
supervisors, or executives; (b) government or military—studies of
military officers or enlisted personnel, or students at military
academies; studies of government employees (i.e., teachers, prin-
cipals); studies of political leaders; (c) students—studies with
elementary (10% of correlations), high school (22% of correla-
tions), or college (68% of correlations) students, completed either
in natural or laboratory situations. As can be seen in Table 5, with
few exceptions (Agreeableness and Conscientiousness in business
settings, Openness and Agreeableness in government or military
settings), the 95% CIs excluded zero, indicating that in most cases
we can be confident that the average correlations are nonzero.
However, when one examines the credibility intervals, Extraver-
sion was the only trait that generalized across the three settings.
Three other traits generalized across two of the three settings.
Specifically, the credibility intervals for Neuroticism and Open-
ness excluded zero in business and student settings (but not in
military or government settings), whereas for Conscientiousness,
the credibility intervals excluded zero in government or military
and student settings. All traits were more strongly related to
leadership in studies involving students.
Yukl and Van Fleet (1992) argued that leadership research has
increasingly taken a holistic approach to the study of leader traits
(as opposed to focusing on each trait as a separate predictor).
Accordingly, we sought to determine the multivariate relationship
of the set of Big Five traits to leadership. Using J. E. Hunter’s
(1992) regression program, we regressed leadership on the Big
Five traits. To form the correlation matrix that served as input to
the program, we used the meta-analytic estimates of the relation-
ship between the Big Five traits and leadership in Tables 2 and 4,
and Ones’s (Ones, 1993; Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996)
meta-analytic estimate of the intercorrelations among the Big Five
traits. In accordance with Viswesvaran and Ones (1995), the
sample size we used for the regressions was equal to the average
Huffcutt, Roth, and McDaniel (1996) noted that a concern with weight-
ing studies by the sample size (N-weighting) is that a handful of studies
may dominate the analysis. Accordingly, they developed a procedure that
groups studies into three categories on the basis of sample size and thus
gives less weight to extreme values. We used their weighting procedure to
determine whether it would yield different results. The correlations of
neuroticism, locus of control, and self-esteem with leadership by using the
Huffcutt et al. (1996) scheme were substantially higher compared with the
N-weighted analyses reported in Tables 2–3(
.40, respectively). Using the Huffcutt et al. (1996) procedure had a small
effect on the correlations of the other traits with leadership (the average
difference was .025).
Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between the Big Five Personality Traits and Leadership
Average 80% CV 95% CI
Lower Upper Lower Upper
Neuroticism 48 8,025 ⫺.17 ⫺.24 .18 ⫺.47 ⫺.01 ⫺.30 ⫺.18
Extraversion 60 11,705 .22 .31 .17 .09 .53 .26 .36
Openness 37 7,221 .16 .24 .11 .09 .38 .19 .28
Agreeableness 42 9,801 .06 .08 .17 ⫺.14 .29 .02 .13
Conscientiousness 35 7,510 .20 .28 .17 .06 .51 .22 .34
Note. k ⫽Number of correlations;
⫽estimated corrected correlation; CV ⫽credibility interval; CI ⫽
confidence interval. We used Whitener’s (1990) formula for standard error of the mean correlation in computing
PERSONALITY AND LEADERSHIP
sample size of all studies in the analysis (N⫽277 for emergence,
N⫽109 for effectiveness, and N⫽200 for overall).
The regression results are provided in Table 6. As is shown in
the table, two traits, Extraversion and Openness, were significantly
predictive of leadership across the criteria. However, in two of the
three regressions (emergence and overall), Conscientiousness had
the highest standardized regression coefficient (
⫽29, respectively). Neuroticism was not significantly predictive
of any of the criteria, and Agreeableness was predictive of just one
(emergence), in a negative direction. Perhaps the most meaningful
statistics were the strong and significant multiple correlations (R⫽
.53, R⫽.39, and R⫽.48 for emergence, effectiveness, and
overall, respectively) between the traits and leadership.
The decision to correct correlations based on interrater criterion
reliabilities is not one without controversy. K. R. Murphy and
DeShon (2000) argued that raters may disagree for reasons other
than random error (e.g., differential opportunity to observe subor-
dinates). Thus, according to Murphy and DeShon, treating corre-
lations among raters as a measure of reliability is inappropriate
because it assumes that all lack of agreement is due to random
error. One alternative is to use internal consistency reliability as
the basis for corrections. However, because corrections based on
internal consistency have a known (vs. potential) bias—they con-
sign variance idiosyncratic to raters to the true variance component
of job performance ratings (Schmidt & Hunter, 1996)—we believe
corrections based on interrater reliability are, on balance, more
appropriate than those based on internal consistency reliability.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that such corrections can be criti-
cized, and thus it is important to provide meta-analytic estimates
under a range of alternatives to analyze the sensitivity of our
results to the specific reliability measures used for corrections.
To correct the personality–leadership correlations for unreliabil-
ity by using internal consistency estimates of criterion reliability,
we consulted Viswesvaran et al.’s (1996) meta-analysis. These
authors provided two estimates of reliability that are relevant here.
Specifically, they reported an average internal consistency reliabil-
ity of .77 for supervisory ratings of leadership and .61 for peer
ratings of leadership. Although most of the leadership ratings in
our meta-analysis are from peers, Viswesvaran et al.’s estimate for
peer ratings was based on a small number of correlations (k⫽5).
Accordingly, for this sensitivity analysis we also used their esti-
mate of the reliability of supervisory ratings of leadership because
it was based on a larger number of correlations (k⫽21). There is
no reason to believe, other than second-order sampling error, that
peer ratings would be less reliable than supervisory ratings of
In the overall analysis, by using Viswesvaran et al.’s (1996)
estimate of the reliability of peer leadership ratings (
estimated corrected correlations of the Big Five traits with lead-
ership were as follows: Neuroticism ⫽⫺.23, Extraversion ⫽.30,
Openness ⫽.23, Agreeableness ⫽.08, and Conscientiousness ⫽
.27. Using Viswesvaran et al.’s estimate of the reliability of su-
pervisory leadership ratings (
⫽.77), we estimated the corrected
correlations of the Big Five traits with leadership as follows:
Neuroticism ⫽⫺.20, Extraversion ⫽.27, Openness ⫽.21, Agree-
ableness ⫽.07, and Conscientiousness ⫽.24. Compared with the
overall analysis in Table 2, the average correlations are lower
when correcting correlations on the basis of internal consistency
reliability, but only slightly so (.03 weaker on the basis of
and .01 weaker on the basis of
⫽.61). Furthermore, these
alternative analyses did not change the results with respect to the
confidence and credibility intervals in Table 2 (e.g., the correla-
tions of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, and Conscientious-
ness with leadership generalized across studies). Thus, correcting
personality–leadership correlations on the basis of intrarater (as
Ideally, we would have conducted a hierarchical moderator analysis
wherein the type of criterion and study setting are nested within each of the
Big Five traits. It was uncommon for studies of leadership emergence to be
conducted in business settings and studies of leadership effectiveness to be
conducted with student samples. As a result, in many cases there were too
few correlations to conduct a fully hierarchical moderator analysis.
Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Lower-Order Personality Traits and Leadership
Average 80% CV 95% CI
Lower Upper Lower Upper
Locus of control 15 2,347 .08 .13 .14 ⫺.04 .31 .05 .21
Self-esteem 9 7,451 .14 .19 .12 .04 .35 .11 .28
Sociability 19 5,827 .24 .37 .21 .10 .64 .22 .47
Dominance 31 7,692 .24 .37 .20 .11 .63 .29 .44
Achievement 16 4,625 .23 .35 .16 .14 .56 .27 .43
Dependability 16 5,020 .18 .30 .20 .04 .56 .19 .40
Note. k ⫽Number of correlations;
⫽estimated corrected correlation; CV ⫽credibility interval; CI ⫽
Relationship Between Big Five Traits and Leadership by
Neuroticism 30 ⫺.24
Extraversion 37 .33
Openness 20 .24
Agreeableness 23 .05 19 .21
Conscientiousness 17 .33
Note. k ⫽Number of correlations;
⫽estimated corrected correlation.
95% confidence interval excluding zero.
80% credibility interval ex-
772 JUDGE, BONO, ILIES, AND GERHARDT
opposed to interrater) reliability did not dramatically alter the
In reviewing the literature on trait theories of leadership, Bass
(1990) noted two pertinent questions: (a) What traits distinguish
leaders from other people? and (b) What is the magnitude of those
differences? Despite considerable research on this topic in the past
century and a previous meta-analytic review (Lord et al., 1986),
surprisingly little consensus has emerged in answering the two
questions Bass posed in his review. Using the five-factor model as
an organizing framework, we sought to answer these questions in
a more definitive manner than what has been possible in the past.
The relatively strong multiple correlation (R⫽.39–.53) be-
tween the Big Five traits and the leadership criteria suggest that the
Big Five typology is a fruitful basis for examining the dispositional
predictors of leadership. Given that many reviewers of the litera-
ture consider trait theory to be obsolete (Conger & Kanungo, 1998)
or only applicable in certain situations (Yukl & Van Fleet, 1992),
this is an important finding. Although other reviewers of the
literature have argued in favor of trait theory (e.g., Kirkpatrick &
Locke, 1991), this study—like Lord et al. (1986)—provides em-
pirical data to substantiate this optimism. In addition to the com-
prehensiveness of our review, we believe that the primary reason
for the more encouraging results is the use of the five-factor model
as an organizing framework. As Kenny and Zaccaro (1983) noted,
one reason past research failed to identify traits correlated with
leadership is that many purportedly different traits were studied,
with few of the same traits being investigated across studies. This
points to one of the main benefits of the five-factor model. Digman
Many reviewers despaired at the lack of organization in the field of
personality... agreat majority—if not all—of our verbally based
personality constructs can be housed somewhere within that [five-
factor] structure, bringing an orderliness to a field long in need of one.
In using the five-factor model to organize these myriad traits, the
present study sheds considerable light on the dispositional basis of
Turning to the specific traits, Extraversion emerged as the most
consistent correlate of leadership. Not only was it the strongest
correlate of leadership in the combined analysis, but it also dis-
played a nonzero effect in all analyses—when controlling for the
other Big Five traits—and when broken down in the moderator
analysis by criteria and sample type. Thus, these results suggest
that Extraversion is the most important trait of leaders and effec-
tive leadership. As expected, results also confirmed that Extraver-
sion was more strongly related to leader emergence than to leader
effectiveness. If attempted leadership is more likely to result in
leader emergence than it is in leadership effectiveness, the results
for Extraversion make sense, as both sociable and dominant people
are more likely to assert themselves in group situations.
After Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Expe-
rience were the strongest and most consistent correlates of lead-
ership. Conscientiousness displayed the second strongest correla-
tion with leadership and, in the multivariate analysis (by using the
N-weighted correlations), was the strongest predictor of leadership
in two of the three regressions. Conscientiousness was more
strongly related to leader emergence than to leadership effective-
ness; the organizing activities of conscientious individuals (e.g.,
note taking, facilitating processes) may allow such individuals to
quickly emerge as leaders.
Of the Big Five traits, Openness to Experience is the most
controversial and least understood. One of the problems is that,
with a few exceptions, such as creativity and sociopolitical atti-
tudes (cf. McCrae, 1996), Openness has not been related to many
applied criteria. Openness to Experience does appear to be related
to leadership: In business settings, it—along with Extraversion—
was the strongest dispositional correlate of leadership. Although
Relationship Between Big Five Traits and Leadership,
by Study Setting
Neuroticism 9 ⫺.15
Extraversion 13 .25
Openness 9 .23
6 .06 22 .28
Agreeableness 10 ⫺.04 11 ⫺.04 21 .18
Conscientiousness 8 .05 6 .17
Note. k ⫽Number of correlations;
⫽estimated corrected correlation.
95% confidence interval excluding zero.
80% credibility interval ex-
Regression of Leadership on Big Five Traits
Leadership emergence Leadership effectiveness Overall analysis
Neuroticism ⫺.09 .06 ⫺1.67 ⫺.10 .10 ⫺1.04 ⫺.10 .07 ⫺1.54
Extraversion .30 .05 5.90* .18 .09 2.00* .27 .06 4.30*
Openness .21 .05 4.06* .19 .09 2.10* .21 .06 3.25*
Agreeableness ⫺.14 .05 ⫺2.66* .10 .10 1.07 ⫺.09 .07 ⫺1.41
Conscientiousness .36 .05 6.88* .12 .09 1.26 .29 .07 4.48*
Multiple R.53 .05 10.86* .39 .09 4.55* .48 .06 8.03*
Note. With the exception of the multiple Restimates in the last row, all estimates in the
standardized regression coefficients.
PERSONALITY AND LEADERSHIP
the mean correlation for Neuroticism was distinguishable from
zero, it failed to emerge as a significant predictor of leadership in
the multivariate analysis, which was probably due to the fact that
Neuroticism displays the highest average correlation with the other
Big Five traits (Ones et al., 1996).
Overall, Agreeableness was the least relevant of the Big Five
traits. However, this overall result is masked somewhat by differ-
ences in criteria and setting. There were two situations in which
Agreeableness was related to leadership—when the criterion was
effectiveness and with student samples. Because agreeable indi-
viduals tend to be passive and compliant, it makes sense they
would be less likely to emerge as leaders. This was found to be
particularly true in field studies (business and government or
military settings) where the “conforming to others’wishes”(Gra-
ziano & Eisenberg, 1996, p. 796) nature of agreeable individuals
may be most likely to evidence itself.
Results were equivocal as to whether the Big Five constructs or
the lower order traits were better suited to predict leadership. In the
cases of Extraversion, the facets were more predictive—measures
of dominance and sociability better predicted leadership than did
overall measures of Extraversion. Thus, some support is provided
for the relative merits of lower order traits, although two caveats
should be kept in mind. First, the test is indirect as almost no
studies included measures of both facets along with the five-factor
constructs. Thus, it is possible that differences in validity are
confounded with other study characteristics. Second, it was not
possible to develop facets for every Big Five trait (e.g., Openness
to Experience, Agreeableness). Future research should look into
this issue further.
Results varied somewhat by criteria and study setting. The
Big Five traits predicted leader emergence slightly better than
they predicted leadership effectiveness, but the rank order of
the traits’influence on leadership varied. For leader emergence,
Extraversion and Conscientiousness displayed the strongest cor-
relations; the relationship of Openness to Experience to leader
emergence also generalized across studies. For leadership effec-
tiveness, three traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness)
displayed correlations that generalized across studies, and whereas
the correlations involving Agreeableness and Conscientiousness
were more variable across studies, the mean correlations were
nonzero and moderate in magnitude (
The Big Five traits predicted student leadership better than
leadership in government or military settings (business settings
were somewhat in between). Personality may have better predicted
student leadership because, in many of the studies that we re-
viewed, the situations were relatively unstructured with few rules
or formally defined roles (e.g., leader emergence in teams of
students in an introduction to psychology class or election of
dormitory leaders of students in a residence hall). As House,
Shane, and Herold (1996) noted, weak situations allow disposi-
tional forces to be more powerful. By the same token, most
individuals would consider government organizations to be rela-
tively bureaucratic and military organizations to be rule oriented,
which might suppress dispositional effects.
There is a second reason why the Big Five traits may have
predicted leadership emergence and student leadership more
strongly than they predicted leadership effectiveness and leader-
ship in business, government, or the military. It is in student
situations, where student participants in group exercises are being
rated on the extent to which they emerged as leaders, that individ-
uals’implicit leadership theories would be expected to have the
greatest influence. Thus, it is possible that in both of these situa-
tions (students and leadership emergence) the relations we found
between personality and leadership reflect, at least in part, indi-
viduals’naive conceptions of leadership.
The results of this meta-analysis show that, overall, Extraver-
sion, Conscientiousness, Openness, and Neuroticism are useful
traits in relation to leadership. Collectively, the results provide
support for the relevance of the five-factor model in leadership
research. Previous research notwithstanding, however, we have a
relatively poor idea of not only which traits are relevant, but why.
Is Neuroticism negatively related to leadership because neurotic
individuals are less likely to attempt leadership, because they are
less inspirational, or because they have lower expectations of
themselves or others? Similarly, Extraversion may be related to
leadership because extraverts talk more, and talking is strongly
related to emergent leadership (Bass, 1990). Alternatively, it may
be that individuals implicitly expect leaders to be extraverted.
Implicit views of leaders include aspects of both sociability (“out-
going”) and assertiveness (“aggressive,”“forceful”; Lord et al.,
1984), or extraverts could be better leaders due to their expressive
nature or the contagion of their positive emotionality. Open indi-
viduals may be better leaders because they are more creative and
are divergent thinkers, because they are risk takers, or because
their tendencies for esoteric thinking and fantasy (McCrae, 1996)
make them more likely to be visionary leaders. Agreeableness may
be weakly correlated with leadership because it is both a hindrance
(agreeable individuals tend to be passive and compliant; Graziano
& Eisenberg, 1997) and a help (agreeable individuals are likeable
and empathetic; Hogan & Hogan, 2000) to leaders. Finally, is
Conscientiousness related to leadership because conscientious in-
dividuals have integrity and engender trust (R. Hogan et al., 1994);
because they excel at process aspects of leadership, such as setting
goals; or because they are more likely to have initiative and persist
in the face of obstacles? Our study cannot address these process-
oriented issues, but future research should attempt to explain the
linkages between the Big Five traits and leadership.
We also believe there are many situational factors that may
moderate the validity of personality in predicting leadership. The
literature on various leadership theories provides suggestions for
possible moderators of the effectiveness of leadership traits. For
example, following from substitutes for leadership (Kerr & Jer-
mier, 1978), Conscientiousness may be more related to leadership
effectiveness when task structure is low, because with ill-defined
tasks structure is needed to enhance followers’expectancies of
successful goal completion. Similarly, leader Agreeableness should
be less relevant for intrinsically satisfying tasks because the task
itself provides positive feedback and encouragement. Finally,
other aspects of Kerr and Jermier’s (1978) theory may exert
moderating effects, especially organizational inflexibility and spa-
tial distance. Fiedler’s LPC theory (Fiedler, 1971) might also
provide relevant moderators. For example, a leader’s personality
might matter most when he or she has the ability to influence the
group (high situational control).
774 JUDGE, BONO, ILIES, AND GERHARDT
Contributions and Limitations
In discussing their findings on the basis of their meta-analysis of
the relation between the Big Five personality traits and job per-
formance, Barrick and Mount (1991) commented, “This study
differs from previous studies by using an accepted taxonomy to
study the relation of personality to job performance criteria. The
results illustrate the benefits of using this classification scheme to
communicate and accumulate empirical findings”(p. 17). We
believe the same to be true of the present study in terms of
leadership. Through the use of the five-factor model, we were able
to shed greater light on the personological basis of leadership than
what has been the case in the past.
This study was not the first meta-analysis to examine the rela-
tionship between personality traits and leadership, but it does
advance knowledge beyond Lord et al. (1986). Lord et al. based
their meta-analysis on the traits included in Mann’s (1959) review.
Given that the five-factor model had not won widespread accep-
tance at that time, this was not an unreasonable decision. Mann
struggled with a means to organize the disparate measures used in
the studies he reviewed, complaining, “The field of personality
assessment is test rich and integration poor”(p. 242). In the end,
Mann did not describe his organizing criteria in much detail,
noting, “The seven dimensions or factors chosen are those fre-
quently isolated in the study of personality by factor analytic
techniques, although two emerge only as second-order factors in
some reports”(p. 243). Judged from the perspective of today, the
five-factor model is clearly superior to the organizing framework
for personality in Mann’s review. The five-factor model has been
supported in hundreds of studies, whereas little research has used
Mann’s classification. Our purpose here is not to criticize Mann or
Lord et al. Rather, it is to point out the benefits of an alternative
structure for organizing the traits relating personality to leadership.
It seems likely that our results produced stronger and more con-
sistent personality–leadership relations because we used the five-
factor model as an organizing framework.
From one perspective, the criteria of this study are quite similar
to Lord et al. (1986) in that our measures of leadership were
largely perceptual in nature. However, we took a somewhat dif-
ferent approach from Lord et al. in distinguishing leader emer-
gence from leadership effectiveness. In our coding, we were able
to reliably make this distinction. More important, because this is an
important distinction conceptually, we believe that is it important
to make such a distinction empirically. Regardless of this distinc-
tion, the fact remains that our criterion measures carry with them
all of the possible attributional biases and idiosyncratic rater vari-
ance found in ratings of job performance. Thus, it is possible that
these results provide support for Lord et. al’s implicit theory of
leadership (e.g., Lord, 1985). Specifically, the Big Five traits may
have been related to leadership because the five-factor model does
a good job of summarizing individuals’preconceptions of the traits
of effective leaders. As noted by Emrich (1999), “leadership
perception is a type of person perception”(p. 1001). In short, our
results may simply indicate a close correspondence between the
way we see people’s personalities and our stereotypical concep-
tions of the characteristics of leaders.
It is possible to take this point even further. An indirect test of
the validity of implicit leadership theory in this context (relation of
five-factor model to leadership perceptions) would be to compare
the degree to which the traits predict leadership perceptions for
student samples as opposed to samples comprised of more expe-
rienced individuals (such as in business and government or mili-
tary settings). The automatic use of implicit theories as a basis for
categorizing individuals (as leaders in this case) is more likely
when accurate retrieval of information is not as important and less
likely when “perceivers are motivated to be accurate”(Engle &
Lord, 1997, p. 990). It seems reasonable to expect that individuals
who rate their direct supervisors in a business setting are more
likely to be motivated to be accurate than are undergraduate
students who are typically participating in an exercise for partial
Indeed, the results provide support for this explanation. As
revealed by the results in Table 5, every one of the Big Five traits
displayed nonzero relations with leadership perceptions in student
settings, whereas the traits were less consistently related to such
perceptions in the other settings. Furthermore, if we regress lead-
ership perceptions on the Big Five traits in the three settings,
following the same procedure as before, the multiple correlation is
much stronger in student settings (R⫽.63) than in business (R⫽
.55) or government or military (R⫽.29) settings. Providing
additional support for this notion, a comparison of the multiple R
for emergence and effectiveness reveals that the traits are better
predictors in situations in which individuals have only limited
opportunity to observe leadership behaviors (emergence). Al-
though these results are not a direct test of the relevance of implicit
leadership theory to the five-factor model of personality, they do
provide some supportive evidence.
Given our results, one might reasonably conclude that the rela-
tionships we found are contaminated by individuals’implicit the-
ories of leadership. However, there is reason to believe that our
results are not solely based on such perceptions. In an attempt to
determine the content of individuals’naive leadership conceptions,
Offerman, Kennedy, and Wirtz (1994) conducted a series of stud-
ies. Across multiple samples—students and employees—they
found that of eight primary dimensions of people’s implicit theo-
ries, four were found to be most characteristic of leaders, effective
leaders, and supervisors. One of the four was Sensitivity, a dimen-
sion comprised of variables such as sympathetic, compassionate,
warm, forgiving, understanding. Each of these terms is a trait
descriptor for Agreeableness. Hence, if our results reflect only
individuals’implicit theories, we should have found some of our
strongest relationships between leadership and Agreeableness. In
fact, the opposite was true, as Agreeableness was the trait least
associated with leadership across criteria and situations.
It is important to note that implicit leadership theory does not
assume that implicit traits are truly irrelevant to leadership, only
that generalized perceptions may contaminate individuals’ratings
of leadership emergence or effectiveness. One means of disentan-
gling the situation is to collect objective measures of leadership
effectiveness. However, as R. Hogan et al. (1994) noted,
The data needed to make this evaluation are often difficult to obtain
or badly contaminated by external factors. Perhaps the best alternative
is to ask subordinates, peers, and superiors to evaluate a leader. The
empirical literature suggests that these sources of information are
correlated. (p. 496)
Thus, we do not believe, and implicit leadership theory does not
argue, that evaluations of leadership are improper or inappropriate.
Rather, the issue is that we cannot be sure whether the traits that
PERSONALITY AND LEADERSHIP
lead to perceptions of leadership emergence or effectiveness are
the same as those that cause a leader’s group to be effective.
Finally, it is important to note that “people’s implicit theories do
not simply appear, fully formed, out of nowhere.”Rather, they are
“generated and refined over time as a result of people’s experi-
ences with actual leaders [italics added]”(Offerman et al., 1994,
p. 45). Thus, although it is possible that our results simply reflect
implicit leadership theories, it seems equally plausible that implicit
leadership theories are mere reflections of veridical relationships
between personality and leadership.
An alternative to perceptual measures of leadership effective-
ness is to consider other “objective”measures, such as job level
and career success. Although position attained and other indicators
of career success may be reasonable proxies for leadership, they do
not appear to assess leadership per se. Indeed, a recent article
linking personality to career success (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, &
Barrick, 1999) never mentioned the words leader or leadership.
Furthermore, such objective indicators are subject to measurement
errors of their own and to extraneous influences (R. Hogan et al.,
1994). For example, group performance is contaminated by the
individual abilities of the group members and by any group pro-
cesses affecting group performance that have nothing to do with
leadership. Measures such as salary, promotions, and other indi-
cators of career success are similarly contaminated. Nevertheless,
future research relating leader personality to objective measures of
group performance is needed. (See LePine, Hollenbeck, Ilgen, &
A limitation of the meta-analysis is that there may be nested
moderator effects involving the lower order traits. Specifically,
traits within a Big Five dimension may be differentially associated
with leadership across the study settings. For example, dominance
may display greater associations with leadership in student settings
than in military or government settings. Unfortunately, because of
a small number of studies in various cells, we could not test an
interactive model involving Lower Order Trait ⫻Study Setting.
In sum, trait theories have had a curious history in leadership
research. The perceived efficacy of the trait approach has waxed
and waned throughout the past century. Nonetheless, progress has
occurred, most notably though a prior meta-analysis (Lord et al.,
1986). We hope this study, although it raises questions as well as
answers others, may help bring further order to this research area.
Results in this study provide strong evidence in favor of the trait
approach and suggest that we have come a long way since J. A.
Murphy (1941) remarked, “Leadership does not reside in the
person”(p. 674), and Jenkins (1947) concluded, “No single trait or
group of characteristics has been isolated which sets off the leader
from members of his group”(pp. 74–75). On the basis of the
results presented in this study, future research should develop
process models that illuminate the dispositional source of
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Received March 13, 2000
Revision received November 27, 2001
Accepted November 28, 2001 䡲
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