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Not like us: An investigation into the personalities of New Zealand CEOs

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We investigated the extent to which the personalities of New Zealand Chief Executive Officers (NZ CEOs) are similar to or different from a normal adult working population, whether they were more homogeneous than the norm, and whether there were meaningful differences among CEOs. With a sample (N = 151) of CEOs and CEO aspirants we show that CEOs are significantly and meaningfully different from a normal population on measures of “bright side” style, “dark side” derailers, and “inside” values. Specifically, NZ CEOs are more stable and composed, much more competitive and ambitious, outgoing, and oriented to formal learning. These characteristics are confirmed in measures of derailers and values. We also identified significant homogeneity. Finally, we classified the CEO cohort into three meaningfully distinct “subtribes.” Implications for the selection, development, and coaching of CEOs are discussed, along with the study’s limitations and suggestions for ongoing research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
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NOT LIKE US: AN INVESTIGATION INTO
THE PERSONALITIES OF
NEW ZEALAND CEOS
David L. Winsborough and Vathany Sambath
Winsborough Limited, Wellington, New Zealand
We investigated the extent to which the personalities of New Zealand Chief Executive
Officers (NZ CEOs) are similar to or different from a normal adult working population,
whether they were more homogeneous than the norm, and whether there were mean-
ingful differences among CEOs. With a sample (N 151) of CEOs and CEO aspirants
we show that CEOs are significantly and meaningfully different from a normal popu-
lation on measures of “bright side” style, “dark side” derailers, and “inside” values.
Specifically, NZ CEOs are more stable and composed, much more competitive and
ambitious, outgoing, and oriented to formal learning. These characteristics are confirmed
in measures of derailers and values. We also identified significant homogeneity. Finally,
we classified the CEO cohort into three meaningfully distinct “subtribes.” Implications
for the selection, development, and coaching of CEOs are discussed, along with the
study’s limitations and suggestions for ongoing research.
Keywords: leadership, personality, cognitive prototypes, CEO, chief executive
By definition, only a few can be high level leaders. Being the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is like
being a member of an exclusive club, or a zero sum game in economics or game theory. Leadership
positions are inherently scarce and desirable, making them what economist Fred Hirsch described
as a “positional good” (cited in Nye, 2002). Although certain things can become more accessible
through technological development, for example the Internet has made information much more
readily available to more people, the supply of such roles—and willing followers— can’t be
increased the same way. In the modern world, leaders are not appointed from the bottom of
the pyramid. How likely a person is to obtain one of these coveted positions is ultimately based on
one’s ability to traverse the hierarchy and social architecture of contemporary organizations: the way
one interacts with others and the world— or in other words, one’s personality. It seems reasonable
to predict that the particular group at the apex of organizational hierarchies share some character-
istics in common and unique vis-a
`-vis those not in that group.
David L. Winsborough, Managing Director, and Vathany Sambath, Consultant, Winsborough Limited, Wel-
lington, New Zealand.
David L. Winsborough has a commercial interest in the Hogan Personality Inventory, the Hogan Devel-
opment Survey, and the Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory which were used in the research reported
in this article. The authors are grateful for the incisive comments of two anonymous reviewers whose comments
greatly improved this article.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David L. Winsborough, Winsborough
Limited, Level 9, Fujitsu Tower, 141 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand. E-mail:
dave@winsborough.co.nz
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Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research © 2013 American Psychological Association
2013, Vol. 65, No. 2, 87–107 1065-9293/13/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0033128
87
The Impact of Chief Executives
The quintessential holders of scarce leadership roles are CEOs, who occupy the sole role at the top
of organizations. The person at the top is influential precisely because followers cede them decision
rights and ensure that they have greater decision latitude than anyone else. Evidence for the
influence CEOs have on their organizations is accumulating. A robust analysis by Mackey (2008)
found that 29% of the variance in firm performance was due to the impact of CEOs, while Nohria,
Joyce, and Robertson (2003) reported that CEOs accounted for 14% of the variance in firm
performance. To put those figures in perspective, industry sector accounts for about 19% of the
variance in performance (McGahan & Porter, 1997); deciding who will lead is nearly as conse-
quential as deciding whether to sell pharmaceuticals, chili sauce, or motor cars (Kaiser & Overfield,
2010).
Another way to understand the impact of Chief Executives can be seen in the wide-scale
disaster, workforce wretchedness, and underperformance caused by the wrong one. Carly Fiorina,
the flamboyant CEO of Hewlett Packard, executed a notably poor deal for her Board (merging with
Compaq) and was the engineer behind a near terminal decline in the organization’s climate and
performance. Fiorina was so reviled by the workers that after she was ousted from the company,
staff built a Web site designed to derail her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
On the other hand, having a CEO who demonstrably acts in the best interests of the organization
can sustain the goodwill and commitment of employees even when times are tough. The recently
departed CEO of Air New Zealand, Rob Fyfe, for example, managed to reduce staff numbers and
simultaneously increase staff engagement. In a difficult industry environment, Air New Zealand has
carved out a reputation for innovation and about as much profitability as is possible for a modern,
safe airline.
This implies that what CEOs, and the cohort of other C-suite denizens, are like way down
inside—their personalities and values—will have sustained impact (Finkelstein, 2003;Kaiser &
Hogan, 2007). Leaders’ individual differences impact group performance either directly (e.g.,
through risk attitude, strategic choices, organization design preferences, or decision making) or
indirectly (e.g., through the people they choose to have around them or the culture and values of the
firm). For example, Schein (2004) posited that the values of founders and leaders would have a
disproportionate impact on organizational culture, and an empirical study by Giberson et al. (2009)
found that the values of leaders accounted for about one third of the variance in organizational
values. This leads to the central question of this article: What are CEOs like?
The Evolution of Leadership
The role of leadership, and the attributes and behaviors required to be effective, likely evolved over
the long years of human evolution and development. Leadership is fundamentally about persuading
others to work toward common goals (Hogan, Curphy, & Hogan, 1994) and may have come about
as a coordination device to solve the perpetual conflict of how to organize collective effort and
surmount the inherent tension between selfish self-gratification and the need to cooperate for the
greater good. In this way, leadership is both a resource for the good of the group and a key to
organizational effectiveness. Having a leader serves the interests of followers because they can reap
the benefits of being in a highly coordinated and cohesive group (Gillet, Cartwright, & Van Vugt,
2011;Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008).
Living in groups means that individuals are required to balance the conflicting needs of getting
along with everyone else and getting ahead of the same people to satisfy personal needs and desires
(Hogan, 2007). Socioanalytic theory suggests that individuals will vary in capability on these
dimensions and this variation has real consequences for an individual’s existence. Hogan (2007)
notes leaders are typically good at both getting along and getting ahead.
More viscerally, leadership likely meant the difference between life and death on the ancestral
grasslands when resources were scarce and competition fierce (Boehm, 2001). Because the followers
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88 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
of effective leaders were more likely to survive, evolution may have bequeathed “cognitive
prototypes” that are used unconsciously or automatically to evaluate who best to follow in order to
stay alive (Hogan & Judge, 2012;Spisak, Nicholson, & Van Vugt, 2011). For example, Arvey,
Rotundo, Johnson, Zhang, and McGue (2006) showed that genetic factors were both substantially
correlated with personality variables and accounted for 30% of the variance in being selected for
leadership roles.
Leadership and Cognitive Categorization
We noted above that both anthropological research (Boehm, 2001) and evolutionary theory (Spisak
et al., 2011) suggest that followers hold mental representations of leaders. Cognitive Categorization
Theory states that people form mental categories based on observations of attributes or character-
istics of objects (Lord, Foti, & De Vader, 1984). Followers have implicit (nonconscious) beliefs
about what leaders should look and act like, and see people as members of the “leader” category if
they have personal characteristics that match those expectations (Grove, 2005;Hogan et al., 1994;
Hollander & Julian, 1969). Supporting the idea of evolved cognitive prototypes for leadership,
several researchers have found that people do share generalizations or implicit theories of leadership
that are used to assess the leadership potential of others (Eden & Leviathan, 1975;Lord et al., 1984;
Rush, Thomas, & Lord, 1977;Weiss & Adler, 1981). More recently, the Global Leadership and
Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) study, spanning 62 countries, 11 years, and 170
researchers found a core set of universally endorsed leadership attributes, common to all major
cultures in the modern world (Grove, 2005). It is worth noting, however, that the GLOBE study also
identified a smaller set of characteristics that varied as a function of culture, suggesting some room
for culturally contingent differences in the qualities used to identify leadership (Grove, 2005).
Occupying a leadership role is not the same as being effective in that role, however, and the
characteristics needed for navigating organizational politics en route to the top job may not be the
same as those required to be a good leader (Hogan, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2010;Hogan, 2007;Judge,
Bono, Ilies, & Gehardt, 2002). As human organizations have become larger and more complex, the
skills for getting to the top may have diverged from those associated with effectiveness, because
failed leaders are no longer removed from the gene pool. The result of this is a modern leadership
failure rate as high as 50% (Hogan, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2010).
Leadership and Personality
Sixty years ago, the pessimistic conclusion was that personal attributes did not predict leadership
(Mann, 1959;Stogdill, 1948). Rather, leadership was seen as a relationship between any individual
and a situation. The use of modern analytic techniques (i.e., meta-analysis) has largely overturned
that dismissal and highlighted meaningful connections between personality and leadership. This
change derived from the initial work of Lord and his colleages (Lord, De Vader, & Alliger, 1986)
and subsequently through the well-known work of Timothy Judge (Judge et al., 2002).
We suspect that the general effects found for leader personality at all levels in an organization
may actually underestimate the effects on the organization deriving from the CEO’s personality.
Finkelstein and Hambrick’s (1990) concept of discretion posited that the amount of latitude or
freedom afforded by a job determined the extent to which incumbents’ personal qualities can affect
their actions and decisions. Moreover, discretion increases with organizational level. Top leaders
have the greatest amount of discretion, giving their personalities the most leeway, for good or ill,
have to have an impact on organizational performance (Kaiser & Hogan, 2007).
CEO Personality
CEOs’ personality, we argue, is one of the keys to understanding their impact and effectiveness.
Leadership is one of the most popular topics in applied psychology research (Hogan et al., 1994) and
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89PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
a distinguished history of its impact on firm performance exists in management literature (e.g.,
Hambrick & Mason, 1984). However, the amount of research describing the personal characteristics
of top executives (Sangster, 2011), much less of CEOs, is more modest. We, therefore, expanded our
literature review to the personality of leaders more broadly and present a brief discussion of this
research below.
Hogan (2007) differentiated between three aspects of personality that inform a broader and
deeper conceptualization, namely “the bright side,” “the dark side,” and “the inside.” The bright side
(day-to-day style) describes people’s behavior when they are at their best (Hogan et al., 1994). The
dark side (potential derailers) describes dysfunctional dispositions or behavior when people are
under pressure or otherwise not actively managing themselves (Hogan & Hogan, 2001;Moscoso &
Salgado, 2004). The inside (values and drivers) reflects people’s core values and interests, which
provide insight into the “why” of behavior (Hogan & Hogan, 2010;Locke, 1991).
“Bright Side” Style
The Five Factor Model (FFM) has emerged as the accepted model of the structure of the bright side,
finding support in numerous studies (e.g., Digman, 1990;Goldberg & Saucier, 1995;Judge et al.,
2002;McCrae & Costa, 1997). It has made personality assessment and research into its effects more
robust and serves as a useful organizing framework. The five factors include emotional stability
(calm, resilient), extraversion (assertive, outgoing), agreeableness (considerate, diplomatic), con-
scientiousness (self-controlled, organized), and openness (creative, curious).
A meta-analysis of 73 studies of personality and leadership showed that, as a set, personality as
measured by the FFM dimensions were strongly correlated with leadership emergence and effec-
tiveness (R.48; Judge et al., 2002). Across these studies, individuals who were selected as leaders
and regarded to be good leaders were described as being emotionally stable, extraverted, consci-
entious, and open, but not necessarily agreeable. Additionally, in a study of U.S. executives
(including but not exclusively CEOs) Sangster (2011) found greater emotional stability and
extraversion, and to a lesser extent greater conscientious and openness, compared with the U.S. adult
population. Again, executives in this study were not higher on agreeableness.
Turning our attention to CEO personality specifically, a recent article by Abatecola, Mandarelli,
and Poggesi (2011) summarized 29 studies looking at CEO personality and a variety of firm-level
outcomes. They found that extraverted, open, and agreeable CEOs led more effective teams.
Additionally, CEO emotional stability predicted better firm performance and when in trouble, firms
led by emotionally unstable CEOs were more likely to fail. Peterson, Smith, Martorana, and Owens
(2003) also found that emotionally unstable CEOs lead less cohesive teams. Nadkarni and
Herrmann (2010) investigated CEOs across 195 Indian business process outsourcing firms and
found that greater extraversion, emotional stability, and openness, moderate agreeableness,
and lower conscientiousness fostered strategic flexibility (as a proxy for performance). Finally,
in a smaller, descriptive study of 45 CEOs of British companies, Cox and Cooper (1989) found
strong trends toward extraversion, and slight trends toward greater emotional stability and openness,
and moderate agreeableness.
The above research concerned differences between CEO and leader personality compared with
that of the general population. Sangster’s (2011) study of U.S. executives found support for two
additional effects: an “isomorphic” effect, whereby executives were more alike than the general
population (specifically on emotional stability), and a “polymorphic” effect in which executive
teams from several organizations differed from each other (specifically on agreeableness). This
difference was postulated to be an adaptation to varying environments and echoes the attraction-
selection-attrition (ASA) model (Schneider, Goldstein, & Smith, 1995).
Based on these findings, we expected CEOs as a group to be both different from and more
homogeneous than the general population. We predicted that, as a group, they would be high on
emotional stability, extraversion, and openness. Those who apply for CEO roles (from the sur-
rounding cohort of candidates) were expected to be similar in personality. We hypothesized that the
mixed findings on agreeableness and conscientiousness reflected environmental contingencies and,
as a result, that these dimensions of personality are contextually dependent cognitive prototypes.
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90 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
Thus, we expected that CEOs will not differ significantly from a normal population on these factors
overall, but that there may be within-group differences that are associated with the varying adaptive
effects of different environments. For example, greater conscientiousness may be adaptive in
environments that value stability and structure, such as government. In environments in which
responsiveness and innovation are valued, such as start-up organizations, the cognitive prototype
may be for lower conscientiousness.
“Dark Side” Derailers
While the bright side reflects day-to-day style, when people are consciously managing the impres-
sions they make on others, the dark side of personality reflects behavior when they let their guard
down or are otherwise not at their best (Hogan & Hogan, 2009). Dark side characteristics can be
“strengths overplayed” and, thus, leaders may be selected for behaviors that eventually derail them.
For example, charm and persuasiveness may turn into manipulation. These tendencies can hinder
careers and may reflect the presence of undesirable characteristics rather than the absence of
desirable ones (Carson et al., 2011;Hogan & Hogan, 2001). These undesirable characteristics are
part of normal personality. However, Hogan and Hogan (2001) note that many behaviors linked to
managerial derailment are analogous to Axis-II personality disorders as described in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). In fact, the
three published omnibus inventories of dark side personalities that are appropriate for a normal
working population can each be understood in terms of these dimensions (Kaiser, LeBreton, &
Hogan, in press): Borderline, Paranoid, Avoidant, Schizoid, Passive–Aggressive, Narcissistic,
Antisocial, Histrionic, Schizotypal, Obsessive–Compulsive, and Dependent. Further, these Axis II
dimensions factor into three higher-order dimensions (Furnham, Trickey, & Hyde, 2012) that can be
interpreted in terms of Karen Horney’s (1950) three unique ways of dealing with interpersonal
anxiety: (a) moving away: intimidating detaching and withdrawing from others; (b) moving against:
charming and manipulating others; and (c) moving toward: complying and ingratiating with others.
Studies of managerial incompetence have found that behaviors such as exploitation, microman-
agement, irritability, and inability to delegate can lead to leadership failure (Hellervik, Hazucha, &
Schneider, 1992;Peterson, 1993). In a summary of management derailment research, Hogan,
Hogan, and Kaiser (2010) noted that an ever-present theme was interpersonal difficulties due to
personality “defects.” For example, a study of derailed executives by McCall and Lombardo (1983)
found that the most common cause of derailment was insensitivity to others. Carson et al. (2011)
investigated the links between dysfunctional personality characteristics, derailing behaviors (e.g.,
betraying trust), and actual derailment (voluntary and involuntary turnover). They found that
managers who exhibited “moving against” behaviors were more likely to exhibit derailing behaviors
and consequently be fired or quit.
Levinson (1988) spoke about CEO pressure, referring to the multiple and extreme demands
placed on occupants of institutional leadership roles. Dotlich and Cairo (2003) suggested that Chief
Executives were more susceptible to derailers due to these intense pressures. They discussed 11
characteristics associated with failure of CEOs, which are based on the same taxonomy of dark side
traits discussed above. The increased pressures and greater discretion that CEOs enjoy heightens the
expression and impact of dark side traits (Kaiser & Hogan, 2007). However, to the best of our
knowledge, no research has been published on the base rates of the dark side of CEO personality.
“Inside” Values
Individual values represent preferences and desires, indicate what someone finds rewarding, and
what they will strive to attain (Giberson et al., 2009;Locke, 1991). Layton (as cited in Hogan &
Hogan, 2010, p. 4) described interests as “one aspect of what is broadly considered as the motivation
of an individual . . . a part of the person’s personality structure.” Gregory (1992, cited in Hogan &
Hogan, 2010) reviewed the extant motivational taxonomies and summarized them in 10 constructs:
Aesthetics, Affiliation, Altruism, Commerce, Hedonism, Power, Recognition, Science, Security, and
Tradition. These were the basis of the Hogan Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory, designed
to be a direct assessment of a person’s motives (Hogan & Hogan, 2010).
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91PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
CEOs’ values have previously been shown to exert an effect on organizational values (Berson,
Oreg, & Dvir, 2008;Giberson et al., 2009); however, few studies address values that CEOs hold as
a group. Consistent with our other predictions, we expect CEOs as a group to share certain values.
However, in light of the ASA model (Schneider et al., 1995) and considering the sheer variety in
organizational values and cultures to which any given CEO might be attracted, we also expected
there to be some distinguishable differences among CEO values.
The Present Study
In summary, this study will investigate CEO personality in terms of “bright side” style, “dark side”
derailers, and “inside” values. Using a sample of New Zealand CEOs, we will first examine CEO
personal characteristics by comparing them to a normal population. Using the test publisher’s
normative group as an established population for comparison, we will analyze whether the person-
ality of our CEO sample differed significantly from this group, as well as whether they are
significantly more homogeneous than the norm. We will then explore potential differences among
CEOs that may have resulted from differing environmental influences, using a cluster analysis. This
is a method for statistically categorizing or classifying objects into meaningful units based on their
characteristics (Gore, 2000).
Note that although this study includes only CEOs from New Zealand, for simplicity’s sake we
will refer to them just as CEOs. This is not intended to suggest that this sample is globally
representative, although we note that the GLOBE studies clustered New Zealand with other Anglo
cultures (Grove, 2005).
Method
Participants
Our participants included 151 New Zealand CEO incumbents and candidates for whom our
consulting firm, Winsborough Limited, had psychometric test results. The majority of these were
from assessments conducted for selection or development purposes. For selection purposes, only
short-listed candidates completed psychometric assessments and the sample was therefore highly
select. All assessments were conducted between January 2006 and September 2012.
The sample is overwhelmingly male (78.8%) and split between public and private sectors
(57.6% and 42.4%, respectively). Female CEOs in our sample were much more likely to be in the
public sector (84.4%) than male CEOs (49.6%),
2
(1, N 151) 11.91, p.001. Unfortunately,
age and ethnic information were unavailable.
Measures
Personality was measured with the Hogan Assessment Systems (HAS) suite of tools, which includes
tests that measure “the bright side,” “the dark side,” and “the inside.” The assessments have been
designed and normed specifically for work rather than clinical contexts and there is extensive
research that has demonstrated that they predict a variety of workplace outcomes and do not
discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or age (Hogan, Hogan, & Warrenfeltz, 2007). The suite
is comprised of three tests: the Hogan Personality Inventory, which measures “bright side” style; the
Hogan Development Survey, which measures “dark side” derailers; and the Motives, Values, and
Preferences Inventory, which measures “inside” drivers. Descriptions for each scale are presented
in Appendix A. The assessment questionnaires were administered online.
The Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) measures day-to-day behavioral style and characteris-
tics necessary for success in work environments. The HPI is based on the FFM and shows strong
convergent validity with other FFM inventories, rs .30 to .69 (Hogan & Hogan, 2007). It consists
of 206 True/False items that make up seven scales (test–retest rs.69 to .87). These scales (and,
in parentheses the name of the FFM scale or facet to which they are most comparable) are:
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92 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
(Emotional Stability), Ambition (Extraversion facet), Sociability (Extraversion facet of FFM extra-
version), Interpersonal Sensitivity (Agreeableness), Prudence (Conscientiousness), Inquisitiveness
(Openness), and Learning Approach (Openness facets of openness).
The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) measures dysfunctional dispositions and problematic
behaviors that are intended to protect oneself from perceived threats but that, over time, disrupt
relationships and corrupt judgment (Hogan et al., 2010;Hogan & Hogan, 2009) and has been used
in studies of managerial derailment (e.g., Carson et al., 2011). It consists of 168 True/False items
that make up 11 scales (test–retest rs.64 to .75), which statistically cluster into three themes
(Furnham et al., 2012) that are interpreted in terms of Horney’s (1950) three primary ways of dealing
with anxiety (related Axis II personality disorders are listed in parentheses): moving away or
distancing behaviors–Excitable (Borderline), Skeptical (Paranoid), Cautious (Avoidant), Reserved
(Schizoid), and Leisurely (Passive-aggressive); moving against or agitating behaviors–Bold (Nar-
cissistic), Mischievous (Antisocial), Colorful (Histronic), and Imaginative (Schizotypal); and mov-
ing toward or acquiescing behaviors–Diligent (Obsessive– compulsive) and Dutiful (Dependent).
The Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (MVPI) measures an individual’s interests and
drivers. It is used to assess the fit of personal values and interests with the psychological require-
ments of the job and the culture of an organization (Hogan & Hogan, 2010). The MVPI consists of
200 True/False/Undecided questions that make up 10 scales representing values related to Recog-
nition, Power, Hedonism, Altruism, Affiliation, Tradition, Security, Commerce, Aesthetics, and
Science (test–retest rs.71 to .85).
Scores on each Hogan test are compared with the relevant general norm group of working
adults. Winsborough Limited uses the New Zealand norm as a standard for all levels of assessment,
up to and including CEOs. Although subgroup norms can be created for more specific purposes such
as for managers or executives, HAS specifies that these are supplementary rather than alternative
norms for purposes of interpretation since interpretative guidelines are based on research conducted
on the general population (Hogan Assessment Systems, 2007). Note that New Zealand managerial
norms do not currently exist but we would expect that differences between CEOs and the working
population would be stronger than differences between CEOs and managers for some scales. That
is, we believe it is reasonable to hypothesize that CEOs are more extraverted than managers, who
in turn would be more extraverted than the average worker. For other scales, the differences between
CEOs and the working population may be weaker or in an opposing direction compared with
differences between CEOs and managers. For example, the meta-analysis of studies on personality
and leadership found that good leaders were described as being conscientious (Judge et al., 2002),
whereas there was no effect for conscientiousness in a review of the relationship between CEO
personality and organizational outcomes (Abatecola et al., 2011). These comparisons, although
interesting and important, are beyond the scope of the current article.
The New Zealand general norms were created in 2007 based on data from HAS’s archival
database, starting with a total of 13,000 cases across several organizations. The dataset was stratified
by job category, ethnicity, and gender to mirror as closely as possible the composition of the New
Zealand workforce (HAS, 2007). The final norm sample size was 3,368; the makeup of the sample
for each test is provided in Appendix B.
Results
Differences Between CEOs and the New Zealand Norm
Descriptive statistics for all study variables and the results comparing scores for New Zealand CEOs
and the general New Zealand working population are presented in Table 1. For each scale, means
and standard deviations are presented for CEOs and the norm group. A series of one-sample ztests
were conducted to assess whether CEOs differed from the New Zealand norm for each measure.
This was considered the most appropriate statistic because the normative data were collected and
analyzed by HAS rather than as part of the current study and represent known population means and
variances. A Holm-Bonferroni correction was applied to correct for inflation in family wise Type I
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93PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
error rates (false positives) resulting from multiple comparisons.
1
These results and the associated
effect sizes are also provided in Table 1. We computed two measures of effect size to aid in
interpretation, Cohen’s dand the Common Language Effect Size (CLES). Cohen’s (1988) dwas
calculated by dividing the difference between the CEO and New Zealand norm means by the
1
The Holm-Bonferroni correction is a modified Bonferroni correction, the original of which is extremely
conservative and inflates the rate of Type II errors (false negatives). The Holm-Bonferroni is a sequentially
rejective correction where mnumber of pvalues are ordered from smallest to largest, the smallest value is
compared against /m, the second smallest against /m1, and so on. Once a pvalue is found to be larger than
the related adjusted , all remaining pvalues are considered not significant (Holm, 1979).
Table 1
Mean Scores, Standard Deviations, and Effect Sizes
Maximum
NZ norm
Chief
Executives
zdCLES
Bartlett’s
Mean SD Mean SD
2
(df 1)
HPI (N 150)
Adjustment 37 29.34 5.38 31.07 4.50 3.93
ⴱⴱ
.32 .59 8.39
Ambition 29 24.06 4.29 27.65 1.65 10.24
ⴱⴱⴱ
.84 .72 157.10
ⴱⴱⴱ
Sociability 24 13.54 4.31 14.89 4.56 3.85
ⴱⴱ
.31 .59 1.01
Interpersonal 22 19.93 2.36 19.63 1.86 1.57 .13 .46 14.46
ⴱⴱⴱ
Prudence 31 20.96 3.96 20.57 3.82 1.22 .10 .47 .39
Inquisitive 25 15.18 4.50 15.66 3.88 1.31 .11 .53 5.87
Learning 14 8.74 3.33 10.57 2.37 6.74
ⴱⴱⴱ
.55 .65 27.52
ⴱⴱⴱ
HDS (N 149)
Excitable 14 2.35 2.19 1.34 1.70 5.65
ⴱⴱⴱ
.46 .37 16.38
ⴱⴱⴱ
Skeptical 14 4.45 2.46 3.28 2.01 5.80
ⴱⴱⴱ
.47 .37 10.34
Cautious 14 3.10 2.43 1.97 1.74 5.69
ⴱⴱⴱ
.47 .37 26.78
ⴱⴱⴱ
Reserved 14 4.02 2.01 3.87 1.94 0.94 .08 .48 .35
Leisurely 14 4.51 2.20 3.89 1.92 3.43 .28 .42 4.93
Bold 14 7.15 2.70 7.16 2.42 0.05 .00 .50 3.36
Mischievous 14 5.80 2.50 6.54 2.51 3.63 .30 .58 .00
Colorful 14 6.78 2.82 8.94 2.77 9.35
ⴱⴱⴱ
.77 .71 .11
Imaginative 14 5.77 2.45 5.68 2.07 0.46 .04 .49 7.32
Diligent 14 10.11 2.19 8.64 2.33 8.17
ⴱⴱⴱ
.67 .32 1.09
Dutiful 14 8.54 2.17 6.88 1.91 9.34
ⴱⴱⴱ
.77 .29 4.40
MVPI (N 147)
Recognition 60 38.10 7.38 37.99 7.51 .18 .01 .50 .09
Power 60 45.06 7.02 47.86 6.24 4.83
ⴱⴱ
.40 .61 3.72
Hedonism 60 40.20 6.54 36.71 6.35 6.47
ⴱⴱⴱ
.53 .35 .25
Altruistic 60 47.47 6.45 48.71 6.56 2.34 .19 .55 .08
Affiliation 60 48.98 5.15 49.88 4.41 2.11 .17 .55 6.24
Tradition 60 43.30 5.70 45.46 6.32 4.59
ⴱⴱ
.38 .61 3.33
Security 60 38.72 7.33 36.44 6.44 3.77 .31 .41 4.44
Commerce 60 42.24 6.69 42.74 6.21 .91 .07 .52 1.56
Aesthetics 60 35.00 7.70 36.27 7.44 2.00 .17 .55 .33
Science 60 39.93 7.89 40.38 7.47 .69 .06 .52 .83
Note. “Maximum” refers to the maximum possible scale score. Asterisks indicate significant ps after Holm-
Bonferroni correction at
␣⫽.05,
ⴱⴱ
␣⫽.01, and
ⴱⴱⴱ
␣⫽.001. drefers to Cohen’s (1988) d, the standardized
mean difference, CLES refers to the Common Language Effect Size (Coe, 2002). Bartlett’s test assesses whether
two variances differ significantly. A significant result indicates that the group with the smaller variance is more
homogeneous than the group with the larger variance.
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94 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
population (NZ norm) standard deviation. Values around 0.20 are considered small differences,
around 0.50 medium differences, and around 0.80 large differences (Cohen, 1988). The Common
Language Effect Size (CLES) is a more easily understood effect size statistic that gives, in this case,
the probability that a randomly selected CEO will have a higher score than a randomly selected
working New Zealander (Coe, 2002). For example, a Cohen’s dof 0 (indicating no mean difference)
translates to a CLES of .50, or no better than chance odds that a CEO will be higher on a particular
measure than a typical working New Zealander.
Finally, to assess whether CEOs are more homogeneous than the NZ norm, we conducted
Bartlett’s test of homogeneity of variance for each measure. This test assesses whether the variances
of two groups differ significantly. A significant result indicates that the group with the smaller
variance is more homogeneous than the group with the larger variance.
“Bright side” style. CEOs scored significantly higher than the NZ norm on four out of the
seven HPI scales. CEOs were, on average, substantially higher than the NZ norm on Ambition. The
CLES indicates that there is a 72% chance that a randomly selected CEO will be higher on Ambition
than a randomly selected working New Zealander. This is notable since effect sizes of this
magnitude are considered extremely rare in psychology (Roberts, Kuncel, Shiner, Caspi, & Gold-
berg, 2007). CEOs were also moderately higher than the norm on Learning Approach, and to a lesser
degree higher on Adjustment and Sociability. As a group, they score close to the norm on
Interpersonal Sensitivity, Prudence, and Inquisitive. These findings supported our predictions that
CEOs would exhibit higher emotional stability and extraversion, while being comparable with the
general population on agreeableness and conscientiousness. In terms of openness, the CEOs in our
sample were higher on the Learning Approach scale as expected, but not higher on Inquisitive.
“Dark side” derailers. CEOs differed significantly from the NZ norm on six of the 11 HDS
scales. They are substantially higher than the NZ norm on Colorful, which falls within the moving
against theme. Generally, however, CEOs scored lower on derailers than did the NZ normative
group. They were substantially lower on the moving toward cluster, Dutiful and Diligent, and
moderately lower on three of the moving away scales: Skeptical, Cautious, and Excitable. The lower
scores on these derailer themes and elevations on the moving against scales were consistent with
research indicating senior leaders to be more dynamic, sociable, outgoing, and independent. These
results were consistent with our expectations (Hogan & Hogan, 2009).
“Inside” values. CEOs differed significantly from working New Zealanders on just three out
of the 10 MVPI scales, and effect sizes for the values scales were smaller than for “bright side” style
and “dark side” derailer scales. CEOs were moderately higher than the NZ norm on Power and
Tradition, and moderately lower than the norm on Hedonism. Together, this pattern suggested a
generally conservative value orientation. The subtle differences indicated by smaller effect sizes
may be less immediately obvious in how one perceives these CEOs, but may have a powerful
cumulative effect over time since decisions about strategy, structure, and staffing are continually
steered in this more conservative direction (see Roberts et al., 2007 for a discussion of the compound
effects of small personality differences). These results for values were consistent with our expec-
tations.
Homogeneity of CEOs. The results from the Bartlett’s tests indicated that CEOs were signif-
icantly more homogeneous than was the NZ normative group on several “bright side” style and
“dark side” derailer scales. They were more similar to each other than was the general population
on HPI Ambition, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Learning Approach, as well as on HDS Excitable,
Skeptical, and Cautious. These results point to aspects of CEOs’ personality in which there was a
narrower bandwidth for optimal behavior. Notably, there were no significant differences in variance
on any of the “inside” values scales. This suggested that CEOs are driven by a variety of motivations
to attain the role. In sum, we speculate that this indicated a strong cognitive prototype in terms of
both bright side and dark side personality in how those making hiring decisions expect CEOs to
behave and react to pressure. However, there is much more variety in the kinds of values and drives
that seem to have motivated these CEOs. Further, Cognitive Categorization Theory maintains that
the mental categories people use to determine whether someone is leader-like would be based on
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95PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
more observable factors (Lord et al., 1984), since the “bright side” and “dark side” traits are more
apparent than are deeper-seated motives and values.
Differences Among CEOs
Although CEOs are more homogeneous than average New Zealanders on a number of factors, there
are also several where they vary as much as the norm. To investigate patterns by which CEOs
differed from each other, we conducted a two-stage hierarchical cluster analysis using SPSS and
Ward’s method (an agglomerative technique designed to minimize within-cluster variation) with
squared Euclidean distances. All variables from the three Hogan assessments were used in the
analysis and the scale scores were all standardized by converting to Z-scores to control for
differences in variability and to take into account the differences among response scales.
We determined the number of clusters to retain based on changes in agglomeration coefficients
as well as by reviewing the meaningfulness of the clusters. Of the likely solutions, those with two
and three clusters produced groups that were both meaningful and of an interpretable size, yet the
four-cluster solution yielded one group that was too small for valid analysis (N 7). We retained
the three-cluster solution since it produced a set of groups that were conceptually distinct and
meaningful, adding much information and richness to the classification of CEOs over and above the
two-cluster solution.
The demographic breakdown of each cluster is provided in Table 2. Note that six CEOs were
not classified by the cluster analysis. Chi-square tests indicated that although the distribution of CEO
gender does not differ significantly among the groups, there were more private sector CEOs in
Cluster 1 and more public sector CEOs in Cluster 2. Differences between the three clusters in terms
of the personality variables were explored with a series of one-way ANOVAs and a Holm-
Bonferroni correction was also applied to each Ftest to control for inflation of Type I error while
maintaining Type II error at a reasonable level. These results are presented in Table 3.
Cluster 1–The Alphas. This first cluster is comprised 22.8% of the sample and was distin-
guished by greater ascendency, energy, and drive than the other clusters; therefore, we named them
“Alphas.” This cluster has a disproportionate number of private sector Chief Executives. Members
of this cluster were significantly higher than the other two clusters on each HPI scale. On the HDS,
Alphas display characteristic moving against derailers. They are significantly higher than the other
clusters on Bold, Mischievous, and Colorful. They were also defined by particularly low scores on
moving away derailers. Finally, they were significantly higher than either or both of the other
clusters on eight of the 10 MVPI scales than other Chief Executives (all but Aesthetics and Science),
suggesting Alphas are more oriented toward results, people, and convention but not ideas or
innovation.
Cluster 2–The Pragmatics. The second cluster contained the largest proportion of the sample,
60.7%, and was distinguished by a more realistic, focused, and down-to-earth approach than the other
Table 2
Demographic Breakdown of Clusters
Cluster 1 Cluster 2 Cluster 3
2
“Alphas” “Pragmatics” “Mavericks”
(N 33) (N 88) (N 24) (df 1)
Gender
Male 78.8% 76.1% 83.3%
Female 21.2% 23.9% 16.7% .59
Sector
Public 36.4% 65.9% 50.0%
Private 63.6% 34.1% 50.0% 9.03
p.05.
ⴱⴱ
p.01.
ⴱⴱⴱ
p.001.
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96 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
clusters. We have thus named them “Pragmatics,” and they were disproportionately composed of public
sector CEOs. This cluster scored significantly lower on Adjustment, Ambition, and Interpersonal
Sensitivity than Alphas. They also score significantly lower on Sociability, Inquisitive, and Learning
Approach than all other CEOs. The dark side results indicated that the Pragmatics were more likely than
the other clusters to utilize moving away and moving toward behaviors under pressure, and less likely to
use moving against behavior, in particular, Imaginative. In terms of values, they were higher on Tradition
and Security than the third cluster, reflecting greater conservatism, but were lower on Recognition,
Power, Hedonism, Altruism, Affiliation, and Commerce.
Cluster 3–The Mavericks. This final cluster was originally linked with the Alpha group in the
two-cluster solution and, therefore, shared several characteristics with them. They were distin-
Table 3
Differences Across the Three “Subtribes” of NZ CEOs
“Alphas” “Pragmatics” “Mavericks”
F
2
Differences
Cluster 1
Mean (SD)
Cluster 2
Mean (SD)
Cluster 3
Mean (SD)
(N 33) (N 88) (N 24)
HPI
Adjustment 33.85 (2.45) 30.20 (4.90) 30.25 (3.84) 9.11
ⴱⴱⴱ
.11 1 2, 3
Ambition 28.52 (0.71) 27.23 (1.86) 27.96 (1.37) 8.45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.11 1 2
Sociability 18.67 (1.83) 12.60 (4.26) 17.75 (3.42) 41.02
ⴱⴱⴱ
.37 1, 3 2
Interpersonal 20.61 (0.97) 19.35 (2.07) 19.25 (1.65) 6.37
.08 1 2, 3
Prudence 22.03 (2.93) 21.41 (3.14) 15.63 (3.49) 36.22
ⴱⴱⴱ
.34 1, 2 3
Inquisitive 17.88 (2.72) 14.61 (3.82) 16.71 (4.19) 10.60
ⴱⴱⴱ
.13 1, 3 2
Learning 11.85 (1.77) 9.93 (2.39) 11.50 (2.23) 11.01
ⴱⴱⴱ
.13 1, 3 2
HDS
Excitable 0.58 (0.97) 1.63 (1.92) 1.54 (1.32) 4.95
.07 1 2
Skeptical 3.45 (1.79) 3.26 (1.97) 3.08 (2.32) .25 .00
Cautious 0.85 (0.94) 2.41 (1.84) 1.96 (1.43) 11.21
ⴱⴱⴱ
.14 1 2, 3
Reserved 2.79 (1.60) 4.38 (2.01) 3.42 (1.41) 9.80
ⴱⴱⴱ
.12 1 2
Leisurely 3.15 (1.64) 4.09 (1.95) 4.00 (2.00) 3.03 .04
Bold 8.76 (2.25) 6.59 (2.36) 7.13 (2.03) 10.79
ⴱⴱⴱ
.13 1 2, 3
Mischievous 8.03 (2.27) 5.52 (2.22) 8.04 (1.99) 22.60
ⴱⴱⴱ
.24 1, 3 2
Colorful 10.91 (1.81) 7.73 (2.55) 10.58 (2.39) 28.45
ⴱⴱⴱ
.29 1, 3 2
Imaginative 6.12 (1.71) 4.85 (1.78) 7.75 (1.62) 27.97
ⴱⴱⴱ
.28 3 12
Diligent 9.55 (1.87) 9.08 (2.00) 6.00 (2.28) 25.91
ⴱⴱⴱ
.27 1, 2 3
Dutiful 6.91 (1.76) 7.18 (1.97) 5.75 (1.54) 5.58
.07 2 3
MVPI
Recognition 43.52 (6.63) 35.69 (7.25) 38.29 (5.51) 15.66
ⴱⴱⴱ
.18 1 2, 3
Power 52.64 (4.49) 45.98 (5.86) 48.25 (6.40) 16.61
ⴱⴱⴱ
.19 1 2, 3
Hedonism 39.42 (5.23) 35.24 (6.22) 38.08 (7.04) 6.31
.08 1 2
Altruistic 52.33 (5.00) 48.18 (6.95) 45.96 (5.05) 8.12
ⴱⴱⴱ
.10 1 2, 3
Affiliation 53.42 (2.95) 48.14 (4.08) 51.67 (3.71) 26.40
ⴱⴱⴱ
.27 1, 3 2
Tradition 48.27 (6.05) 45.43 (5.85) 41.79 (6.79) 7.96
ⴱⴱ
.10 1, 2 3
Security 38.64 (5.98) 37.64 (5.58) 28.71 (4.14) 28.73
ⴱⴱⴱ
.29 1, 2 3
Commerce 47.61 (3.93) 41.34 (5.59) 41.08 (7.76) 15.73
ⴱⴱⴱ
.18 1 2, 3
Aesthetics 36.97 (6.65) 35.74 (7.73) 37.25 (7.74) .57 .01
Science 42.73 (6.81) 39.84 (7.01) 40.00 (9.08) 1.93 .03
Note. Asterisks indicate significant differences between clusters after Holm-Bonferroni correction at
␣⫽.05,
ⴱⴱ
␣⫽.01, and
ⴱⴱⴱ
␣⫽.001.
2
in the adjacent column indicates effect size. These are analogous to R
2
;.01
is considered small, .06 medium, and .14 large (Cohen, 1988). Where there is a significant difference, the
final column indicates which cluster means differ.
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97PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
guished by their greater tolerance for risk and ambiguity but less interest in rules and structure. They
were also less constrained by socialized conventions and, therefore, we have named them “Mav-
ericks.” This group comprised 16.6% of the sample. In their day-to-day “bright side” style, they are
significantly lower on Adjustment, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Prudence than Alphas. In terms of
“dark side” derailers, Mavericks are similar to Alphas in their tendency toward moving against
behaviors—they are high on Mischievous, Colorful, and Imaginative (they are higher even than
Alphas on the latter), though are not as Bold. They are also significantly lower on the moving toward
scales, Diligent and Dutiful, than the other clusters. The MVPI was where Mavericks differed most
from the Alphas. Mavericks were less interested in Recognition, Power, Altruism, and Commerce.
Most notable are their significantly lower scores on Tradition and Security.
Discussion
In our view, leadership is an evolutionary adaption promoting effective group performance. A
corollary of this idea is that not everybody is equipped for this task, nor, by definition, can everyone
be a leader (Van Vugt et al., 2008). Thus, we predicted that leaders would differ from the rest of us;
along with others (Hogan & Judge, 2012;Spisak et al., 2011) we surmised that leaders likely fall
within a restricted personality bandwidth and would therefore resemble each other in distinctive
ways.
Our results confirmed that CEOs were both substantively different from, and more homoge-
neous than, the rest of the working population. We also identified meaningful differences among
CEOs that allow us to group them into “subtribes.” We argued that these differences reflected
variations in cognitive prototypes that are held for at least this sample of Chief Executives.
Analogous to the findings of the GLOBE study (Grove, 2005), our results supported an overall CEO
cognitive prototype as well as subprototypes which may have arisen from different environmental
influences which shaped the characteristics that followers might view as necessary for leadership
success.
Although this sample of CEOs was drawn from the population of a small island nation, there
is evidence to support its global applicability. Data from the GLOBE studies showed that the New
Zealand pattern in our samples was consistent with valued prototypes of charismatic, values-based,
and team-oriented leadership found in most Anglo cultures (Kennedy, 2007). More subtly, good
New Zealand leaders were seen as being less concerned with administration and were much more
egalitarian.
More striking is the observation that we were able to identify personality characteristics that
distinguished government and industry CEOs, lending support to the idea that the demands of niches
attract or repel similar leaders (Schneider et al., 1995). For example, it is very likely that the leaders
of large government agencies serve their political masters best by staying low-key and away from
headlines. Large systems such as public service bureaucracies may weed out more colorful CEOs,
and more market-oriented firms shun quieter, conservative CEOs. These findings may have impli-
cations for the selection and management of CEOs and is explored further below.
The New Zealand CEO Profile
CEO “bright side” style. In terms of their day-to-day style, CEOs in our research were
materially different from average. They were more ambitious, competitive, and confident than most
people. They valued achievement and being in charge. More than the rest of us, CEOs were oriented
to work and success, and were more serious than they were fun. They epitomized the word drive.
Overall, these CEOs were seen as stable, even-tempered, socially competent, well-informed, and
results-oriented. From an evolutionary perspective, we argue, this makes perfect sense. People look
for leadership to those who have a strong sense of what’s going on, who want to achieve, and who
are not easily thrown off course when the going gets tough. The finding that these CEOs also
differed less on several measures of bright side personality underscored the idea that these traits
make up a cognitive prototype for leadership, in line with Hogan’s (2007) predictions for socio-
analytic theory.
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98 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
In particular, the results showed that Ambition was a distinctive, and perhaps defining,
marker of CEO personality. Ambition is the facet of FFM extraversion concerning competitive
and assertive behavior. Note that the Ambition construct overlaps with the definition of FFM
conscientiousness as concerning self-motivation and drive toward goals (McCrae & Costa,
1997). The HPI equivalent, Prudence, focuses on the structured, detail-oriented, and rule
abiding aspect of conscientiousness. Importantly, we found no elevation on this scale in our
sample, suggesting Ambition may constitute unique measure related to leadership perceptions
(see also Judge et al., 2002;Kaiser & Hogan, 2011). We suggest that CEOs apply themselves
because it will achieve an end and enable them to get ahead, rather than because it is in their
nature to be diligent. It is possible that the mixed findings regarding leader conscientiousness
in empirical studies (Judge et al., 2002;Nadkarni & Hermann, 2010;Sangster, 2011) may be
due to construct definition issues. The finding that CEOs are more driven to be in charge than
most people is intuitive and expected; however, the effect size for Ambition was on a scale rare
in psychological findings (Roberts et al., 2007). Although not undesirable, per se, we distin-
guish being impelled to lead from leadership competence: being in charge is not the same as
being effective, in a leadership role Padilla, Hogan, and Kaiser (2007) make a good case about
the role of an unbridled need to get ahead in destructive leadership, a point that raises the issue
of derailment.
CEO “dark side” derailers. Under pressure, most people demonstrate self-doubt or anxiety.
By contrast, Chief Executives’ higher scores for Adjustment suggest they are much more likely to
remain calm and composed, a finding that echoes previous research on leader personality (Judge et
al., 2002;Nadkarni & Hermann, 2010;Peterson et al., 2003;Sangster, 2011). They react to problems
with composure, are more relaxed in general, and relaxed about risk in particular. An even
temperament has been shown to predict more active strategic orientation and leads to improved firm
performance (Abatecola et al., 2011). In part this is because emotional stability is associated with
reduced reactivity to threat and risk (see e.g., Nettle & Penke, 2010) and combined with heightened
drive these CEOs are likely to be described as somewhat fearless. Our results underscore this
finding: CEOs are lower than the general population on the moving away and moving toward clusters
of scales.
Dark side derailers can be understood as resulting from strengths overused (Kaiser,
Lebreton, & Hogan, in press;Kaiser & Overfield, 2011). Thus, given our finding for Ambition,
CEOs’ propensities toward self-aggrandizement should be expected and was a noteworthy
result in this research. CEOs were substantially higher on average than typical members of the
public on the Colorful scale, suggesting tendencies toward dramatic, flirtatious, and attention-
seeking behaviors under pressure, which may have helped them gain the visibility required to
ascend to their position. It contains charismatic elements: these CEOs were engaging, socially
dominant, and drawn toward action. Under pressure, they may confuse activity with produc-
tivity and be intuitive rather than analytical in their decision making. Although entertaining,
they tend to “take over” and be described by others as forceful in their leadership style,
unfocused, and melodramatic (Hogan & Hogan, 2009). The Colorful effect was nearly as strong
as that for Ambition and constituted a second distinctive marker. It is noteworthy that CEOs are
higher on a scale that has been shown to lead to greater derailment in managers (Carson et al.,
2011). This probably reflects two sides of the same coin: the desirable drive, confidence, and
social assertiveness that get one into a leadership role and the flip side of self-promotion, drama,
and social dominance that can get one removed from a leadership role.
Also notable was the finding that CEOs scored much lower than the norm on Dutiful. This scale
concerns dealing with pressure or anxiety by becoming more accommodating or ingratiating to
superiors. At the heart of the Dutiful scale is a reluctance to assume responsibility and take charge
and, thus, this result further underscored the finding that the CEOs in our sample were very focused
on being the leader and not backing away when things became difficult. However, there is also
emerging research on the meaning of particularly low scores on HDS scales (Kaiser et al., in press;
Warrenfeltz & Seldman, 2012). Those low on Dutiful scores can be uncooperative, poor team
players who may have antagonistic relationships with superiors, such as Board members.
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99PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
Such findings matter because CEOs have wider decision latitude and make more consequential
decisions. The assertive, confident, socially skilled yet independent, and risk-oriented nature of
CEOs found in this study are attractive qualities—to a point. Left unchecked, however, these
characteristics may point to the possibility of aggrandizing opportunity seeking.
CEO “inside” values. Turning to values, we observed a distinctive, though less homogeneous,
profile: CEOs were more interested in being in charge and more inclined toward a conservative
world view—a finding that is consistent with the notion that modern day leadership success involves
ascending inside existing power structures—learning to “play the game.” The clearest result, though,
was that CEOs are “no nonsense” individuals, much less interested in fun and enjoyment than in
goal achievement and successs, which may have significant, and negative, implications for staff
engagement. These values align with the bright and dark side personality traits we see elevated in
CEOs— by both style and nature: CEOs in our study were take-charge, stoic, “all work and no play”
individuals. The variability we found in CEO values was consistent with Schneider et al.’s (1995)
theory that organizations and people go through an iterative matching process. There are skills and
attributes required to advance in all organizations but fitting into a specific one may call on different
and particular drivers.
In a trenchant critique of academic studies of leadership, Hogan (2007) pointed out that studying
those at the top of an organization is not the same as studying effective leaders. People at the top
simply demonstrate they can survive and climb organizational hierarchies. Nonetheless, the homo-
geneous nature of these groups is telling—those in positions of leadership share a remarkable
number of positive and negative character traits. Being a CEO is to be a member of an elite club and
to get into this club requires not a jacket and tie but the characteristics, style, and demeanor that mark
one as being different from most people but similar to other club members, i.e., to other CEOs.
The Subtribes
Though CEOs in our samples were much more homogeneous than the average working population
in terms of their bright and dark side personalities, we also identified meaningful variation in their
style, derailers, and particularly in their values. Examining these differences allowed us to better
understand this select group and provided useful directions for development and coaching. A cluster
analysis allowed us to classify CEOs into “subtribes” which described variations on the overall CEO
profile. Three clusters with distinct characteristics emerged, which we named Alphas, Pragmatics,
and Mavericks.
Alphas. This “subtribe” did not consist of Alpha males, since our sample contained a propor-
tional number of women. This group was interpersonally dominant. These CEOs were characterized
by very high levels of ambition and energy and came across as driven and dynamic. They had the
classic leadership drivers: being valuing results, status, hierarchy, and the commercial bottom line.
This group displayed characteristics that make it easy for people to “connect” to, and to find
inspiration from them. Of the subtribes we identified they were the most interested by relationships
and alliances. This group was also dominated by private sector CEOs. Success in the for-profit
environment is defined by tangible results and financial achievement and requires competing for
staff and customer engagement—and loyalty—as well as market share and sales.
Pragmatics. What sets this group apart was not great energy or flair but being practical, tough,
and realistic in their approach. Primarily, CEOs in this group were less sociable and less curious. As
a consequence, they were more self-contained and unlikely to be swayed by the subjectivity of other
people’s feelings and speculative hunches. Pragmatics in our study were sensible, not risky. They
will likely seem much less charismatic than other CEOs. Pragmatics scored significantly lower on
most of the values measures, however. What was important to these CEOs were conservative
preferences represented by tradition, hierarchy, and stability. There were proportionally more public
servants in this group, a finding that accords with stereotypes about public service leaders being less
flamboyant, more bureaucratic, and more cautious than their private sector counterparts. Part of
being successful in the public or government sector involves being stable, objective, and making
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100 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
decisions that must necessarily be pragmatic in order to meet the needs of the many. Dynamic or
innovative CEOs may look inappropriately melodramatic or “out there” in a public sector environment.
Mavericks. The distinguishing characteristic of this subtribe was their propensity to break rules
and their impatience with routine. More than other CEOs in our study they were significantly less
inclined toward structure and process, and were more creative and open to risk. This can be seen as
innovative and “out-of-the-box” but may also come across as being unusual in their thinking and
behavior. Mavericks were similar in many ways to Alphas in terms of their style and derailers.
However, the two groups differed in their endorsed values. In particular, this subtribe was much less
interested the status quo, authority, and oversight, and may look like the popular perception of
organizational change agents. Unlike the previous subtribes, public and private sector CEOs were
equally represented in this cluster. Both of these environments may need change and, therefore, seek
out leadership situations in which they can challenge established notions.
Practical Implications
CEO selection and board relations. There are three main implications of this study for CEO
selection. The first echoes the point we have made throughout regarding the difference between
leadership emergence (looking the part) and leadership performance (doing the part). Although we
were unable in this study to compare personality with actual performance, the traits on which the
CEOs in our sample were elevated are those associated with making positive initial impressions,
which may or may not correlate with performance in practice. Those involved in selecting CEOs
should remember that there is a halo effect associated with extraversion (e.g., Grant, Gino, &
Hoffman, 2011) and to look beyond initial impressions in their assessments.
The second implication relates to fit rather than ability. Our research indicated that there were
different CEO “types” who were likely to be attracted to, and to be more successful in, certain kinds
of organizations. Our findings were preliminary but in at least in these samples, the dynamic and
engaging Alphas seemed most suited to private industry and the reliable and steady Pragmatics were
likely most at home in government. Maverick challengers would likely be best suited for organi-
zations needing someone to catalyze big change.
Third, boards may do well to understand that although most CEOs share certain characteristics
(e.g., being socially skilled, ambitious, and driven), our analysis of subtribes suggested that
differences in derailment tendencies and values also need to be considered. Alphas and Mavericks
may try to dominate boards and resist oversight, while Pragmatics may be too compliant and willing
to defer to board recommendations and suggestions.
CEO development. This research also points to very specific development needs for CEOs.
CEOs generally do not receive adequate feedback or constructive criticism to enhance awareness of
their shortcomings (Dotlich & Cairo, 2003). Humans are exquisitely sensitive to status and
hierarchy; via the mix of attention, deference, social distance, and positive regard, CEOs run the risk
of others seeing them as being oracular and inevitably right. This research found two broad
development needs that should be kept in mind not only by CEOs but those who work with them,
manage them, or advise them.
The dark side of charisma. The CEOs in our sample were not only dominant and self-assured
but also, by and large, were charismatic. Such people can be charming, persuasive, and highly
self-confident but these same characteristics can lead to a feeling that the rules do not apply to them.
They are likely to need to remember that followers expect them to behave at all times with integrity
and to follow the same rules that apply to others (Kaiser & Hogan, 2010). One of the odd side effects
of being a CEO is that people seek to please them, which means shielding them from unpleasant
truths or feeding them only positive information. Remaining open to feedback will help, but good
CEOs make sure they remain skeptical of their own hype.
Balancing risk and reward. The combination of stable mood, competitive drive, and absence
of anxiety is essential to managing the physical and emotional demands of the CEO role, to growing
organizations, and to embracing change. Yet that lack of timidity, combined with a tendency to get
bored and to display self-confidence, may put these CEOs at risk of being too optimistic and
insufficiently risk aware. The benefit of an optimistic temperament is that it encourages persistence
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101PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
in the face of obstacles, but it can also lead to taking on overly ambitious goals or sticking with
failing investments or projects in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is time to let go. CEOs
should build in checks and balances such as in having others available who are more cautious
monitor threats and to assure that there are adequate resources available to execute ambitious
strategic agendas.
CEOs and teams. It is also worth considering what life would be like for those working with
the CEOs in this study. Being dominant, Alphas may struggle to build teams or tolerate competitors.
On the one hand, they may channel energy unnecessarily toward competing with coworkers rather
than to directing competitive urges toward rival organizations. On the other hand, they may see all
market-related activity as competition, when some strategies may require more nuanced relationship
development and cooperation to build strategic alliances. By contrast, Pragmatics may struggle to
inspire in the way that Alphas do. As a cautious and less sociable group, people may find it hard to
“read” Pragmatic Chief Executives. Coupled with the Pragmatic Chief Executives’ conservative
bent, this may slow organizational decision making down to the point of lethargy or inaction.
Finally, being more suited to change, mismatching Maverick leaders with steady organizational
environments or to an executive team unprepared for change and novelty may produce confusion
and poor utilization of resources. These leaders can be idiosyncratic and less disciplined. Given their
less socialized restraints, Mavericks may benefit from coaching and guidance at reading signals,
gauging other peoples’ readiness for change, and learning to adjust their natural sense of urgency to
move their organizations forward while not outpacing it.
Limitations and Future Research
We note that there were some limitations in our study. The first was that our sample of CEOs was
entirely from New Zealand and it is possible that these results are sample specific and may therefore
not generalize to other countries and cultures. This is a particular concern for the results of the
cluster analyses, which are logically more influenced by environmental and cultural differences than
was the overall CEO profile. The second is that this research was descriptive, not prescriptive, and
although we have been able to identify the predominant CEO cognitive prototype, we were not able
to analyze the relationship between their personality and effectiveness or other organizational and
individual-level outcomes. Future research addressing CEO characteristics and performance in
multiple countries would address both of these limitations.
Another limitation of our study was that we were only able to compare CEOs with a normal
working population. An interesting and more proximal comparison to address in a future study
would be to compare CEOs to managerial populations and particularly, to other C-suite executives.
A key question concerns what distinguishes those who become the top leader of a large organization
from those who aspire to, but fall short of, the ultimate position.
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(Appendices follow)
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Appendix A
HPI, HDS, and MVPI Scale Descriptions
Scale Definition
Hogan Personality Inventory (Hogan & Hogan, 2007,p.19)
Adjustment The degree to which a person appears calm and self-accepting.
Ambition The degree to which a person seems socially self-confident, leader-like, competitive, and
energetic.
Sociability The degree to which a person seems to need and/or enjoy interacting with others.
Interpersonal
Sensitivity
The degree to which a person is seen as perceptive, tactful, and socially sensitive.
Prudence The degree to which a person seems conscientious, conforming, and dependable.
Inquisitive The degree to which a person is perceived as bright, creative, and interested in ideas.
Learning
Approach
The degree to which a person seems to value educational achievement for its own sake.
Hogan Development Survey (Hogan & Hogan, 2009,p.13)
Excitable Concerns seeming moody and inconsistent, being enthusiastic about new persons or
projects and then becoming disappointed with them.
Skeptical Concerns seeming cynical, distrustful, overly sensitive to criticism, and questioning
others’ true intentions.
Cautious Concerns seeming resistant to change and reluctant to take chances for fear of being
evaluated negatively.
Reserved Concerns seeming socially withdrawn and lacking interest in or awareness of the feelings
of others.
Leisurely Concerns seeming autonomous, indifferent to other people’s requests, and becoming
irritable when they persist.
Bold Concerns seeming unusually self-confident, unwilling to admit mistakes or listen to
advice, and unable to learn from experience.
Mischievous Concerns seeming to enjoy taking risks and testing the limits.
Colorful Concerns seeming expressive, dramatic, and wanting to be noticed.
Imaginative Concerns seeming to act and think in creative and sometimes unusual ways.
Diligent Concerns seeming careful, precise, and critical of the performance of others.
Dutiful Concerns seeming eager to please, reliant on others for support, and reluctant to take
independent action.
Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (Hogan & Hogan, 2010,p.15)
Recognition Responsiveness to attention, approval, praise, and a need to be recognised.
Power Desire for success, accomplishment, status, competition, and control.
Hedonism Orientation toward fun, pleasure, and enjoyment.
Altruistic Concern about the welfare of others, especially the less fortunate, a desire to help them,
and in some way, contribute to the development of a better society.
Affiliation Desire for and enjoyment of social interaction.
Tradition Dedication to ritual, history, and old-fashioned values.
Security Desire for certainty, predictability, order, and control in one’s life.
(Appendices continue)
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106 WINSBOROUGH AND SAMBATH
Appendix B
Composition of New Zealand Normative Sample for the HPI, HDS, and MVPI
Received January 21, 2013
Latest revision received March 20, 2013
Accepted March 26, 2013
Appendix (continued)
Scale Definition
Commerce Interest in business and business-related matters such as accounting, marketing,
management, and finances.
Aesthetics Interest in art, literature, music, the humanities, and a lifestyle guided by questions of
culture, good taste, and attractive surroundings.
Science Desire for knowledge, an enthusiasm for new and advanced technologies, and a curiosity
about how things work.
Note. HPI scale definitions are reproduced from R. Hogan and J. Hogan (2007) Hogan Personality Inventory
manual (3
rd
ed.), with permission from the publisher. HDS scale definitions are reproduced from R. Hogan and
J. Hogan (2009) Hogan Development Survey manual, with permission from the publisher. MVPI scale
definitions are reproduced from R. Hogan and J. Hogan (2010) Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory
manual with permission from the publisher.
Category
HPI HDS MVPI
Population
1
(N 3,365) (N 3,102) (N 887)
Job Category
Legislators, administrators, and managers 3.8% 4.1% 25.1% 12%
Professionals 27.3% 32.6% 12.4% 14.5%
Technicians and associate professionals 21.8% 26% 9.4% 11.7%
Clerks 0% 0% 0% 12.5%
Service and sales workers 30.1% 36% 33.5% 16.2%
Agriculture and fishery workers 0% 0% 0% 7.8%
Trades workers 0% 0% 0% 9.6%
Plant and machine operators and assemblers 16.7% 0.97% 0% 9%
Elementary occupations 0% 0% 0% 6.7%
Undeclared 0.2% 0.2% 19.6% 0.1%
Ethnicity
European 37.9% 45.9% 61.1% 78.6%
Ma
ori 11.9% 9.2% 4.5% 8.9%
Pacific 6.4% 7% 1.1% 4.4%
Other 24.5% 28.4% 20.3% 8%
Undeclared 19.3% 9.28% 12.9% 0.1%
Gender
Male 53.7% 51% 50.4% 54.2%
Female 45.2% 43.8% 42.5% 45.8%
Undeclared 1.1% 5% 7.1% —
1
Percentage of actual New Zealand Labour Force as per the New Zealand Labour Market Statistics, 2005.
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107PERSONALITY OF NEW ZEALAND CEOS
... Winsborough und Sambath [137] gingen in ihrer Studie der Frage nach, ob und gege- benenfalls inwiefern sich die Pers?nlichkeit von neuseel?ndischen CEOs zur Pers?nlich- keitsstruktur der erwerbst?tigen Bev?lkerung, die keine Personalverantwortung besitzen, unterscheidet. ...
... Sie erfassten die Pers?nlichkeit anhand von Bright-Side-Eigenschaften, Dark-Side-Eigenschaften und Werthaltungen. Winsborough und Sambath [137] belegen, dass neuseel?ndische CEOs emotional stabiler, kompetitiver und selbstbewusster, ziel- strebiger sowie extravertierter und ergebnisorientierter als die Vergleichsgruppe sind. Dabei sind die Spitzenf?hrungskr?fte in ihren Auspr?gungen deutlich homogener als die Durchschnittsbev?lkerung ohne F?hrungsverantwortung. Trotz homogener Z?ge klassifi- zieren Winsborough und Sambath [137] die Top-Manager in drei Cluster, wobei 22,8 % dem ersten ("Alphas"), 60,7 % dem zweiten ("Pragmatics") und 16,6 % dem dritten Cluster ("Mavericks") angeh?ren. ...
... Winsborough und Sambath [137] belegen, dass neuseel?ndische CEOs emotional stabiler, kompetitiver und selbstbewusster, ziel- strebiger sowie extravertierter und ergebnisorientierter als die Vergleichsgruppe sind. Dabei sind die Spitzenf?hrungskr?fte in ihren Auspr?gungen deutlich homogener als die Durchschnittsbev?lkerung ohne F?hrungsverantwortung. Trotz homogener Z?ge klassifi- zieren Winsborough und Sambath [137] die Top-Manager in drei Cluster, wobei 22,8 % dem ersten ("Alphas"), 60,7 % dem zweiten ("Pragmatics") und 16,6 % dem dritten Cluster ("Mavericks") angeh?ren. Eine Limitation der Untersuchung besteht darin, dass ausschlie?lich ...
Chapter
Die Sprachanalyse zur Persönlichkeitsbeurteilung findet im Managementkontext bisher nur begrenzt Anwendung. Die vorliegende Untersuchung greift dieses Defizit auf und trägt durch den Einsatz der automatisierten Sprachanalyse zu neuartigen Erkenntnissen bei. Vor diesem Hintergrund werden anhand der intelligenten Sprachanalysetechnologie PRECIRE® die Persönlichkeitseigenschaften der DAX 30 Vorstandsvorsitzenden analysiert. Dabei dienen die aus Interviews und Reden extrahierten Stimmen und die Wortwahl der Top-Manager als linguistische Indikatoren, um auf Basis des Big-Five-Ansatzes deren Ausprägungen in den Big-Five-Dimensionen Neurotizismus, Extraversion, Offenheit für Erfahrungen, Verträglichkeit und Gewissenhaftigkeit zu identifizieren. Die empirischen Ergebnisse zeigen, dass die untersuchten Spitzenmanager durch eine hohe emotionale Stabilität und eine hohe Ausprägung in Gewissenhaftigkeit gekennzeichnet sind. Allerdings weisen die untersuchten Vorstandsvorsitzenden nicht in allen Big-Five-Dimensionen ähnliche Ausprägungen auf, sodass kein homogenes Persönlichkeitsprofil unter den Top-Managern existiert. In der Tendenz stimmen die von der psycholinguistischen Sprachanalysetechnologie identifizierten Erkenntnisse mit dem aktuellen Forschungsstand überein. Allerdings treten bei bestimmten Dimensionen signifikante Abweichungen auf, sodass mögliche Erklärungsansätze hierfür zu diskutieren sind. Darüber hinaus ist es möglich, signifikante Unterschiede zwischen den untersuchten Spitzenmanagern und dem Durchschnittsmann gleichen Alters aufzuzeigen. Auf Basis der empirischen Ergebnisse werden abschließend Implikationen sowohl für die Unternehmenspraxis als auch für die zukünftige Forschung abgeleitet und diskutiert.
... Although this might seem surprising at first, the psychopathic individual embodies, for many businesses, the essence of the ideal leader (Babiak and Hare, 2006). For instance, ambition and need of power are also traits found in leaders (Parker and Chusmir, 1991;Winsborough and Sambath, 2013); grandiosity and superficial charm are linked to self-worth and charismatic leadership; interpersonal skills would mark the ability to make persuasive arguments and to ease interaction with others; emotional detachment would equate with a capacity to remain calm under pressure, make ruthless decisions, and be less vulnerable to the judgement of others (Babiak and Hare, 2006;Crossley et al., 2016;Dutton, 2013;Howe et al., 2014). Furthermore, moderate levels of Factor 2 of psychopathy -which have been associated with the Snake profile -appear relevant to successful psychopathy given that impulsivity may also be associated with the capacity to react rapidly, seize opportunities, and take calculated risks (Jones and Paulhus, 2011;Poythress and Hall, 2011). ...
... Only a handful of published studies have directly examined individual differences in management levels. For example, Winsborough and Sambath (2013) studied the so-called "bright side" and "dark side" personality traits of New Zealand CEOs using the Hogan Personality Inventory and the Hogan Development Survey. Their results indicated that CEOs were more stable, competitive, sociable, and interested in formal learning than average. ...
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