Personality traits in leaders

Main theme: Leadership

 

There are still some discussions that leaders, and especially successful leaders have certain traits in their character that sometimes are close to personality disorder. Is it so, or is it a myth - explains dr. Julius Neverauskas, President of Lithuanian Association of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.



There are findings that narcistic personality traits are higher in CEO’s of the companies 5-10 time more often than in general population. A strong desire of power, an entitlement and grandiosity give these people high motivation to make a career and to strive for success. When supported by their self-confidence, a manipulative behaviour, and a dominance it often leads to high positions at work.


We know that there are many leadership styles. Narcistic personalities are prone to be an autocratic/authoritarian or paternalistic leader. These leadership styles are also typical for antisocial personalities. Sometimes narcistic traits combined with histrionic traits could help person to become a charismatic leader. Obsessive-compulsive personality traits are dominant in bureaucratic leadership style. Unfortunately, tendency to micromanagement in these personalities make their work less effective in a global sense.


There are findings that narcistic personality traits are higher in CEO’s of the companies 5-10 time more often than in general population. Image by Unsplash.
There are findings that narcistic personality traits are higher in CEO’s of the companies 5-10 time more often than in general population. Image by Unsplash.
 

Therefore, an effective leadership is something more than a managerial position. Leaders should have many qualities (vision, courage, integrity, strategic planning, positive attitude, cooperation, critical thinking, responsibility, flexibility) specific for a quite healthy personality. So, if persons have personality traits not prominent so much to be treated as personality disorder they could become and remain effective leaders. However, if they certainly have one or more personality disorders this often intersects with effective work in a leadership position. The inflexibility inherent in personality disorders prevents these people from being productive and effective leaders in a long run. Of course, there are some exceptions in a short time leadership during specific conditions, e.g. a war conditions when people who have personality disorders may act effectively but they just confirm the rule.


Difference between good leaders in crisis times and effective leaders in peaceful times? It depends what crises we have. During big and dangerous crises, especially in the beginning of them, an authoritarian and charismatic leadership style could be very effective. But later transformational, visionary, and strategic leadership styles often are better and more productive. So, a true leader is a person who is flexible enough to adjust to a changing environment and can modify rules. It means they must have quite healthy, open, and adaptable personalities. Fortunately, in democratic societies, it is possible to change leaders in elections and choose the best ones that are appropriate for the current situation. □