Last week the phrase “Type A” personality seemed to come up several times in conversations with friends and co-workers. I heard the phrase used again to describe parents on the opposing team of my son’s football game and it occurred to me: “Why hasn’t this trait theory been discussed in Northouse’s (2013) publication Leadership: Theory and Practice or Lesson 2’s Trait Approach?” This is such a common lexicon used to describe the high-strung, over achieving, domineering tycoon. The Type A personality theory was birthed in the exact same era as Stogdill’s (1948/1974) and Mann’s (1959) characteristics of leaders (Northouse, 2013, pp 20-21).
Andrew Goldsmith first introduced the Type A personality theory in the 1950’s to describe specific behaviors displayed by individuals. Follow-up health psychology studies were conducted by Friedman and Rosenman (1959/1974) to describe how these behavior patterns affect cardio health (Ward & Eisler, 1987). According to the study Type A individuals are more competitive and domineering (Ward & Eisler, 1987) and have “an unrealistic sense of urgency”, are masters at multi-tasking, and are under constant stress (Tirado, 2012). Contrary to their Type B counterparts, Type A people set high expectations on their performance. When performance expectations are not met stress incurs.
The parents on my son’s opposing football team reside in a community of tycoons and successful entrepreneurs and many of them definitely displayed Type A characteristics. The game was intense when ever a mistake was made by one of their players or a call was not made in their favor. Before the game began they came decked out in team spirit, ready for competition. You could tell by the intensity that this was not just a peewee game and loosing was not an option. Throughout the entire game dads were pacing the sidelines and yelling at players and referees. All I could do was shake my head in pity and feel sorry for the poor kids should the game result in a loss.
A study performed by Ward and Eilser (1987) at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University postulates that unrealistic performance standards and negative self-evaluation boasts desire for achievement, which calls for self-evaluation and distinction between healthy ambition and maladaptive achievement striving. The plethora of studies dealing with Type A personalities begs me to wonder if this is a trait carried, in some degree, by all successful leaders.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership theory and practice. Los Angeles: Sage
Tirado, B. (2012, January 30). Working with a type a personality (blog). Retrieved from: www.psychology today.com/blog/digital-leaders/201201/working-type-personality
Ward, C.H. & Eisler, R.M. (1987). Type A behavior, achievement striving, and dysfunctional self-evaluation system. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 318-326. doi: 0022-3514/87/500.75