There are some people in life that seem to be the one that everyone else likes. In high-school there was always that one really smart girl or that one really amazing athlete who would talk and be so nice to everyone regardless of what clique they belonged. There was just something about their personalities that everyone else was drawn to and it made them great leaders. It seems as though throughout adulthood these types of people continue to be “natural-born leaders” who are easily followed by others. So why does this occur? It seems as though the Big Five personality factors can explain a lot.
There has been a lot of research done on personality and leadership that has narrowed down personality traits to five basic factors. According to Northouse (2013), neuroticism (your tendency to be depressed, anxious, hostile), extraversion (your tendency to be assertive and outgoing), openness (your tendency to be informed, insightful, curious and creative), agreeableness (your tendency to be accepting, trusting, nurturing), and conscientiousness (your tendency to be thorough, organized, dependable and decisive) are the five basic factors, or the “Big Five”. And possessing some of these personality traits can be associated with being a good leader (p. 27).
Not surprisingly, extroversion has the highest correlation to leadership. If we go back to the example of the smart girl in high school, she was friendly to everyone. She was exceptionally extroverted; she was sociable with just about everyone and always seemed to be so positive. She was the class president, or the president of Future Business Leaders of America, or captain of something. But everyone liked her and everyone seemed to follow her lead. And, more importantly, she seemed to do it without even trying.
So why aren’t all extroverted people great leaders? Well that’s because simply being outgoing and sociable isn’t what makes you a good leader. It helps, sure, but what needs to be considered are the major leadership traits one must have to be viewed as a leader. Northouse (2013) describes the evolution of leadership traits throughout history and narrows it down to five major leadership traits (not to be confused with the Big Five personality factors). These traits are intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (p. 23). And that is why not all extroverts are good leaders. There are four other traits necessary to be viewed as a good leader. Lacking in any one of these areas changes how followers view the leader and their willingness to follow them.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications