FLAME University


FLAME in the news

The role of personality in leadership

www.sentinelassam.com | October 26, 2023

Close your eyes and visualize a leader. Who comes to mind? Barak Obama, John F. Kennedy, and M.S. Dhoni? It's common to link leadership with power, but I'd argue that power only gets you so far. Being in a position of leadership does not guarantee that one is a great leader. Leadership is a complex combination of skills, behaviours, and attributes that determine one's ability to inspire, guide, and influence a group towards a common objective. Then, who is a leader, and what is it that sets these leaders apart?

During the Giripremi Institute of Mountaineering's 2013 (May) Mt. Everest expedition, the team was forced to extend its stay at the South Col due to adverse weather conditions. When the expedition leader counted the number of extra oxygen cylinders left, he was horrified to discover that there were not enough for everyone. The most reasonable decision was for two members to abandon their summit ambitions, begin their descent, and let the others use their oxygen cylinders. The summit of Mount Everest, which is every mountaineer's ambition, was only a kilometre away, but at this point, the expedition leader opted to forego his opportunity and let his team complete the expedition.

Raghu Raman, former CEO of India's National Intelligence Grid, recounts an incident from the 26/11 Mumbai attack. A commanding officer assigned to a special action group only 90 days ago, along with his troop, was deployed in Mumbai. On the spot, the forces discovered that three equally essential missions in three different areas must be launched simultaneously. While the National Security Guard (NSG) is only built to operate one operation at a time, in such a crisis situation, they had to split all of their resources and team into three, and so two other officers who had never done it before had the responsibility of leading the two remaining teams.

To respond to my earlier question, who is a leader? Based on the preceding example, I would describe a leader as someone who makes complicated tasks simple, who steps up, and who sacrifices opportunities for the sake of their team's well-being, among other qualities. 

People with a strong leadership presence radiate a sense of authority, as if they are in command of themselves and the circumstances at hand. It is not the same as charm or charisma. Psalm 8 demands, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” to which the researchers suggest, "One is a product of both internal and external forces” (Manning). In my opinion, those internal and external characteristics appear to be an individual's personality. One may be the best at what they do, yet they may lack the ability to lead a team. According to Allport, “personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment”. It encompasses both natural and acquired behavioural qualities that identify one person from another and can be noticed in people's interactions with their surroundings and social groups”. Given that leadership is not a behaviour that a leader adopts to meet a certain scenario, it too needs to be consistent. The features, patterns of thought, behaviour, and feelings that distinguish one person from another are referred to as their personality, and certain traits that make up personality can be regarded as advantageous for leadership (Özbag, 2016).

As Barack Obama once said, one of the most important aspects of being a leader is kindness—how one respects and listens to their team members—because leadership is about getting a team to work together. Personality is made up of traits, and certain attributes like honesty, integrity, responsiveness to others' needs, responsibility, creativity, and enthusiasm are advantageous for leadership. Based on this approach, numerous companies employ the Big Five Factor Personality Model, a significant theory or test used to describe personality types, as a tool to examine specific domains of personality traits connected to leadership. The Five Factor, or OCEAN Model, is made up of four emotionally stable traits: agreeableness, extroversion, conscientiousness, and openness, with neuroticism as the fifth. Extensive research has proven their connection to successful transformational and transactional leadership and role practices (Belasen & Frank, 2008). The business world is also affected by this, as the capacity to recognize and select good leaders is one of the most essential success criteria for any firm. As a result, while examining applicants for leadership positions, it is critical to select those who will be most effective at leading and persuading (Carnes et al., 2015). 

I’d like to pose a question: what matters more in a hiring decision: the candidates' relevant skills or their personalities? Of course, both of them are very important. But some would emphasise skills being more necessary; I believe that finding the perfect personality fit for one’s business is as critical, or rather more. As skills can often be taught, personality qualities are innate and do not easily change. 

To conclude, I would say that the role of personality in leadership is multifaceted and intricate. While no single personality attribute ensures success as a leader, the right amalgamation of traits and agility can assist leaders in navigating problems and leading effectively in a variety of scenarios. The key to personal and professional development is acknowledging the interaction between one’s personality and leadership style.

This article has been co-authored by Aarya Deshpande, Undergraduate Student, FLAME University, and Prof. Moitrayee Das, Faculty of Psychology, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://www.sentinelassam.com/editorial/the-role-of-personality-in-leadership-672476 )