The Big Five Personality Dimensions
Over time, psychologists and organizational behavior researchers have condensed countless
personality traits into a list of five major personality dimensions, known as the Big Five (Barrick
and Mount, 1991; Digman, 1990; Norman, 1963). Research shows that these five dimensions are
consistent components of personality not only in the United States, but in several other cultures
as well (e.g., Alessandri, 2011). Table 4-4 summarizes the key elements of the Big Five
Table 4-4 Big Five Personality Dimensions
Degree to which a person is dependable, responsible, organized,
and plans ahead
Degree to which a person is sociable, talkative, assertive, active,
Openness to experience
Degree to which a person is imaginative, broad minded, curious,
and seeks new experiences
Degree to which a person is anxious, depressed, angry, and
Degree to which a person is courteous, likable, good natured, and
Sources: Based on descriptions provided by W. T. Norman, “Toward an adequate taxonomy of
personality attributes: Replicated factor structure in peer nomination personality ratings,”
Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 66 (1963): 547–583; J. M. Digman, “Personality
structure: Emergence of the five-factor model,” Annual Review of Psychology 41 (1990): 417–
440; and M. R. Barrick and M. Mount, “The five big personality dimensions and job
performance: A meta-analysis,” Personnel Psychology 44, no. 1 (1991): 1–76.
A number of the Big Five personality dimensions have links to work-relevant behaviors such as
academic (Poropat, 2009) and career success (Seibert and Kraimer, 2001), the performance of
managers who work abroad (Caligiuri, 2000), and use of different types of power (Karkoulian,
Messarra, and Sidani, 2009). Additionally, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional
stability are found to be related to ethical leadership (Kalshoven, Den Hartog, and De Hoogh,
However, none alone strongly predicts performance or leadership effectiveness.
Of the five dimensions, conscientiousness is the most strongly correlated to job performance.
This connection makes sense: Individuals who are dependable, organized, and hard working tend
to perform better in their job. Extraversion is the Big Five dimension with the second-highest
correlation to job-related behaviors and is particularly important in jobs that rely on social
interaction, such as management or sales (Anderson, Spataro, and Flynn, 2008). It is much less
essential for employees working on an assembly line or as computer programmers. Unlike
conscientiousness, which can apply to all job levels or occupations, extroversion is not an
essential trait for every job, although it appears to be much celebrated in today’s businesses.
Susan Cain, author of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop
Talking,” believes that the United States has a bias for extroversion and the ideal person is
considered to be extroverted. (2013). However, introverts can be highly effective. The ability to
thoughtfully reflect and listen to others is a highly valuable trait in leaders. Lisa Petrilli, CEO of
C-Level strategies, who considers herself to be an introvert, says: “We get our energy from what
people refer to as our inner world. That’s very powerful. Ideas really do run businesses”
Openness to experience can help performance in some instances, but not in others. For example,
being open to new experiences can help employees and managers perform well in training
because they will be motivated to explore fresh ideas and to learn (Goldstein, 1986), and it might
help them to be more successful in overseas assignments (Ones and Viswesvaran, 1999). Neville
Isdell, CEO of Coca-Cola until 2008 believes that openness to experience is key to leadership.
He thinks that students should also learn about cultural differences through a variety of
experiences including travel (Bisoux, 2008b). In describing the qualities he looks for in new
Coca-Cola hires, he adds, “ . . . they also must have a sense of curiosity. They must want to travel
and discover new societies and see the world. Curious people are engaged.” Ken Chenault, CEO
of AmEx, suggests that being open to change and able to adapt to it are the most important
characteristic today’s leaders need to have: “It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who
survive, but those most adaptive to change” (Chester, 2005). But the same eagerness to explore
new ideas and ways of doing things can be an impediment to performance on jobs that require
careful attention to existing processes and procedures.
As one would expect, emotional stability also is related to job behaviors and performance. At the
extreme, individuals who are neurotic are not likely to be able to function in organizations. Some
degree of anxiety and worrying, however, can help people perform well because it spurs them to
excel. Andy Grove’s (former executive at Intel) book Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit
the Crisis That Challenges Every Company and Career is an indication of the sense of anxiety he
instilled at Intel to make sure employees perform and the organization excels. Finally, although
agreeableness is a highly desirable personality trait in social situations, it generally is not
associated with an individual’s work-related behaviors or performance. Furthermore, some
recent research suggests that leaders who are higher on emotional stability, extroversion, and
agreeableness, while low on conscientiousness, have followers with higher job satisfaction and
job commitment (Smith and Canger, 2004).
The most important managerial implication of the Big Five dimensions is that despite the
reliability and robustness of the Big Five as measures of personality, no single trait is linked
strongly to how well a leader or manager will perform in all types and levels of jobs. The links to
leadership that do exist are relatively weak, and even a broad personality measure such as the
Big Five alone cannot account for success or failure in the complex leadership process.
Do you know someone who routinely identifies opportunities, challenges the status quo, takes
initiatives, and perseveres even when blocked by obstacles? No matter what happens, that person
stays positive and keeps going. Chances are that the person has a proactive personality (see SelfAssessment 4-3). Proactives take control to influence events in their lives and attribute things
that happen to them, particularly positive events, to their own efforts or abilities (Crant, 2000;
see Figure 4-3). Such people focus on changing their environment rather than being constrained
by it (Bateman and Crant, 1993). Research indicates that proactives have more job satisfaction
and a more positive outlook about their career and life (Crant, 2000; Li, Liang, and Crant, 2010;
Seibert, Crant, and Kraimer, 1999), have higher life satisfaction (Greguras and Diefendorff,
2010), and are more entrepreneurial (Becherer and Maurer, 1999). The construct has been linked
to job performance to a higher extent than the Big Five dimensions (Fuller and Marler, 2009),
and there is some cross-cultural research that indicates its applicability in cultures other than the
United States and Britain (Joo and Ready, 2012; Kim, Hon, and Crant, 2009). Furthermore,
proactivity involves both the setting of goals and the motivation to achieve them (Parker, Bindl,
and Strauss, 2010).
Figure 4-3 Characteristics of Proactives
Shelly Provost, a partner at the venture incubator Lamp Post Group, describes fearless
entrepreneurs who are often considered proactives as people who speak up, inject energy and
enthusiasm into their activities, and are positive, focused and hard working. She says:
“The grittiest people don’t just work longer and harder, although that is part of the equation.
They keep a laser focus on their goal and say, ‘no thanks,’ to anything that gets in their way”
(Haden, 2012). These are all qualities of proactive people. All these characteristics have
implications for leadership especially during times when organizations are in need of change and
revival. Being proactive is likely to help a leader identify opportunities, encourage followers
toward action, and be more motivated to achieve goals, all important aspects of leadership.
Charismatic Leadership: A Relationship
Between Leaders and Followers
The word charisma means “an inspired and divine gift.” Those who have the gift are divinely
endowed with grace and charm. Charismatic leaders capture our imagination and inspire their
followers’ devotion and allegiance. We describe political and religious leaders as charismatic,
but leaders in business organizations can also be gifted. Charismatic leaders are those who have a
profound emotional effect on their followers (House, 1977). Followers see them not merely as
bosses but as role models and heroes who are larger than life.
Consider the case of President Barack Obama who presents many of the elements of a
charismatic leader. The large number of volunteers who engaged in his presidential campaigns
and supported him felt a strong emotional connection to him, as witnessed by the many people
who attended his events and the high level of emotion they exhibited. The expressions “Yes we
can” and “This is our time” and other powerful messages during his acceptance speech in 2008,
such as “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are
possible, who still wonder if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions
the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer” (Gibbs, 2008: 34) inspired his followers.
Obama’s optimism and perceived sincerity connected with the majority of the U.S. electorate
and many around the world, for example in Germany, where 200,000 people turned out to see
candidate Obama. He became the symbol of change and hope for many who, even without
knowing much about him, felt a connection to him.
Charismatic leaders inspire followers who are devoted and loyal to them and their vision. The
relationship involves an intense bond between leaders and their followers and goes beyond a
simple exchange. The case of Obama and many other charismatic leaders also show that
charisma is clearly in the eye of the beholder; followers make the charismatic leader. The
charismatic bond is far from typical of leadership situations and neither essential nor sufficient
for effective leadership. The following sections consider the three required elements for the
development of charismatic leadership: leader characteristics, follower characteristics, and the
leadership situation (Figure 6-1).
Figure 6-1 Requirements of Charismatic
Characteristics of Charismatic Leaders
Charismatic leaders share several common personality and behavioral characteristics and traits
(Table 6-1). Although many of the traits—such as self-confidence, energy, and the ability to
communicate well—are related to all types of leadership, their combination and the presence of
followers and a crisis are what set charismatic leaders apart. First and foremost, charismatic
leaders exude self-confidence in their own abilities and a strong conviction about their ideas
along with a sense of moral righteousness of their beliefs and actions (Bass, 1985;
Sashkin, 2004). Mahatma Gandhi’s unwavering beliefs about the need for change in India and
Martin Luther King Jr.’s single-minded focus on civil rights are examples of this trait. Their high
level of confidence motivates their followers and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more
confident the leader is, the more motivated the followers are, which further emboldens the leader
and encourages the followers to carry out the leader’s wishes wholeheartedly. Additionally,
charismatic leader’s high energy and enthusiasm further boosts followers’ positive moods, which
increase the attraction to the leader and his or her effectiveness (Bono and Ilies, 2006). Positive
expressions, motivation, and hard work increase the chances of success, which provides proof of
the correctness of leader’s vision.
Table 6-1 Characteristics of Charismatic
High degree of self-confidence
Strong conviction about ideas
High energy and enthusiasm
Expressiveness and excellent communication skills
Active image building, role modeling, and impression management
Steve Case, chairman of the Start-up America Partnership (aimed at the growth of innovative
firms in the United States; Start-up America, 2011) and the highly confident founder of
Revolution, a company dedicated to increasing consumer power in health decisions, and former
CEO of America Online (AOL), made others believe in his vision of connecting everyone
through the Internet. Case believes that three things are most important in success: people,
passion, and perseverance (Case, 2009). One of Case’s former associates explains, “In a little
company everybody’s got to believe. But there needs to be somebody who believes no matter
what. That was Steve. Steve believed from the first day that this was going to be a big deal”
(Gunther, 1998: 71). Even though the merger of AOL with Time Warner was unsuccessful and
led to a $135 billion loss, Case put the failure behind him and poured his energy and resources
into several new ventures, including Revolution and a free health and medical information
website, RevolutionHealth. Case’s advice to potential entrepreneurs is, “If you feel passionate
about a particular business and have the fortitude to break down barriers and redirect when
needed, you can do great things” (Edelhauser, 2007).
Many examples of the charismatic leader’s self-confidence can be found in political leaders.
President Obama’s simple message “Yes we can” is an example of the expression of confidence
from a charismatic leader. Fidel Castro withstood considerable pressure over 50 years until his
retirement in 2011 and has remained undaunted in his approach. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of
the political resistance in Burma and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who was under house
arrest from 1989 to 2010, but persisted in proclaiming her agenda for democratic reform.
President Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt galvanized Arab pride in the 1950s and 1960s, and his
view of a united Arab world dominated the psyche and dreams of millions in the Middle East.
Other destructive charismatic leaders use their “gift” to abuse and exploit followers; we discuss
them in a later section.
Charismatic leaders are typically highly expressive with excellent communication skills and able
to use nonverbal cues and dramatic symbols to lend dramatic support to their well-crafted verbal
message. Their exceptional articulation skills, which help them express their excitement and
communicate the content of their ideas to their followers, are a primary tool in persuading
followers to join in their vision. Obama’s considerable oratory skills provide an example, as do J.
F. Kennedy’s, Hitler’s, and Fidel Castro’s. The communication skills allow the charismatic
leaders to define and frame the mission of the organization or the group in a way that makes it
meaningful and relevant to followers. In addition, they appeal to their followers’ emotion
through the use of language, symbols, and imagery. Examples of all of these can be found in
President Obama’s first inaugural speech (Obama’s Inaugural speech, 2009).
Finally, charismatic leaders present a carefully crafted image as role models to their followers
and use active impression management to support that image (Conger and Kanungo, 1998). They
“walk the talk,” whether it is through the self-sacrifice that they make and demand of their
followers or the self-control they demonstrate. House and Shamir (1993) note that a large
number of charismatic political leaders spent time in prison, a sacrifice that demonstrates their
willingness to put up with hardship to achieve their vision. For example, Gandhi and Nelson
Mandela were imprisoned for defending their beliefs. Other charismatic leaders, such as Martin
Luther King, Jr., who role modeled the peaceful resistance he advocated, demonstrate through
their actions what they expect of their followers. James E. Rogers, chairman and CEO of Duke
Energy believes leaders need to be closely involved and role model the behaviors they want
followers to demonstrate (Bryant, 2009b). Overall, the characteristics of charismatic leaders are
not in dispute; however, they are not the only factor. The next step is describing the development
of followers who are devoted to the leader.
Table 6-2 Characteristics of Followers of
Intense emotional bond
High degree of respect, affection, and esteem for the leader
Loyalty and devotion to the leader
Identification with the leader
High confidence in leader
Characteristics of Followers
Because charismatic leadership results from a relationship between a leader and followers, the
followers of such leaders demonstrate certain characteristics. Take away the frenzied followers
and Hitler would not have been considered charismatic. The same is true for many cult leaders.
Even for positive and constructive charismatic leaders such as Gandhi, followers demonstrate
particular traits and behaviors (Table 6-2). Followers of charismatic leaders feel an intense
emotional bond to the leader. Consider the reaction of employees of Russ Berrie and Co. when
the toymaker’s founder and namesake died suddenly. Berrie had established a close family bond
with his employees. He was the best man at some of their weddings, and one company executive
continued to visit his grave regularly because he felt a spiritual bond with the deceased leader
(Marchetti, 2005). Additionally, charismatic followers respect and like their leader. They are
strongly devoted to him or her and have a strong sense of loyalty. They admire their leader, and
emulate his or her behaviors and mannerisms, including talking, dressing, and acting like the
leader. They identify with him, a process that further helps followers internalize the leader’s
values and aspirations as their own. In addition to the emotional component, charismatic
followers have high confidence in their leader’s ability and high-performance expectations. They
believe their leader will change the world, or at least their community or their organization. All
these characteristics are likely to lead followers to obey calls to actions without question, a factor
that can have dire consequences if the leader is abusive or unethical (Samnani and Singh, 2013).
Researchers suggest that charismatic leaders change the followers’ perception of the nature of
what needs to be done and create a positive mood contagion (Bono and Ilies, 2006). Leaders
offer an appealing vision of the future, develop a common identity, and heighten the followers’
self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (for a review, see Conger, 1998). In addition, one of the
key components of the emergence of charismatic leaders is for the followers to perceive a need
for change because the current state is unacceptable and because they believe that a crisis either
is imminent or already exists (Shamir, 1991). The case of the 2008 election of Barack Obama
presents all these elements. His supporters enthusiastically believed in his vision and their ability
to create change to correct a situation they considered unacceptable.
The Charismatic Situation
President Obama’s case provides yet one more element of charismatic leadership: a se ...
Purchase answer to see full