November 17, 2018

Are your leadership traits affected by your goals?

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Much of the trait theory of leadership would hold that our traits are relatively stable: attributes with which we are born. However, interesting research by McCabe and Fleeson (2016) gives us pause for thought. In three different studies, they found that levels of traits manifested (in this case extraversion and conscientiousness) were dependent upon the goals of the individual. Different goals were found to affect the amount of each trait that was manifested. In one of the studies, about half of the variance in trait manifestation was dependent upon the goal pursued. So it appears that, although traits are ‘the right stuff’, the amount we employ them is affected by external factors.


McCabe, Kira O. and Fleeson, William (2016) Are traits useful? Explaining trait manifestations as tools in the pursuit of goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 110(2), 287–301.


Dr Richard Bunning, Teacher, EBS MBA Programme About Dr Richard Bunning, Teacher, EBS MBA Programme

Co-author of Leadership with Tony Berry and co-examiner for the Leadership elective.