Organizational behaviour includes the study of personality traits. It is especially focused on what traits make a good leader, and in what context. The main assumptions of trait theory suggest that people have both inherited and learned traits (dictated by both birth and experience), some traits are particularly suited to leadership, and people who make good leaders have the right (or sufficient) combination of these traits. There are hundreds of personality traits including locus of control (see Stress and Emotions), self-esteem and the needs for achievement, affiliation and power.
Similarly, while traits vary by individual, there exist five overarching personality traits, the Big Five Personality Traits, which can be observed to different degrees in everyone. The broadly defined “Big Five personality traits” can be represented by the acronym OCEAN. These traits are based on empirical research, and attempt to define our major traits in a way that all narrowly defined traits are encompassed by one of these five categories. These traits include:
- Openness to experience: artistic, creative, emotional, adventurous, full of ideas, and intellectually curious.
- Conscientiousness: self-disciplined, self-controlled, desires achievement, organized and dependable.
- Extraversion: high energy level, sociable, and talkative.
- Agreeableness: empathetic, compassionate, helpful, trustworthy and even-tempered.
- Neuroticism: quick to anger, show anxiety or become depressed.
By applying this framework, we look at personality characteristics that make a successful business leader. We also look at how Henry Murray’s psychongenic needs contribute to a leaders success. These needs include:
- Achievement: The desire to overcome obstacles and succeed. This desire is related to intrinsic motivation (that is, finding value in the work itself) rather than extrinsic motivation (that is, seeking rewards and achievement).
- Power: The desire to influence others.
- Affiliation: The desire to belong – often tied to self-esteem.
In the nature vs. nurture debate, twin-studies suggest that genetics as well as experience and environmental factors both play a significant role in determining personality traits and psychogenic needs.