Leadership Matters: Assessing personality when determining leadership potential is crucial

5 tips for spotting red-flag behaviors before you promote or hire

Personality is one of the most significant determinants of leadership potential. Consequently, people with derailing personality traits should be weeded out of the leadership and promotion selection process. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that decision-makers will advance high-performing candidates whose personalities have major problem areas, because those decision-makers convince themselves they can help change the individual.

Do yourself a favor and don’t hire or promote (or marry!) someone in hopes of changing their bad or problematic qualities.

Bodies of research show that personality is largely fixed. From the time that we’re born, we have strong preferences and ways of interacting. However, there’s a fine line when considering personality as it relates to behaviors. While we can change behaviors, it’s extremely difficult to change significant preferences and behavioral patterns in the long term. For example, it would be nearly impossible to change someone who is risk-averse into someone who has high-risk tolerance. The caveat is if a significant life event occurs to drive that change.

Identifying Leadership Behaviors

Several concerning patterns of behaviors are unsuitable for leadership. Look around your workplace, and it’s usually easy to identify people who shouldn’t be serving in a leadership capacity. For example, there may be a detail-oriented perfectionist, someone who has no emotional regulation and yells or demeans, someone who is self-focused to the detriment of working collaboratively, or one who is always negative and critical of others. Yet, even as poor leadership behavior seems apparent, 30-60% of leaders demonstrate caustic or destructive behaviors—or worse still, are narcissists.


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