Does personality predicts leadership performance?


One of the sentences that has stayed with me since I began working in the field of leadership development is “who you are is how you lead”.  Not by chance, the author is Dr. Robert Hogan, an American psychologist internationally known for his innovative research on personality assessments and how personality impacts leadership and organizational effectiveness. Before we enter the domain of personality assessments, I would like to take a step back to consider the meaning of personality and what it implies for organizational performance.

A widely accepted explanation of what personality refers to is “the long-standing traits and patterns that drive individuals to consistently think, feel, and behave in specific ways. Our personalities are thought to be long term, stable, and not easily changed”. When this is the understanding of what personality is, it would be common sense to take personality into account when we hire and develop leaders within organizations. As a matter of fact, personality is as important as job competence in predicting and measuring job performance.

In spite of the good news that job competence and personality can be tested, we find that the only aspect being thoroughly examined by organizations today is the first, at the expense of the latter. Furthermore, personality is often limited to desirable qualities listed on a job offer and assessed during job interviews or reviewed during annual 360 evaluations without specific scientific criteria or instruments.

If we all agree that we wouldn’t hire a civil engineer for a cardiologist position within a hospital, would we recruit a Finance Director with the behavioral tendency to become moody and excitable within an auditing firm?

The Hogan Assessment Systems are testing measures created by Dr. Joyce and Dr. Robert Hogan to assess normal personality for business that are widely used by Fortune Five Hundred organizations. They use well researched inventories, informative and customized reports and expert consulting services.

Let’s examine how these systems acknowledge and measure normal personality within the business community and what advantages they bring to leadership and overall organizational performance.

The Hogan viewpoint on Personality

 According to Drs. Joyce and Dr. Robert Hogan personality has two dimensions: personality from the inside and personality from the outside.

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Personality from the inside is the way we describe ourselves to the external world; basically this is the person we think we are and is what Dr. Hogan defines as “Identity”.  Precisely, ‘Identity” is the story we tell others about ourselves and is based on our self-representation.  It is important to note that when we speak about our identity, the personality traits we attach to ourselves are often overestimated and based on personal hopes, dreams and ambitions. Here are some examples of how we may tell the story about ourselves: “I am a multi-tasker”; I can definitely show empathy”. “I am well organized”.  “I have a good sense of humor”.

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Personality from the outside is the way others describe us; basically this is the person external observers think we are and is what Dr. Hogan calls “Reputation”.  Precisely, “Reputation” is the story several other people, not just one person, tell about us. When we refer to reputation, our personality traits are evaluated by several external people after they have observed our behavior when interacting with others numerous times, not just once. Here are some examples of how they may tell the story about us: “She’s a people person”. “He’s an empath”. “She’s the expert when it comes to time management”. “He’s a Yes Man”.

 What the Hogan Assessment Systems measure is Reputation. As quoted by Dr. Robert Hogan “Freud would say the you that you think you are is hardly worth knowing, because you made it all up”. It is your own perception of the person you think you are, without having asked several others what person they think you are instead.

 In an interview a candidate may re-iterate to be highly ambitious but if you were to ask several of his/her former colleagues they may tell how little interested the candidate normally is in competing with peers.  As a matter of fact, there may be discrepancies between the way we describe ourselves and the way others describe us.

According to Dr. Robert Hogan, knowing personality, alias reputation, is an important element for both the individual and the organization alike. On one side, it allows the individual to become aware of how his or her behavior is perceived by the observers, so that he or she can make behavioral adjustments in order to enhance the quality of his or her interactions.

What the Hogan Assessment Systems help highlight, are those aspects of our interpersonal behavior that need improvement and that we often are unconscious of.  For this reason, they provide highly efficient and reliable ways to highlight these issues, so leaders can learn to manage them.

On the other side, they help organizations in their talent selections process, so that they can predict what kind of employee they will be employing during a recruitment process.

The Hogan Leadership Forecast Series

 As a leadership development consultant, there are three Hogan assessments I highly recommend using for leadership development and talent management. They are called the “Leadership Forecast Series”.

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ogan Personality Inventory – HPI –  This test measures “the bright side of personality”, which comprises the aspects of our personality that others see in us when we are at our best. It is also referred to as our ‘day-to-day personality’ or ‘productive behavior’. These are behavioral tendencies that can be seen in a person every day and that tell us how we react under pressure, relate to and collaborate with others, approach our work and solve problems.

 Essentially, the HPI measures normal personality and interpersonal characteristics that are essential for career success and progression. It reveals important aspects of an individual interactional style that the individual may not have self-awareness of and that can cause personal or occupational challenges.

This gives an objective and comprehensive portrait of an individual strengths and weaknesses. It is important to note that the Interpretation of HPI results is job specific. Scale scores that are more successful or effective in one job may be detrimental in another job.

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Hogan Development Survey – HDS – This test measures “the dark side of personality”, which comprises the personality traits that others see in us during time of increased stressed or when we have a bad day. Precisely, these are behavioral tendencies that are only seen in situations when a person is not managing his or her public image, the so called reputation, such as high stress, change and transformation, multitasking, task saturation or accomplishment. Essentially, it defines as “the dark side of personality” or our “counterproductive behavior”.  This dark side is characterized by interpersonal behaviors that are strengths but, when overused, can cause problems at work or in life. Strengths that are overused are referred to as “de-railers” and are real personality risk factors that can hinder and, at their worst, destroy careers. Two examples of overused strengths are self-confidence that turns into arrogance and influence that turns into manipulation.

Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory – MVPI – This test measures “the inside side of personality”, which comprises an individual profound values, motives and interests which drive career choices and eventually bring job satisfaction. They are at the core of what we believe in and determine our choices before, during and after our working life.

The MVPI test is extremely useful to determine the fit between individual and organizational culture. The MVPI assessment helps a hiring manager establish compatibility between a candidate and organizational culture as well as helping a manager motivate his or her team members according to each individuals’ MVPI results.

As a leadership development consultant I highly recommend using the HPI, HDS and MVPI for talent selection and leadership development. I strongly believe that finding the strengths, limiting the risks of personality derailment and discovering the values of your most precious employees is a must for improving organizational performance.

Whether you are a leader or work in talent management, reach out for an initial conversation on how my team and I can support you in using the Hogan Assessment System. Contact me directly: silvia@bcoached.org