Personality and Leadership

Personality and Leadership
Last Updated: April 24, 2023

Memory Nguwi of the Industrial Psychology Consultants catches up with Dr. Tomas Chamorro, where they discuss personality and leadership. 

MN: How can leaders leverage their personality strengths to improve their leadership effectiveness? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: First of all, it helps to be born with some advantages. Although it is unpopular science, it is still an empirical fact that 50% of leadership depends on personality, and 50% of personality depends on biology or genetic makeup. So, inheriting a predisposition to being stable, friendly, calm, curious, and driven, not to mention gritty and self-controlled, solves half your problems. Second, regardless of your personality, it will help you to be self-aware. Why? Because personality is 50% malleable, you need to know what you are like to try to change, which is by no means a given. So, just like Obama may be a natural introvert who develops a charismatic stage presence when he puts on a (fake) professional persona that seems quite extraverted, we can all learn to manage impressions and adjust our behavior to norms. Sadly for those who believe in the authenticity cult, this is the exact opposite of being authentic. Indeed, the best version of yourself requires a great deal of attention to how other people see you and (unless you are genetically blessed with a calm, curious, boring, happy personality, which is what the world of work optimizes for now, not necessarily rightly so), you must learn to go against your nature and become a better version of you. 

MN: What are some common personality traits associated with effective leadership? 


Dr. Tomas Chamorro: Simple answer because regardless of people's opinions, there is conclusive scientific evidence on this: generally speaking, you are better off being stable, conscientious, curious, and extraverted. It is also helpful to be kind, but unfortunately, jerks are more likely to get promoted to leadership, so kind people are overlooked for the very talents that would make them better leaders. It is as if height strongly predicted basketball talent, and we deliberately selected short players. 

MN: Can individuals with certain personality traits be more effective in certain leadership roles or industries? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: Yes. Talent is personality in the right place. If you find a strong career or job match between your natural personality and the requirements of the job or career, your natural default tendencies will become talents! Again, being tall is an advantage when it comes to playing basketball or running in US presidential elections: but it is not an advantage when it comes to being a data scientist, psychologist, or chef, and a disadvantage when it comes to being a soccer right back or a consultant who must travel economy class on transatlantic flights and cannot stretch their legs when flying to meetings.

MN: How can leaders identify and manage their personality weaknesses to avoid negative outcomes in the workplace? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: Get a competent coach (there are some), and listen to them!

MN: How can organizations use personality assessments to improve hiring and promotion decisions? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: Upfront for the pre-hire candidates… which increases diversity in the selection pool and after the interview to correlate ratings with subsequent job performance. Importantly, the interview assesses very few things that the CV or assessment cannot tell you about the person. Strong assessments are a great opportunity to eliminate the job interview and incidentally eliminate bias. No matter how much dreadful unconscious bias training people undergo, humans are biased by design, so having them in the loop is a sure way to retain rather than eliminate biases in selection. 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: We often vote for people who have low EQ because they entertain us and we are fascinated by people's dark side – but higher EQ is a big strength in managers, not least because most people who think they have it lack it. It is key because it predicts a leader's tendency to be calm, consistent, stress-free, and able to seem predictable to their employees and colleagues. In essence, self-awareness is a dimension of EQ…

MN: Are there any downsides to having a strong personality as a leader? If so, how can these be mitigated? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: It depends on the meaning of "strong": if you mean violent, dictatorial, Putin-esuqe then yes, the advantage is to drive change and have no critics (for you killed them all). If you mean "competent" or "effective" then not really, except you may not get elected or selected!

MN: How can leaders adapt their communication style to better connect with individuals with different personalities? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: You have to meet people where they are. But this requires time, motivation, energy, practice, and trial and error. After that, there is no secret, and it's quite easy. We all treat our friends differently based on who they are. Well, the same goes for our direct reports. 

MN: Can individuals change their personality over time, and if so, how might this impact their leadership effectiveness? 

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: Yes, by about 30% on average, but you need good assessments and coaching, even if it is self-coaching. It should improve their leadership effectiveness! 

MN: How can organizations create a culture that values the diversity of personalities and perspectives among its leaders?

Dr. Tomas Chamorro: It is key: just like you want a balance when it comes to technical skills and functional expertise, you should want one when it comes to style, preferences, dispositions, and character, But it requires great leadership. It's always easier to manage people when they are all the same, especially if they look like you. So, diversity requires inclusion and patience and hard work, but it can be the key to unlocking creativity!

Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in people analytics, talent management, leadership development, and the Human-AI interface. He is the Chief Innovation Officer at Manpower Group, co-founder of Deeper Signals and Metaprofiling, and Professor of Business Psychology at both University College London, and Columbia University. He has previously held academic positions at New York University and the London School of Economics and lectured at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, London Business School, Johns Hopkins, IMD, and INSEAD, as well as being the CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems. Dr. Tomas has published 10 books and over 200 scientific papers, making him one of the most prolific social scientists of his generation. He is a frequent contributor to Fast Company, the Guardian, Forbes, and the Harvard Business Review. Find him @drtcp on Twitter or online


Memory Nguwi is an Occupational Psychologist, Data Scientist, Speaker, & Managing Consultant- Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Email: or visit our website

Tomas Chamorro Premuzic
This article was written by Tomas a Guest at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

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