Why people with agreeable personalities are less likely to become top managers

Shana Lebowitz
Strategy Reporter, Business Insider
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When it comes to the likelihood that you’ll get promoted into a top leadership position at your company, there are a few obvious factors to consider. How long have you been at the organization? Have you received stellar performance reviews?

Yet recent data from Truity Psychometrics suggests there’s another important factor that helps determine your leadership potential: your personality.

According to Truity’s findings, “Thinkers,” or those who are more analytic and logical, tend to manage bigger teams than “Feelers,” or those are more sensitive to other people’s needs. Feelers also tend to be high in “agreeableness,” which refers to your tendency to prioritize a group’s needs over your own.

Other research on the link between agreeableness and leadership helps explain Truity’s findings. In one study, researchers asked people to evaluate potential candidates for a management position.

Those who demonstrated agreeable traits were less likely to be recommended for advancement — especially if they were male.

Why are disagreeable people perceived as more effective leaders? Psychologist Art Markman, Ph.D., suggests that employees appreciate a boss who can give frank feedback — and agreeable people are known for their difficulty providing criticism.

Moreover, the Truity report notes that disagreeable people are more likely to promote themselves, so they have a better chance of achieving higher status at work.

Of course, the most effective managers will learn from other personality types and use that knowledge to develop their leadership style. For example, Markman advises people low in agreeableness to temper their criticism with empathy and to understand the impact their feedback may have. Similarly, he suggests that people high in agreeableness think about potential flaws in the ideas they receive.

Ultimately, the ideal leaders will be flexible, willing to adjust their management style based on the particular environment and their coworkers’ needs.

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Shana Lebowitz is a Strategy reporter for Business Insider.

Image: A woman with a book sits on a bench at the departure area at the Fraport airport in Frankfurt. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner.

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