April 15, 2024

1 min reading time

Is personality the most important factor in a great leader?



Do you want to unlock the secrets to becoming a great leader, or identify the next potential leaders within your organisation? 


In this article, we delve into personality profiling, its strengths and pitfalls, and how best to recognise and cultivate leadership potential and leadership qualities. Whether you're in leadership training or looking to develop the next generation of effective leaders in your organisation, in this article we offer some guidance on the best way to spot and develop the traits of a great leader.


First, what is personality?


The American Psychological Association have a great summary:

Personality encompasses the characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving in individuals. These differences can be attributed to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including upbringing, life experiences, and socialisation.



You may have heard of one of the most popular tools for assessing personality - the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. The MBTI identifies 16 distinct personality types, each differentiated by specific preferences in how individuals perceive and interact with the world around them.




For a more comprehensive overview of personality profiling see our blog Accurate Personality Assessments: Discover Yourself.


Many HR professionals use personality profiling as a psychometric assessment to spot leadership potential because they provide a standardised framework for quantifying enduring individual differences, and therefore assist in filtering candidates. By understanding an individual's personality type, it is possible to tailor leadership development programs to suit their strengths and help them overcome any potential weaknesses.


But there are problems with these frameworks for spotting leadership qualities.



How successful are personality profiling tools at spotting great leaders?


Profiling personality to spot and develop leadership potential is successful in as far as providing a broad overview of an individual's innate tendencies and preferences. The tool can be helpful in identifying an individual's strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they might naturally approach different situations. Personality profiling can be a very beneficial tool in personal growth and provide helpful insights to how we experience the world around us. 


However, there are some clear limitations to their success in spotting leadership potential: 


  • The categories and classifications can be overly simplistic, leaving users feeling confined to one specific type and ‘boxed in’.  Relying on these tools alone to determine what type of leader a person will be is a mistake.

  • Their predictions are limited when only based on a person’s personality - our personality is remains relatively fixed across our lifetime, so personality profiling is not a reliable indicator of leadership effectiveness because it does not account for how people adapt to changing situations and learn new skills over time. While personality does inform our behaviour, it cannot capture how we have grown and learned to adapt to the world in our unique style.

Behaviour is a better indicator of effective leadership potential than personality

If you are reading this article to gain insights into your own leadership potential or to identify potential leaders in your organisation, consider focusing on behaviour rather than personality.


Assessing a person's preferred behaviours or "behavioural preferences" provides a more effective evaluation of their leadership style than personality profiling.


  • Our behaviours, or behaviour traits, develop throughout our lifetime. Crucially, unlike our personality, they can change making them coachable for greater success, whereas our personality remains relatively consistent over time. Moreover, we have preferred behaviours, which are more natural to us, that we naturally draw on to do well in the world. There are also other behaviours that we may find more unusual, but we can learn to practice these to relate better to those we lead to achieve success.

Many successful leaders have emerged by gaining a deeper understanding of themselves, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and then developing effective behaviours to interact with those who are different from them. Leadership can be learned, and effective behaviours can be developed.


  • Our behavioural preference combination is unique to each of us, which means that everyone brings a valuable contribution to the team. Behavioural preference profiling assesses an individual's unique behavioural profile, which reveals the leadership styles that they are likely to exhibit across a range of changing circumstances. Understanding our own behavioural preferences is crucial to our leadership development since it is how everyone else experiences us.


Do I have the right behavioural profile to be a great leader?

Here's the good news:

All behavioural profiles have the potential to lead effectively, there isn't a one-size-fits-all behavioural profile for successful leadership.



Ultimately, by looking beyond personality, we can unlock the potential of all individuals to become effective leaders.


Leaders can come from any behavioural profile, if they have a solid understanding of their own strengths and development areas and are able to empathise with and flex their behaviours to communicate effectively with others who have different motivational needs.


Behaviour profiling provides a more accurate understanding of an individual's decision-making processes, motivations, potential areas of conflict, and their suitability for a particular role or environment.


"But wait! What about 'authentic leadership' - isn't it important to lead as my authentic self?"


Yes! Authenticity in leadership is still highly valued. However, being an authentic leader does not mean leading solely based on one's own behavioural preferences. Rather, it involves understanding and embracing one's authentic style while also flexing behaviours to effectively communicate with and motivate others. This requires humility, self-awareness, and the ability to draw on one's strengths while navigating weaknesses. Ultimately, understanding how others are motivated and how they experience us in their world is invaluable wisdom that can help leaders excel in their roles, more effectively reach agreements and build successful teams.


What are the traits of great leaders?

At C-me we visually represent leadership behavioural preferences, behavioural traits, around a colour wheel, which represents the range of leadership contributions people bring. Every position offers a powerful leadership gift.



Leadership styles around the C-me colour wheel



Depending on the circumstances a person will flex around the wheel. With more practice they can flex further, demonstrating a wider leadership capability.


  • Where do you identify your own leadership preference on this wheel?
  • Where do you feel you move to under pressure?
  • Can you spot where you need to recruit your next leader around this wheel?

 To see how else we use behavioural profiling for leadership and management development, follow this link.



Key take-aways 

  1. Effective leadership can be learned, and behaviours can be developed - all behavioural profiles have the potential to lead successfully.
  2. While personality is relatively stable, behaviour is malleable and can be coached for greater success.
  3. Our behaviour emerges from our personality and it is how others experience us.
  4. Personality profiling is a poor tool to assess leadership potential because it cannot reflect how a person has learned to adapt their leadership style to be effective in changing circumstances.
  5. Behavioural profiling reveals a person's unique combination of behavioural preferences. Everyone is different and brings a valuable contribution to the team.
  6. Avoid restricting your own leadership potential, or the pool of talent in your leadership programme, by employing behaviour preference profiling that can recognise the potential in everyone.
  7. Aim to create the ideal environment to grow effective leaders by assessing behavioural preferences and how each behaviour type leads, then provide diverse opportunities for leaders to grow - there is no one size fits all approach to growing leaders.


Who offers behavioural profiling?

There are some great behavioural profiling tools available in the market. If you are looking for a tool to bolster the leadership programme in your organisation, or spot the leadership style of your potential new recruits, or assist your clients with their leadership development then book a demo with us and discover how C-me can help you. We are experts in behavioural preference profiling and implementing the benefits across our clients’ organisations, from leadership development all the way to mitigating operating risks and organisational behaviour.



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If you would like more information on how to choose a psychometric profiling tool, see our article 5 questions to ask when choosing a psychometric profiling tool’




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