Toward a theory of individual differences and leadership: understanding the motivation to lead

J Appl Psychol. 2001 Jun;86(3):481-98. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.3.481.


A broad, integrative theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between individual differences and various leader behaviors is presented; it proposes a new individual-differences construct called the motivation to lead (MTL). A large-scale study using 3 samples in different occupational and cultural contexts shows 3 factors underlying MTL, namely, affective-identity, noncalculative, and social-normative MTL. A parsimonious model of antecedents to MTL is developed through hierarchical regression modeling and is cross-validated using confirmatory latent variable modeling. MTL is shown to provide incremental validity over other predictors such as general cognitive ability, values, personality, and attitudes in the prediction of 2 behavioral measures of leadership potential. Findings are discussed with reference to the theoretical framework proposed for understanding individual differences in leader behavior.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Motivation*
  • Occupations
  • Psychometrics
  • Regression Analysis