A behavior genetic investigation of the relationship between leadership and personality

Twin Res. 2004 Feb;7(1):27-32. doi: 10.1375/13690520460741417.


Phenotypic research on leadership style has long considered the importance of individual differences in personality when identifying the behaviors associated with good leaders. Although leadership and many personality traits have been separately shown to be heritable, these constructs have not been examined with genetically informative data to identify common sources of heritability in the two domains. A logical extension to current research, therefore, is to examine the extent to which factors of personality are predictive of leadership dimensions and the extent to which unique genetic contributions to the relationship between personality and leadership style may be identified. Adult twin pairs (183 MZ and 64 same-sex DZ) completed the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) and the Personality Research Form (PRF). Univariate analyses indicated that both leadership factors (transformational and transactional leadership) and all five of the "Big Five" factors (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, disagreeableness, and neuroticism) were best fit by genetic models. Multivariate genetic analyses suggest that transformational leadership shows a statistically significant positive genetic correlation with conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness to experience. Transactional leadership shows a significant negative genetic correlation with conscientiousness and extraversion, and a significant positive genetic correlation with disagreeableness. These results underscore the importance of conscientiousness and extraversion in predicting leadership style, and illustrate important differences between transformational and transactional leaders.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires