Five-Factor Personality Model

Most studies and overviews of leadership traits have been qualitative. Five-Factor Personality Model on Leadership provides a quantitative assessment of leadership traits. It is conceptually framed around the five-factor model of personality. It describes how five major personality traits are related to leadership (Northouse, 2007, p.22).

In psychology, the Five Factor Model of personality have been scientifically discovered and accepted by researchers. This model describes five broad dimensions of personality that define human personality at the highest level of organization (Goldberg, 1993).

These Big five factors are:
  • Openness (Intellect)
  • Conscientiousness (Dependability)
  • Extraversion (Surgency)
  • Agreeableness, and
  • Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)








Each factor consists of a cluster of more specific traits that correlate together. For example, extraversion includes such related qualities as sociability, excitement seeking, impulsiveness, and positive emotions.

  • Openness means the tendency to be informed, creative, insightful, curious and having a variety of experience.
  • Conscientiousness means the tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. It means planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
  • Extraversion means to have energy, positive emotions, and the tendency to be sociable.
  • Agreeableness means the tendency to be compassionate, trusting and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
  • Neuroticism means a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.

Judge et al (2002) assessed the links between the Big Five and leadership on the basis of 78 leadership and personality studies published between 1967 and 1998. They found a strong relationship between the Big Five traits and leadership. Extraversion was in their study the factor which was most strongly associated with leadership and therefore the most important trait for effective leaders.The second factor was conscientiousness and openness followed. Neuroticism was actually the third factor closely related to leadership, but it was negatively related to leadership. Agreeableness was only weakly associated with leadership (cited in Northouse, 2007, p.22).

Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009