Leadership lessons from the US presidential race

While it is often assumed leaders need specific characteristics to achieve positive results, one CEO says to look at US politics to see where these qualities can actually be toxic.

With business leaders requiring the twin qualities of likeability and capability, there is an underlying assumption that charisma plays a large role in helping these top level individuals succeed. After all, someone who draws people to them will be able to develop and guide the perfect team, right?
For Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, this assumption is a myth. In fact, he points to the ongoing US presidential race as an excellent example of why charisma may not be the positive personality trait people think it is.
“Look at most of the Republican nominees and you’ll see two things: firstly, positive correlation between charisma and popularity – charisma helps you emerge as a leader and get noticed; and secondly, a negative correlation between charisma and competence.”
In simple English, this means the more confident these leaders appear, the less capable they actually are.
While charismatic individuals such as Trump and Cruz have rocketed to the forefront of the popularity polls, more experienced leaders such as Bush have had to suspend themselves from the presidential race.
“It’s a sad reminder that in the US, presidential politics have been equated to a reality TV contest,” he said. “It’s also a sad reminder of how toxic popular leadership criteria or conceptions are.”
If charisma isn’t the reliable signpost we thought it was, what other options are there to spot potential leaders?
The answer is psychology which can identify underlying traits of potential leaders and help firms predict who the best candidates actually are.
“People have started to understand the value of evidence-based talent identification and pay a great deal of attention to data now – more than they ever have,” Chamorro-Premuzic said.
Over the past 100 years, the field of psychometrics has improved and is now based on solid theory and robust science, he added.
“There is more scientific evidence on the predictive power of personality – vis-à-vis leadership outcomes – than any other individual attribute, and well-designed personality assessments predict leadership performance better than anything else.”

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