Leadership and the Big Five Personality Traits

By | March 3, 2020

[March 3, 2020]  We all know that for good leadership to work well, we need to speak and write clearly.  Like my grandmother, bigmama, that means sometimes being blunt.  Today, I’m doing introducing the psychological big five personality traits 1,2 because I will use those more here at www.theleadermaker.com.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to draw parallels between these traits and types of leadership and the effectiveness of leaders.  To use terms like these traits means giving general definitions and expounded upon them over time.  My leadership toolbox has in it many things, including terms of reference.  I hope this reduces confusion and frustration for my readers.  Please comment on what you think.

  1. Extraversion: People with a high score on extraversion gain energy when exposed to the external world. They tend to be action-oriented, enthusiastic, visible to people, and are capable of asserting themselves. The opposite is Introversion.
  2. Neuroticism: The tendency to experience anger, depression, anxiety, and other forms of negative emotions are score high on neuroticism. It is also called emotional instability. It is similar to being neurotic in the Freudian sense. But, keep in mind that it doesn’t provide an identical meaning. The opposite are people that are emotionally stable and rarely feel sad.
  3. Agreeableness: People with a high score on this trait are trustworthy, helpful, kind, considerate, generous, and do not hesitate to compromise their interests with others. The opposite are people who are disagreeable and not willing to compromise.
  4. Conscientiousness: People with a higher score on conscientiousness tend to be self-disciplined, dutiful, and prefer planned behavior to a spontaneous one. The opposite are procrastinators and those who tend to make a mess of things.
  5. Openness to Experience: Openness suggests characteristics that include having a broad range of interests and willing to try out even the most unusual ideas. They are intellectually curious, sensitive to beauty, and tend to hold unconventional beliefs. The opposite are those who prefer to occupy themselves with an everyday schedule.

Studies have found the big five personality factors to be universal, testing the model across cultures and is relatively stable when contrasted with upbringing and education.  It should then come as no surprise that there is a biological deterministic factor with the model.  The model has its critics, and their arguments are persuasive.  However, I find the use of the big five as a tool to clarify motivations, needs, and desires.  Thus, I will be using them.


  1. Also called the Big Five Model of Personality or the Five-Factor Model. A remarkably strong consensus of what traits are basic has emerged over the last 20 years. Five superordinate factors have emerged. Numerous amounts of research have established basic personality traits. And the big five factors are supported by most of them.

Much of what I’ve written here is taken from an article by Praveen Shrestha in Psychestudy at https://www.psychestudy.com/general/personality/big-five

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Leadership and the Big Five Personality Traits

  1. Tony Custer

    Interesting article, made me think! Oh, that is the point. Thanks Gen. Satterfield.

  2. Karl J.

    Neuroticism: People with a strong tendency in this trait are considered to be anxious, self-conscious, impulsive, and pessimistic. They experience negative emotions relatively easily. Sounds like my wife.

  3. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    While it was once believed that once established, your personality generally remain stable throughout your lifetime, newer research suggests that is not always the case. So this is good news and deviates from the biological deterministic argument some in academia have made over time.

  4. Tom Bushmaster

    Is this the beginning of biological determinism again? Some will say you are racists, sexists, or fill in the blank ist. Thanks for sharing your thoughts but beware of the danger of the political correct police state.

  5. Joe Omerrod

    If my memory serves me correctly, ‘conscientiousness’ is the trait most closely associated with success in life overall and in leadership. That said, it makes sense that hard work and focus works well in an industrial and post-industrial world. Other factors like intelligence are also helpful but are not, I think, part of the 5 personality traits listed here.

    1. Walter H.

      You are correct that conscientiousness is the one closest to leaders and their success but also next would be extraversion or openness to experience. Which one, I’m not so sure.

    2. Linux Man

      High on the following –
      Spends time preparing
      Finishes important tasks right away
      Pays attention to detail
      Enjoys having a set schedule

      1. Doug Smith

        What Factors Influence the Big Five Traits?
        Research suggests that both biological and environmental influences play a role in shaping our personalities. Twin studies suggest that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of each of the five personality factors.

      2. Tom Bushmaster

        Is this the beginning of biological determinism again? Some will say you are racists, sexists, or fill in the blank ist. Thanks for sharing your thoughts but beware of the danger of the political correct police state.

  6. Janna Faulkner

    Today, many researchers believe that they are five core personality traits.1 Evidence of this theory has been growing for many years, beginning with the research of D. W. Fiske (1949) and later expanded upon by other researchers including Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987).

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      An easy way to remember them – You might find it helpful to use the acronym OCEAN (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) when trying to remember the big five traits. CANOE (for conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion) is another commonly used acronym.

  7. Valkerie

    Oh, nice concepts that are also new to me but I do appreciate you making me think. Thanks again for another helpful article on leadership, General Satterfield.

  8. Harry Donner

    Nice list, never heard of these before… got an education today.

  9. Army Captain

    Good article. I’d never really thought of this before very much. I had a short class on this in college but didn’t think much of it at the time.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Social scientists are starting to see the value in this 5 personality thingy. Good job on it Gen. Satterfield for introducing clarity before using these terms later and then having to define what they mean.

    2. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      Same here, Army Captain but college doesn’t really prep us for the real world anymore anyway.

      1. JT Patterson

        I think it depends upon where you go to college. There are many that are still good.


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