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It takes three: Applying Socioanalytic Theory to predict leadership success
Restricted (Penn State Only)
Doctor of Philosophy
Date of Defense:
April 29, 2015
Alicia Grandey, Dissertation Advisor
Samuel Todd Hunter, Committee Member
James Marshall Lebreton, Committee Member
Stephen Erik Humphrey, Committee Member
Decades of research on leadership suggest that personality influences a leader’s effectiveness. The current study espouses a socioanalytic perspective to advance this line of research by examining the extent to which personality influences leader success, and whether cognitive ability and national culture influence these relationships. While research generally supports socioanalytic theory, further research is needed to a) study the extent to which ability factors, beyond self-report social skill, influence the relationship between motives and outcomes, b) understand the mechanisms underlying why motives and competence interact to yield success, c) examine the validity of this theory in a multi-cultural context and, d) examine expanded outcomes of career success, beyond performance. The current research aimed to fulfill each of these research gaps. Using a worldwide sample of leaders at a Fortune 50 company, this study examines the extent to which extraversion and agreeableness, personality traits that map onto the motives described by Hogan and Shelton’s (1980) socioanalytic theory, interact with cognitive ability to yield workplace success in the form of leadership effectiveness, salary, and average rate of promotion. Findings suggest several key takeaways. Namely, extraverted individuals, or those who pursue the getting ahead motive, experience higher salaries because they are perceived as more agile performers. Other than this finding, personality on its own did not have any predictive potency in this organization. Instead, the results suggest that “it takes three” – that is, the combination of agreeableness, extraversion, and intelligence produces an effective performer, facilitates career advancement, and enhances salary. Additionally, results revealed that extraverts earn higher salaries in collectivistic, rather than individualistic, societies – implying that extraversion may be a highly valued trait within these societies. Beyond this, post-hoc findings reveal that female extraverts are perceived as more effective than male extraverts. These findings are discussed in terms of their empirical and practical contributions, and also considered in light of several limitations and areas of future research attention.
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