Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

David. J. Woehr

Committee Members

Lowell A. Gaertner, Michael C. Rush, Anne D. Smith

Abstract

The study of traits has re-emerged in the leadership literature despite its checkered past. There is now ample evidence that a variety of individual traits consistently relate to leadership effectiveness. Nonetheless, enormous ambiguity remains regarding the patterning of these traits within leaders and the implications of the various interactions among traits. A major contributor to these issues has been the failure to examine these traits within their founding theoretical context, as elements operating simultaneously as a configural system within the individual. Thus, this study examines the configurations of leadership traits in a sample of middle and upper-level managers. The main purposes of this paper are: 1) to describe clusters of within-person trait patterns in a sample of managers, and 2) to evaluate the extent to which these cluster profiles are related to performance ratings from a 360-degree feedback instrument and an assessment center. Results identified four stable clusters of managers based on the similarity of their leader trait patterns. The profile of each cluster was described and the following labels were provided: Action-Oriented Drivers, Interpersonal Achievers, Steadfast Introverts, and Apathetic Stoics. As hypothesized, these clustered displayed differences in both assessment center and multisource feedback ratings of leadership performance. For the most part, Interpersonal Achievers and Steadfast Introverts had the highest performance ratings across all dimensions and sources; however, a few interesting exceptions were revealed. Overall, results support the general premises of the person-oriented approach based on holistic interactionism theory. That is, a limited number of common trait patterns can be identified and used to describe individuals in leadership positions. In addition, based on the results of this study trait patterns assessed via a person-oriented approach are related to leadership performance and often provide a more precise explanation of leadership ratings than do individual or additive trait effects.

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