Studies on Leadership Traits and Skills

Short summaries of what I have read on the subject

Tech Notes
54 min readMar 17, 2022



How the emergence, effectiveness, and career advancement of leaders is related to their traits and skills has been investigated in hundreds of studies, and the results have been reported in several reviews and meta-analyses (Bass, 1990, 2008; Judge, Piccolo, & Kosalka, 2009; Stogdill, 1974; Zaccaro, 2007, 2012; Zaccaro, Dubrow, & Kolze, 2018).

Collectivistic Cultures Do Not Endorse Flexing

Cross-cultural research suggests that individuals who lack awareness and engage in self-enhancement are seen by their bosses as being highly likely to derail in collectivistic, but not individualistic cultures, because they violate cultural norms for modesty (Cullen, Gentry, & Yammarino, 2015). [1]

Roughly 30% of Leadership Skill is Genetic

Some other studies have attempted to determine the extent to which leader traits and skills are the result of heredity or learning. By comparing identical twins (who share 100% of their genetic background) to fraternal twins (who share roughly 50% of their genetic background), insights into the influence of genetic versus environmental factors can be gained. The evidence suggests that genetic factors account for 30% of the variance in the attainment of leadership roles, as well as the possession of personality traits associated with leadership, such as self confidence and need for achievement (Arvey, Rotundo, Johnson, Zhang, & McGue, 2006). [1]

Cutting-edge genetic research also reveals that people who possess “r64950, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) residing on a neuronal acetylcholine receptor gene (CHRNB3)” are more likely to occupy leadership positions (De Neve, Mikhaylov, Dawes, Christakis, & Fowler, 2013, p. 45), while those who have the dopamine transporter gene DAT1 are less likely to have a proactive personality, and hence less likely to hold leadership roles (Li et al., 2015). The research indicates that leadership success involves a combination of inherited and learned attributes. [1]

What Screws Up a Career in Management?

Some longitudinal studies compare managers who advanced successfully to top management position to managers who initially advanced but then “derailed” in their careers because they…