Taking on a leadership role helps people develop desirable traits

Taking on a leadership role helps people develop desirable traits

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While it is a widely held belief that personality traits remain stable through adulthood, recent research by CUHK has found that moving into leadership roles can gradually mould an individual into having some of the most desirable leadership attributes.

The research led by Professor Li Wen-dong showed that after becoming leaders, individuals enhanced their levels of conscientiousness and became more dependable, organised and efficient, all key leadership attributes. 

Li cited taking on new roles at work as one of the crucial factors in driving adult personality development. As they take on wider responsibilities and play more important roles in organisations, novice leaders are expected to be more conscientious than when they were employees -- more efficient, organised, vigilant, achievement-oriented, and dependable to subordinates.

However, there is no significant relationship between emotional stability and leadership experience. 

"For them to carry out these leadership roles successfully over time may lead them to become so used to adopting such behaviours that they become a habit and then ingrained as personality traits," Li said. 

He recommended employers to assign employees with informal leadership roles as a way to encourage them to develop management capabilities, and to include personality development in learning and training programmes. 

Li also pointed out that the downside of taking up a management role can be a decline in adaptability and creativity and a threat to one's wellbeing, and urged readers to weigh up the benefits and costs before taking on a supervisory position.

The study Can Becoming a Leader Change Your Personality? An Investigation With Two Longitudinal Studies From a Role-Based Perspective used publicly available US and Australian databases to compare the personality development of individuals at different stages over lengthy periods. People were split into a "becoming leaders group", for employees who were promoted into leadership roles, and a "non-leaders group" for those staff who remained as employee across time.

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