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Do voters get it right? A test of the ascription-actuality trait theory of leadership with political elites

Wyatt, Madeleine, Silvester, Jo (2018) Do voters get it right? A test of the ascription-actuality trait theory of leadership with political elites. The Leadership Quarterly, 29 (5). pp. 609-621. ISSN 1048-9843. E-ISSN 1873-3409. (doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2018.02.001) (KAR id:66031)


Are the traits preferred by voters also associated with success in political office? Drawing on the ascription-actuality trait theory of leadership the present study examines whether traits ascribed to politicians predict leadership outcomes differently to the actual traits they possess. We collected self-ratings of politicians’ personality (N=138) using the NEO-PI-R (actual traits) and observer ratings of politicians’ facial appearance (ascribed traits) to examine their relationship with (a) leadership emergence, measured using share of vote in election, and (b) in-role leadership effectiveness, rated anonymously by political and local authority colleagues. Facial appearance predicted leadership emergence but not effectiveness. Personality had a more nuanced relationship with leadership outcomes. Conscientiousness predicted effectiveness but not emergence, and Agreeableness revealed a trait paradox, positively predicting emergence and negatively predicting effectiveness. These findings suggest a need to understand the contested nature of political leadership and qualities required for different aspects of political roles.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2018.02.001
Uncontrolled keywords: Trait, Personality; Faces; Politics; Leadership
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
Depositing User: Madeleine Wyatt
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 13:56 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 19:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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