Accepted for publication in American Psychologist (June 1994)
What We Know About Leadership: Effectiveness and Personality Robert Hogan, Gordon J. Curphy, and Joyce Hogan
Although psychologists know a great dealabout leadership, persons who make decisions about real leaders seem largely to ignore their accumulated wisdom. In an effort to make past research more accessible, interpretable, and relevant to decision makers, this article defines leadership and then answers nine questions that routinely come up when practical decisions are made about leadership (e.g., whom to appoint, how to evaluate them, whento terminate them). According to the political scientists, the fundamental question in human affairs is “Who shall rule?” As psychologists—who are less infused with the spirit of realpolitik—we believe the question is “Who should rule?” The question must be answered during national elections, when CEOs are replaced, and when university presidents retire. The question concerns how to evaluateleadership potential. When it is answered incorrectly, teams lose, armies are defeated, economies dwindle, and nations fail. In terms of the number of printed pages devoted to the subject, leadership appears to be one of the most important issues in applied psychology. Volumes appear on the topic every year, and a recent review lists over 7,000 books, articles, or presentations (Bass, 1990). However,the rules of psychological research are such that we tend to focus on narrowly defined issues. The result is that our research is primarily read by other psychologists. Although J. P. Campbell (1977) and Mintzberg (1982) recommended that researchers pay more attention to applications, what we know seems to have little impact on the people who actually make decisions about leadership. The gapbetween what we know and what leadership decision makers want to know may explain the popularity of such books as In Search of Excellence (Peters & Waterman, 1982), The Change Masters (Kanter, 1983), Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge (Bennis & Nanus, 1985), and The New Leaders (A. M. Morrison, 1992). These books are not intended to be scientific dissertations; rather, they offer practicalsuggestions about how to identify and evaluate leadership. To reduce the gap between
© American Psychologist--June 1994
researchers and the lay public, this article answers nine questions that psychologists are often asked by persons who must choose or evaluate leaders.
© American Psychologist--June 1994
What Is Leadership? Various writers have arguedthat our evolutionary history makes us both selfish (Dawkins, 1976) and yet able to identify with the welfare of our social unit— perhaps because individual survival sometimes depends on group survival (EiblEibesfeld, 1989; J. Hogan, 1978). It is important to distinguish between a person’s short-term and long-term self-interest; actions that promote the group also serve an individual’s long-termwelfare. History mournfully suggests, however, that without an external threat to their group, people largely pursue their short- term interests. This article provides a context for understanding leadership. In our view, leadership involves persuading other people to set aside for a period of time their individual concerns and to pursue a common goal that is important for the responsibilities andwelfare of a group. This definition is morally neutral. A Somali warlord who is trying to bring together a group of clansmen to control food supplies needs the same skills as an inner-city Chicago minister who is trying to bring together a group of parishioners to help the homeless. Leadership is persuasion, not domination; persons who can require others to do their bidding because of their power...