Who to Promote? Give the Quieter Ones a Chance.


  • Those who are very extroverted and show dominance over social situations may not be the most effective leaders.
  • Truly effective leaders are those who are conscientious, organized and diligent; they also always keep an open mind.
  • Encouragement and support to your potential pick goes a long way.

Who to promote when there is a leadership opening can always be a tough question in a leader’s book. Because it not only has to be done with discretion and fairness, the performance of the new leader can be tied to the one who made the promotion decision.

If they look bad, you look bad. So who should you promote exactly?

There has been research on the different characteristics that predict leader emergence (those who emerged as leaders in groups or teams) and leader effectiveness (those who performed their leader roles effectively).[1]

It’s been found that those who seem more “leader-like” and likely to assume a leadership role in groups and teams are typically extroverts. It is not only because these extroverts are more outgoing, talkative and affectionate,[2] they also like to dominate over social situations (becoming the center of attention) and are pretty good at it.

But researchers found that trait of being extroverted doesn’t necessary predict one’s performance as a leader. The personality traits that are found to be most predictive of leaders’ effectiveness are one’s levels of conscientiousness and openness to experience.1

A conscientious leader is very organized, detail-oriented, diligent and emphasizes hard work; a leader with a high level of openness is intellectually curious, imaginative, open to ideas and suggestions and enjoys engaging in divergent thinking.[3] These people may not be the most social ones, but they can get the work done.

This research does not lead to the conclusion that that extroverts won’t make good leaders. With this knowledge, researchers are just urging managers to look at traits such as conscientiousness and openness when selecting a leader — instead of only considering those who draw the most attention in a group.

Moreover, the effectiveness of leader can be affected by one’s belief in his/her own competency at fulfilling a leadership role.[4] Thus, some encourage and support to your pick can help him/her boost their self-efficacy and can lead to better performance along the way.

[1] An unpublished manuscript by Dr. Tim Judge and Dr. Kevin Dawson, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

[2] MacDonald, K. (1995). Evolution, the 5-factor model, and levels of personality. Journal of Personality, 63, 525−567.

[3] McCrae, R. R. (1996). Social consequences of experiential openness. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 323−337.

[4] Ng, K.Y., Ang, S., & Chan, K.Y. (2008). Personality and leader effectiveness: A moderated mediation model of leadership self-efficacy, job demands, and job autonomy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93, 733-743.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.