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Strategic Management: Does Personality Make a Difference?

by Michael McDonald, Martha C. Spears and Darrell F. Parker
published by Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 2004
Ref ASMJ03-03

Is there a relationship between the personality characteristics of senior executives and strategic decision-making? And are the personalities of senior executives significantly different to those of other people?

This article explores the evidence and finds that in America, successful managers are more likely to be characterized as ‘internals’, ie, having an ‘internal locus of control’, meaning that they believe they can control the events and outcomes in their lives. Studies have also shown that groups led by ‘internals’ are more effective than those led by ‘externals’, who believe that outcomes are the result of luck, fate or destiny. ‘Internals’ are also more likely to engage in innovative, riskier projects, have longer-term plans, and invest in more highly developed technology.

In addition, the authors replicated and extended an earlier study to investigate the personality types of senior executives and found evidence to suggest that senior managers do differ from other people.

The authors raise a number of interesting questions in this article. For example, most theorists assume that personality is a relatively stable set of characteristics, but does this mean that business students cannot change their personalities? And if it is possible, should they try to change their personalities to more accurately reflect those of senior executives?

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About the authors

Michael McDonald is Dixie Crystals Professor of Business at the College of Business Administration, Georgia Southern University, US.

Martha C. Spears is Professor of Management at the College of Business Administration, Winthrop University, US.

Darrell F. Parker is Dean at Western Carolina University, US.

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