There’s The Best, Then There’s The Rest: Study Reveals The Characteristics of Good Leaders

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New study by reveals the personal characteristics that differentiate top-performing and poor-performing leaders.

It is the people who give power to the leaders – and these leaders must prove that the people’s trust is well-placed.

With power, the right leader can change the world; the wrong leader can destroy it.

A gifted few can wield power with finesse, shouldering the responsibility and pressure that their position entails.

With the presidential elections in the U.S. running full throttle, most voters and spectators can’t help but wonder who really is better-equipped to run a country.

Some seemingly qualified leaders falter when given a position of influence, others allow the power to get to their head and lose sight of what’s important. A gifted few, however, can wield power with finesse, shouldering the responsibility and pressure that their position entails.

Researchers at PsychTests analyzed the personality profile of 7,379 leaders who took their Leadership Style Test. When comparing excellent to poor leaders, 20 distinct differences stood out:

  • 84% of the excellent leaders have a clear vision in mind of what they want to achieve as a leader. They also know how to communicate that vision in a way that inspires employees and gets them on board. Only 46% of the poor leaders do this.
  • 76% of the excellent leaders frequently reevaluate the company’s/team’s goals in order to stay abreast of developments in the world. Only 1 in 2 of the poor leaders does this.
  • Not only do 86% of the excellent leaders set challenging yet reasonable goals, they don’t stay idle after one is accomplished. They always set their sights on the next innovation, milestone, or performance record. Only 62% of the poor leaders do this.
  • 72% of the excellent leaders make sure that every decision made is done with the company’s mission statement in mind. They adopt and stick to the company’s values. Only 58% of the poor leaders do this.
  • When forced to decide between standing by their ethics or making a profit, 90% of the excellent leaders consistently opt to uphold their principles. In contrast, 77% of the poor leaders are willing to do so.
  • 88% of the excellent leaders are creative problem-solvers. They are skilled at brainstorming, enjoy thinking outside the box, and prefer to come up with new, innovative solutions, rather than stick to solutions that have been used in the past. Only 63% of the poor leaders do this.
  • 81% of the excellent leaders are skilled at handling stress. They are good under pressure and don’t allow fear or other negative emotions to cloud their judgment. Only 56% of the poor leaders are able to do this.
  • 80% of the excellent leaders realize that they are seen as role models. They understand that in order to persuade others to work hard, they have to be persistent and hardworking themselves. Only 58% of the poor leaders recognize this.
  • Not only do they regularly praise their team after a job well done, but when required to give someone negative feedback on their performance, 93% of the excellent leaders make sure to offer clear, practical tips to help the person improve. 74% of the poor leaders do this.
  • 91% of the excellent leaders recognize that delegation is essential. Not only does it allow them to focus on their priorities, it is also a means they nurture their team’s potential. Excellent leaders also regularly consult their team for their opinions, ideas, and feedback. In comparison, 77% of the poor leaders do this.
  • 87% of the excellent leaders in comparison to 76% of the poor leaders recognize that handing out bonuses isn’t the only way to motivate people. Although perks are important, many individuals are motivated by the desire to learn new skills, inspire others, or express their creativity.
  • 81% of the excellent leaders adopt an optimistic attitude. They choose to focus on possibility and success, rather than problems and failure. Less than half (45%) of the poor leaders are optimists.
  • 85% of the excellent leaders believe in themselves and in their abilities. They are confident that others will accept their ideas and decisions. Only 50% of the poor leaders are self-assured.
  • Most importantly, 94% of the excellent leaders consistently look for ways to improve their own performance. They recognize that learning is a continuous process, and are determined to turn any weaknesses into strengths. Only 78% of the poor leaders are willing to do this.

“A lot of people, when vying for a position of power, only see how it can work to their advantage,” explains Dr. Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “Some truly do want to make a difference and bring about change, while others just want the power and the recognition the position brings. Once the weight of their responsibilities takes hold, however, there aren’t many people who can handle it well. So if your goal is to get promoted at work, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. In a position of authority, you are responsible for the success of your entire team, and you will be the first person people will point fingers at when things go wrong. If you’re a manager and looking to find someone to promote to a higher position, make sure this person has the right personality. Having the skills to do the job isn’t enough; the person needs to have a strong cocktail of leadership competencies in order to properly take the helm and get others to follow their lead … a good mix of emotional intelligence, resilience, perspective and a solid vision for the future.”

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PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.

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Ilona Jerabek
PsychTests AIM Inc.
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