Tools & Templates

The best executives are boring

What does the perfect boss look like? Do you see a charismatic, colorful person with charisma, a great personality and great visions for the future? Are you also imagining a professional expert that has built his own company from the ground?

This is the type of leader you'd like to follow, right? One that establishes the vision?

You are definitely not the only one. In many companies it's these or similar criteria that decide, who gets hired or promoted to manager.

But is charisma and professional expertise really the best measuring scale when it comes to the ability to lead others?

Psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic doesn't think so.

Because with charisma and vision a variety of less attractive features often follows. For example, the charismatic leader is also often:

  • Narcissistic
  • Impatient
  • Difficult to please
  • Irritable
  • Emotional
  • A bad listener

Personal features that makes it difficult to collaborate, feel empathy and maintain a cool head.

The upside to boring

An extensive amount of research indicates that the best leaders' personality profiles are entirely different. They are in fact way more boring: Calm, balanced and predictable – what Chamorro-Premuzic also calls emotionally mature. And this is the first of three personality features you must look for, if you wish to find the best leaders. The others are social competence and high integrity.

Emotional maturity

Emotional maturity is characterized by being emotionally stable, pleasant and conscientious. It is no surprise that we all get more mature (boring) with age. Even though many western cultures see stability, conservatism and strict accordance with rules as something negative, it is also characteristics that represents a great advantage when it comes to leadership.

Research shows that efficient executives are very adaptable, pleasant, friendly, flexible and reasonable. Which Chamorro-Premuzic underlines is “(…) the reverse of the famous self-made billionaires and tycoon entrepreneurs we often see as examples of great leaders.”

Socially competent

The best executives are also socially competent. This means that they are good at what Chamorro-Premuzic calls “emotional labour”. They are good at solving people problems, which requires that you are able to use and show feelings strategically – and know that it is not about you. Chamorro-Premuzic refers to psychological research that shows that the most efficient executives are those who have a stable core, a solid grounding, focusses on others and are able to create a safe and supportive environment where creativity and productivity thrive.

High integrity

Integrity is the third feature that characterizes a good executive. Integrity is described by Chamorro-Premuzic as an attribute that is assessed best by getting others to assess you. If you ask your coworkers, how likely it is that their boss is cheating them, you will get a picture of the executive’s integrity. And again, it's the boring boss who scores the highest.

The more dysfunctional tendencies an executive shows, the lower his integrity is scored by the coworkers.

The next time you hire an executive, consider, if you are blinded by the grand gestures and personality. How many skilled leaders walk around unknown in your company or organization?