Home Education & Learning The Ideal Characteristics of a Successful Politician: 4 Personality Traits Associated with Effective Political Leadership

The Ideal Characteristics of a Successful Politician: 4 Personality Traits Associated with Effective Political Leadership

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With presidential elections taking place in France and Germany next year, as well as local elections in the UK, 2022 will mark an important year for European referendums and choices the public will be faced with. The pandemic not only threatened the health and economy of nations but also challenged elections throughout the democratic world. Covid has touched every aspect of peoples’ lives and will have a lasting impact on elections and how the public votes. In this context, choosing the right political candidates and leaders falls to voters and their affinity to a certain type of politician or leader.

According to Hogan Assessments – the global leader in personality assessment and leadership consulting – strong leadership is the key to overcoming these challenges. Hogan’s science-based assessments, such as the Hogan Personality Inventory, are backed up by over 30 years of validated research, and Hogan researchers have identified four personality traits that potential voters most prefer in candidates: ambition, interpersonal sensitivity, prudence, and learning approach.


For voters, the characteristics and competencies of a successful politician lie in high political job performance, associated with high scores in Ambition. Leaders scoring highly on ambition are well-equipped to sustain a productive team during a crisis. Ambition measures an individual’s competitive drive, perceived energy, and goal-orientation. These leaders are highly self-confident, exuding high energy and drive to the public. Hogan’s Ambition scale measures the degree to which a person seems socially self-confident, leaderlike, competitive, and energetic; or conversely the degree to which a person is laid back, flexible, noncompetitive, and a good team player.

Interpersonal sensitivity

The HPI’s Interpersonal Sensitivity scale measures the degree to which a person is seen as perceptive, diplomatic, warm, and considerate, or on the other hand, likely to confront poor performers, tough, and willing to take unpopular positions. Leaders scoring highly here are diplomatic, warm and friendly, and tend to avoid conflict. Being a strong communicator and an accessible source of support and guidance is a vital element in the political process and defines how voters make their decisions.


The dependability factor, also called conscientiousness, relates to the HPI’s Prudence scale. Personality characteristics such as preparedness and detail orientation are associated with this factor. Likewise, the HPI’s Prudence scale measures the degree to which a person seems conscientious and rule-abiding. Voters tend to vote for leaders who score highly on personality traits such as reliability and attentiveness to rules and details. Personality has a strong and significant association with voting intentions and the HPI tests can help identify effective leadership skills.

Learning approach

Leaders scoring highly on this scale are imaginative and curious about new and inventive ways to solve problems. Hogan’s Learning Approach scale measures the extent to which a person seems to enjoy learning. This factor regards creativity, abstract thinking, curiosity, and openness to new experiences and challenges.

Dr Robert Hogan, the founder of Hogan Assessments, shares: ‘Going for a charismatic leader is the public’s best approximation of selecting a good leader in situations of incomplete information. Charisma is a very attractive characteristic; however, it often leads to lower levels of leadership effectiveness. Whereas charismatic leaders tend to focus on personal advancement, humble leaders tend to focus on the greater good.

‘Ultimately, it is humility in leadership that ensures results, productivity and effectiveness. Leaders with humility combined with the appropriate amount of self-confidence have proven to be extremely effective in leadership roles because of their ability to build and maintain high-performing teams.’

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