Personality structure and emotional intelligence of high-potentials compared to low-potentials in a business context

Master's Thesis, 2016

125 Pages, Grade: 1



1 Preface
1.1 Structure of the Thesis
1.2 Summary and Perspective

2 Theoretical Introduction
2.1 A Discourse on High Potential
2.1.1 Potential
2.1.2 Leadership
2.1.3 High Potential – Low Potential
2.1.4 Innate or Acquired
2.1.5 Constancy
2.2 Attributes
2.2.1 Personality
2.2.2 Emotional Intelligence
2.2.3 Upbringing
2.2.4 Political Activities
2.2.5 Social Network
2.3 Additional Attributes
2.3.1 Authenticity and Type-Inadequate Behaviour
2.3.2 Intelligence
2.3.3 Power
2.4 Typology
2.4.1 Personality Models
2.4.2 Typology - F. Riemann
2.4.3 Riemann Test
2.5 Aims of the Study
2.5.1 Statement of the Problem
2.5.2 Research Question
2.5.3 Hypothesis

3 Methodology and Design
3.1 Sample
3.2 Measures
3.2.1 Online Tests
3.2.2 Online Questionnaire
3.2.3 Risk Mitigation
3.3 Data Analysis
3.3.1 Aggregation of the Raw-Data
3.3.2 General Statistics
3.3.3 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 1 – Personality Type
3.3.4 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 2 - EQ
3.3.5 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 3 - Environment
3.3.6 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 4 - Attributes
3.3.7 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 5 - Attribute Pattern
3.3.8 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 6 - Early Detection
3.3.9 Data Analysis used for Hypothesis 7 - Income

4 Results
4.1 General Statistics
4.2 Results for Hypothesis 1 – Personality Type
4.2.1 Hypothesis 1 - Riemann Test Scores
4.2.2 Hypothesis 1 - Dominant Personality Type
4.2.3 Hypothesis 1 - Personality Type Pattern
4.2.4 Hypothesis 1 - Analysis
4.3 Results for Hypothesis 2 - EQ
4.3.1 Hypothesis 2 - EQ Test Scores
4.3.2 Hypothesis 2 - EQ Components
4.3.3 Hypothesis 2 - Analysis
4.4 Results for Hypothesis 3 - Environment
4.4.1 Hypothesis 3 - Birth Order
4.4.2 Hypothesis 3 - Family Structure
4.4.3 Hypothesis 3 - Family Wealth
4.4.4 Hypothesis 3 - Analysis
4.5 Results for Hypothesis 4 - Attributes
4.5.1 Hypothesis 4 - Political Activity
4.5.2 Hypothesis 4 - Regard for the Social Network
4.5.3 Hypothesis 4 - Analysis
4.6 Results for Hypothesis 5 – Attribute Pattern
4.6.1 Hypothesis 5 - Attribute Combination
4.6.2 Hypothesis 5 - Analysis
4.7 Results for Hypothesis 6 – Early Detection
4.7.1 Hypothesis 6 - Early Detection
4.7.2 Hypothesis 6 - Analysis
4.8 Results for Hypothesis 7 - Income
4.8.1 Hypothesis 7 - Average Income
4.8.2 Hypothesis 7 - Job Satisfaction
4.8.3 Hypothesis 7 - Average Income, Job Satisfaction and Personality Type
4.8.4 Hypothesis 7 - Analysis

5 Discussion and Conclusion
5.1 Interpretation of Research Results
5.1.1 General Statistics
5.1.2 Attributes and Potential
5.1.3 Early Detection
5.1.4 Personality Type, Job Satisfaction and Income
5.2 Conclusion
5.3 Critical Reflection
5.3.1 Critical Reflection on the Personality Type
5.3.2 Critical Reflection on the Riemann Test
5.3.3 Critical Reflection on High-Potential
5.3.4 Critical Reflection on the Data Pool
5.3.5 Critical Reflection on the Constancy
5.3.6 Limitations of the Study
5.4 Further Research

6 Bibliography

7 Abbreviations

8 List of Tables

9 Table of Figures

10 Eidesstattliche Erklärung


A variety of companies has high-potential programs in place to support a selection of employees in their career path. The question comes up if there is a certain pattern of commonalities in these employees. What type of person is more likely to be in such programs? The thesis is analysing the specifics of high potentials in the matter of personality and emotional intelligence among other relevant attributes named in the literature. What do these people have in common and what distinguishes them from others which are not in such programs? The objective of this thesis is to find out about the difference in a selection of attributes. Employees of international companies are asked to participate in a personality and an emotional intelligence test and give answer to a questionnaire. According to the answers of the participation in a high-potential program, the data is split into two groups and examined for significant differences in these two groups. The data is evaluated statistically and the significance for each attribute is defined with the chi-square or the t-test. The evaluation shows a significant difference in some of the attributes e.g. the personality type. This makes it possible to define a pattern, which is characteristic for high potentials. The presence of this attribute pattern in a person indicates the likeliness on being considered a high potential.


Einige Firmen betreiben High-Potential Programme in denen eine Selektion an Mitarbeitern eine besondere Förderung und Unterstützung erhält. Es stellt sich die Frage ob es eine Gemeinsamkeit der Personen gibt die sich in solchen Programmen befinden. Welcher Typ von Menschen hat eine höhere Wahrscheinlichkeit in einen High Potential Pool einer Firma aufgenommen zu werden? Diese These beschäftigt sich mit der Analyse der Besonderheiten von High Potentials im Hinblick auf Persönlichkeit, emotionaler Intelligenz und weiterer „Attribute“ die in der Literatur als relevante Faktoren genannt werden. Welche Ausprägung an Attributen haben die Personen in High-Potential Programmen gemeinsam und was unterscheidet sie von Personen die sich nicht in High-Potential Programmen befinden? Die Aufgabenstellung dieser These liegt darin die Unterschiede anhand einer Auswahl von Attributen sichtbar zu machen. Dazu wurden Mitarbeiter aus unterschiedlichen zum Teil international agierenden Firmen eingeladen an einem Persönlichkeitstest und einem Test der emotionalen Intelligenz teilzunehmen sowie einen Fragebogen auszufüllen. Anhand der Antworten der Probanden werden diese in zwei Gruppen aufgeteilt und der Unterschied untersucht. Die Daten werden mit statistischen Methoden, wie den Chi-Square und t-Test, analysiert und die Aussagekraft zu den jeweiligen Attributen auf Signifikanz geprüft. Die Auswertung ergibt einen signifikanten Unterschied bei manchen Attributen wie z.B. beim Persönlichkeits-Typ. Dies ermöglicht eine Zusammenstellung der für High Potentials charakteristischen Attribute zu einem Muster. Die Ausprägung dieses Musters gibt eine Indikation mit welcher Wahrscheinlichkeit die Person als High Potential erkannt wird.

1 Preface

This study is performed in a social science context with the focus of personnel management and development. Primarily, it will provide information, facts and figures for human resources (HR) as well as career advisors, coaches and business consultants.

The idea for the thesis originates from the consideration on how to find employees which exceptionally add to the success of a company. The thesis will give insight in the personality and emotional intelligence of employees with the potential to become successful in a company based environment and which do not just fulfil the expectations but exceed them and advance to the next level, mainly by intrinsic motivation.

The literature describes a fair amount of more or less relevant personality traits to define a person e.g. “Psychologie der Persönlichkeit” (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012),“The Big Five” (Goldberg & Fowler, 1993) among several other and less obvious attributes such as power e.g. “Macht” (Bauer-Jelinek, 2007). The literature on the assessment of potential focusses on finding talents and potentials within companies and during the recruitment process using different methods e.g. “How are top companies assessing their high-potentials and senior executive?” (Church & Rotolo, 2013).

The motivation for this thesis is to hypostatize the most relevant personality treats and so-called “attributes”, which give indication for a person’s potential. Potential in this context means, the ability to make use of the attributes to achieve and to be successful within a company. The literature research on that subject focusses on the key words “potential”, “performance”, “leadership” and “assessment”. Plenty of articles and books exist on this matter covering a large spectrum of subjects, e.g. “Praxishandbuch Managementdiagnostik” (Lackner, 2012); “The effect of self-esteem, family structure, locus of control, and career goals on adolescent leadership behaviour” (McCullough & Ashbridge, 1994); “Wie man Freunde gewinnt” (Carnegie, 1936, 2006). There are several attributes named in the literature that allow a correlation between attribute characteristics and potential and, as a consequence, between personality and success. This study focusses on personality treats and emotional intelligence.

The master’s thesis delves deeper into the personality of “high-potentials” (HiPos) using the “Riemann typology” by F. Riemann (Riemann, 1961, 2013) and “Emotional Intelligence” (EQ) by D. Goleman (Goleman, Emotionale Intelligenz, 1995, 2015) and correlates the results with a reference group. The reference group is assumed to have less potential in a certain context, slovenly titled “low-potentials” (LoPos). The difference of these two groups will give indication for a characteristic personality structure of HiPos.

1.1 Structure of the Thesis

Chapter 1 Preface gives a short introduction, the motivation and reason for the subject of the thesis as well as the research focus.
Chapter 2 Theoretical Introduction gives deeper insight into the related literature, relevant attributes and definition of key terms.
Chapter 3 Methodology and Design familiarized with methodology and research design used in the experimental part of the thesis.
Chapter 4 Results provides a data analysis and presentation of the outcome of the questionnaire.

Finally, in chapter 5 Discussion and Conclusion the results are critically reviewed and discussed.

1.2 Summary and Perspective

The motivation and research aspects for this thesis are the correlation between personality, EQ and potential. In the following chapters the theoretical background for the thesis, the methods used for the quantitative analysis, information about the study (questionnaire) as well as the results of the study and finally the discussion of the results and findings is displayed.

2 Theoretical Introduction

In this chapter the theoretical background to this study is given. The key terms are defined. The personality treats and relevant attributes for this thesis are presented.

The structure of this chapter is systematically from the fundamental question up to the questions that derive from the fundamentals. It starts from the discourse about what potential means in first place and then compares high with low potential. Afterwards, the personality is specified followed by the question, if the character, and therefore potential, is innate or acquired, and if it is changeable or constant.

After the basics on potential and personality, a deeper look into personality and typology is taken, followed by the other attributes which may also contribute to being part of a company high-potential program. This leads to the statement of the problem and the corresponding research question and hypothesis.

2.1 A Discourse on High Potential

The most relevant question for the understanding for this thesis is treated in this chapter: “What does high potential mean?”

2.1.1 Potential

First of all potential is needs to be defined. In “Praxishandbuch Managementdiagnostik” (Lackner, 2012) the “ladder of success” describes the central mechanic of the advancement from talent to success (own representation):

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1 . The ladder of success explains the certain steps which are gone through, starting with talent and ending with success, own representation based on (Lackner, 2012).

Potential is the second step in the ladder of success, based on talent and leading to competency. The prerequisites to advance to potential is a job related context.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2 . The prerequisites which are required to advance from one step to the other, from talent to success, are visualized in this figure, own representation based on (Lackner, 2012).

The fundament is talent, which is to a certain degree given by the genes and consequently inherited from the parent’s genes, see chapter 2.1.4 Innate or Acquired. This fundament is the starting point and therefore determining the chance for success in a context that is requiring a respective talent. A talent, e.g. for creativity, will be useful for an artist. But for an accountant it may be contra productive and frustrating because the talent probably cannot be run free.

For a potential to develop, the corresponding talent needs to be present. The talent will be of no use, if the context does not require that specific talent. As a result the talent never advances to potential. E.g. a talented programmer will only be able to gain potential in a programming department. A person with no talent for logical and abstract thinking will not gain potential in programming skills, even in the programming department.

Competency derives from knowledge and experience of using the potential. It needs to be used in the proper context and enriched by training to develop competency in that environment. E.g. a potential junior executive requires training, mentoring and experience to gain competency and to be able to successfully lead a department. Competency can be divided into several subsections, which are mandatory for potential to develop into competence.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3 . This is an own representation of the competency model, which is part of the “Wiener Kompetenzmodell”, based on (Lackner, 2012, S. 28).

The owner of the competency needs to be willing to use it. Motivation is essential to convert competency to performance and output. Without the motivation to make use of the gained competency, the competency will not lead to performance. It will remain an unused resource. E.g. a competent teacher must have the motivation to pass along his knowledge to the class.

Performance requires the necessary organizational environment and certain conditions to lead to success. A high performer will not be able to use his potential, if the environment does not make use of the performance. E.g. a performant salesperson of a raincoat shop in the dessert will be probably not render very successful in long term.

Lastly, success, very much like the beauty, always lies in the eye of the beholder. To succeed has many environmental variables which have to fit. Success is reached by using performance in an appropriate environment which allows the performance to be transformed into success. Success in a business context can be easiest measured in relative income. But also the degree of satisfaction can be considered success. Though, this statement has to be regarded with care. Satisfaction is correlated with ambition, which is very much driven by the urge to improve the current situation. Income and satisfaction therefore do not necessarily correlate. In this thesis, the focus lies on these two measures for success: income and satisfaction.

Several sources indicate that success correlates with personality. In the literature: e.g. “Praxishandbuch Managementdiagnostik” (Lackner, 2012, S. 88) it is stated, that personality tests can be used to measure potential and competence. There are articles which focus on the ability to make money. Making money may also be an indication for potential, see for example “Your Personality Type Influences Your Potential for Making Money” (Palaiopoulos, 2015) or the study “Personality Type & Career Achievement” (Owens, 2015).

Asendorpf and Neyer state in their book “Psychology der Menschenführung” (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012) that there is a clear relation between personality and successful leadership. Successful leadership consists of defining a clear goal and managing the emotions that goal creates by directing the emotions in the right direction (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012). This rather abstract definition can be translated into following: in the context of leadership, successful means, being able to use leadership abilities to achieve a desired outcome. An interesting remark is that the same leadership abilities in a different environment (time/age, location, political situation etc.) may have a completely different outcome, making constancy is a very important aspect which is discussed later in this thesis, see chapter 2.1.5 Constancy. Some of the greatest leaders in history may have failed under other circumstances, and others, which are unknown, would have left their fingerprint in the history books.

On the other hand, some people which could be called “successful” by the previous definition turn out to be only successful in climbing up the career ladder. Others, that perhaps have higher potential, never reach that level because they are ousted by skilled networkers and political strategists. This may be successful in the matter of personal success, but not necessarily for the success of company and therefore not the type of success searched for in this study. To evaluate this evental effect, two questions in the questionnaire are asked to learn about the probands social and political engagement.

To sum it up, success is a combination of owning the right attributes at certain circumstances to achieve a desired outcome. The output for the individual might be money or satisfaction, ideally both. The output for the company is revenues or market share.

The employees can be categorized according to the potential and performance they currently possess:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 4 . This is an own representation of the talent portfolio based on the “9-box Grid” (Lamoureux, 2009). Individuals can be categorized in several classes depending on their performance and potential.

An attractive target for a company is to receive an adequate amount of employees with high performance and high potential (“Stars”) and develop potentials into stars.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 5 . There is a reference between age and potential, whereas age can also mean the time of being in that specific context. The slope angel of the tangent represents the potential which normally decreases with time while transforming into performance. Own representation developed for this thesis based on (Lackner, 2012), (Lamoureux, 2009) and (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000).

It has to be mentioned, that company employee structure that consists of stars only may be problematic. A good base of experts, specialists and standard performers is advisable. However, “Question Marks” and “Low Performers” should be moved as they do not add value to the company in their current role. It is likely, that these employees themselves are not happy with the situation and lack the necessary parameters to advance in the ladder of success. As already mentioned the environment has a significant impact. Therefore the same person can make use of his potential in a different environment. This thesis focusses on the HiPos and LoPos, independent of their current performance level.

2.1.2 Leadership

Potential and leadership is often set in correlation. Therefore, the ability to lead has an important role for HiPos. Regularly HiPos advance in the hierarchy, either as technical experts or line management. Personality is a main factor for both, high potential and the ability to lead. The following formula for the ability to lead is developed in this thesis:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 6. This is an own representation based on (Lackner, 2012), (Beckhard, 1975) and (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000) of the leadership ability formula which applies to the ladder of success as well as the ability to lead.

The formula describes the correlation between disposition (innate) and evolution (acquired) and demonstrates that all parameters must be present to result in leadership ability. A similar formula is mentioned in “Führungspotenziale in der Schule erkennen und fördern” (Sassenscheidt, 2000, S. 7). Following difference should be noticed: in the above formula “multiply” instead of “plus” is used. This illustrates the unconditional interdependence between the elements. The reason for this conclusion to create a different formula is as follows: if one of the elements in the formula is zero, the final outcome is zero. In other words, if the subject has no personality disposition or no experience, education or no training, there is no leadership ability.

This is conforming with the “Formula for change” by Richard mentioned in the Sloan Management Review (Beckhard, 1975):

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 7. Own representation of “Formula for Change” by Richard Beckhard (Beckhard, 1975).

For further details see also article “The Change Formula” (Cady, Jacobs, Koller, & Spalding, 2014, p. 33).

In “What Makes a Leader?” D. Goleman names emotional intelligence (EQ) as the key factor of success, besides cognitive intelligence, toughness, determination and vision (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000). EQ itself can be divided into five core components, see chapter 2.2.2 Emotional Intelligence for details.

- Self-Awareness
- Self-Regulation
- Motivation
- Empathy
- Social Skill

Considered from the opposite direction M. Myatt lists several characteristics of bad leadership in “15 Ways to identify Bad Leaders” (Myatt, 2012) which match as antimonies to A. Goleman’s description of EQ:

- No vision, tunnel vision
- Inability to lead oneself lack of character or integrity, unethical behaviour over ethical behaviour for the sake of optic
- Consistent lack of performance
- Being a “Know-it-all” it prevents curiosity and learning from others
- Bad communication
- “One man show”, narcissism, overrepresented ego, pride and arrogance, disparagement of others
- Lack of empathy, humility and kindness
- Compromise readiness my way or the high way – or too willing to compromise
- Lack of focus and self-discipline
- Defending the empire instead of constant advancement
- Ignorance of market and customer need
- Lack of investment or commitment
- Blame others, claim credit for others
- Lack of cultural awareness
- Lack of courage

These bullet points show a relation between personality and the chance of being successful, respective unsuccessful in a leadership role.

2.1.3 High Potential – Low Potential

In Literature several definitions of “high potential” can be found. Following table lists some of these definitions:

Table 1 Definition of high potential

illustration not visible in this excerpt

According to the theory recited in the chapters above as well as the definitions, potential is the difference of having talent in a certain context, mainly in a professional context. On the other hand, this also means there is no “low potential” per se. Only about 5% of the employees are considered HiPos, compare D.A. Ready “Are you a High Potential ? (Ready & Hill, 2010). However, a person has low potential only when the person has low talent in a certain context. This means for the 95% employees which are currently not nominated as HiPos that with the given talent and context a high potential may well be present.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 8. S. Conrad names three key characteristics that HiPos have in common, own representation based on (Conrad, 2013). The key characteristics of HiPos are aspiration, ability and engagement.

Aspiration means taking the initiative, asking for more responsibility and proactively looking for new challenges. This gives a person a certain visibility to the management. This alone is not enough. Some forget that this approach may lead to the opposite effect when failing the challenges, in the spotlight of the management. Therefore also ability is required. It is the combination of the innate and acquired characteristics. Finally, engagement is the employee’s commitment to the cause, the job and to the company. The key message is, LoPos do not have one or more of some key characteristics in the same intensity as HiPos have. In this thesis the key characteristics are called attributes, see chapter 2.2 Attributes.

It hast to be taken care, that potential and performance is not mixed up. According to K. Lagunas in his article on “High Potentials vs. High Performers” (Lagunas, 2012) high-potentials and high-performance should be distinguished to treat them accordingly (see Figure 4). A HiPo may or may not show high performance, but possesses the ability to develop and advance and become a high performer. A high performer may, or may not possess a high potential. Either the plateau is already reached, then keep them at this position to make use of the high performance. Or the high performer still has potential and may even advance further. In any case, for a high performance a high potential is and was mandatory at some point in time (see Figure 1). This is an important fact for this study and the connection between potential and personality.

Table 2 Treatment of potentials and performers

illustration not visible in this excerpt

According to the literature there is a difference why some people are in a company high-potential program and others are not. Managers, HR staff, recruiters etc. decide who might be able to advance in the ladder of success whereas others are not on the radar. The HR-staff responsible for the high-potential programs defines preselection criteria and prequalifies HiPos. There is sufficient experience and literature on this matter e.g. (Church & Rotolo, 2013), (Land-von-Wins, Triebel, Buchner, & Sandor, 2008) or (Lackner, 2012). Successful managers are analysed and interviewed. The results are combined with the expectations of the company. The definition of how a successful employee should look like is created. The preselection and prequalification criteria for the future most successful employees are defined so that the support is directed to the people, which are believed to have the potential to over-perform and succeed.

This is exactly the difference that this thesis will try to figure out. Who is believed to be more successful than others in this environment, and who may also be a valuable employee, but may not advance above a certain level.

Another important issue on this matter is, not only to find HiPos, but to also keep them engaged. Because of their characteristics and dynamics of the factors a HiPo can change into a LoPo for example when loosing motivation or being not supported sufficiently. According to M. Wilk, which refers to a study by the Corporate Executive Board, states that there as a high risk to lose 1/4th of the high-potential employees within a year, when not identifying and taking the proper measures to motivate them to stay (Wilk, 2014).

2.1.4 Innate or Acquired

Personality disposition is relatively predefined by the genes (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012) whereas experience, childhood, education and selective training are less determined by the genes (Bateson & Mameli, 2007). According to a study on personality traits of twins “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Observed Personality: Evidence From the German Observational Study of Adult Twins” (Borkenau, Riemann, Angleitner, & Spinath, 2001) suggests that the genes influence the variance in personality by 40% and 60% by a non-shared environment, the effects of the shared environment is negligible. K. Leman represents the opinion, that the birth order has an essential influence on personality and genes play a subordinate role (Leman, 1982, 2015). However, for all traits applies that it requires some level of genetic preposition to be able to evolve by experience, education and action. All attributes can be improved by selective training or targeted measures. For example, emotional intelligence is a combination of an innate level of capability for empathy and a result of life’s experience (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000, p. 97). According to D. Goleman, emotional intelligence can be learned, but it is a difficult process and requires commitment. Reasoned from this example, a specific attribute can advance to a certain level, depending on the starting point. There are different strategies and also different recommendations in literature (Laufer, 2008): either try to focus on weaknesses to obtain an evenly distributed strength in attributes, or focus on the strong attributes to drive them to perfection. In other words, high potential is a mixture of innate and acquired factors which can be developed or prohibited in a corresponding environment.

2.1.5 Constancy

Measurements and observations can only give conclusions to a certain point in time. The observed attributes may vary over time with education and experience or just by aging and forgetting. Research on this subject indicates that especially the personality type shifts over the time (Nettle, 2007, 2009). Critics even mention a significant shift within weeks (McCarley & Carskadon, 1983). On the other hand literature suggests certain continuity. In “Denken, Lernen, Vergessen” (Vester, 1975, 2014) it is stated that there are only two major changes happening to the brain during lifetime. The first change is happening at a very young age, when the neurons are being connected for the first time. In puberty, the neurons are being “rewired”. These are the only times, when the “hardwiring” is performed or changed, therefore changing the principal function of the brain. Everything else is “just” using the existing connections, defining the behaviour by experience and memories. The effect is rather persistent. This leads to the conclusion, that there are two periods when character, personality and behaviour of a person can radically and irreversibly change: early childhood and puberty. If there is insufficient stimulus during these time periods, the brain cannot develop sufficiently and may lead to a deficiency, for example in empathy. At these stages in life, the potential may be decided. Following this idea, after puberty, the character, personality and behaviour will shift, but only within a certain, limited range. One exception to the rule is a life-event: when something very intense happens. For example a sudden death in the family or being part of a violent crime may have a significant impact on the personality (Vester, 1975, 2014).

Why this is important to the thesis derives from the fact, that potential is to a certain extent stable. If a person has potential in a given context, it may increase or decrease a certain level, but in theory, will not radically change under normal circumstances.

2.2 Attributes

A variety of internal and external environmental conditions and personality treats are the essence to advance from nothing to success. In this thesis these variables and constants are grouped together as “attributes”. The attributes are proven to have some sort of influence on the person, the person’s potential and therefore chance of being successful. The attributes which are considered to have to most significant impact are for example intelligence, resilience, determination or vision. According to findings in the late 20th century, emotional intelligence is discovered to be a key factor for success (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000). Where attributes such as cognitive intelligence may have some sort of effect on personality, emotional intelligence can be correlated very strongly with personality.

The relevant attributes have a significant impact in potential according to various literature, for example the study “Personality Type & Career Achievement” (Owens, 2015) or standard reference such as “Emotional Intelligence” (Goleman, Emotionale Intelligenz, 1995, 2015), “What makes a leader” (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000) or “Praxishandbuch Managementdiagnostik” (Lackner, 2012). Some of the attributes are listed for the sake of completion. Because this study focusses on personality, these attributes are excluded from the empirical part.

There are a variety attributes, which define a person. A certain selection of these attributes may indicate if a person is a high potential. In this thesis the attributes which are most referenced to in literature around the subject “talent”, “potential”, “competence” and “performance” are listed. The main attributes are rational intelligence, emotional intelligence, personality, reflectiveness among some other, taken into consideration in this thesis. However, for the study a subset of the attributes, considered to be the most relevant in relation to personality typology, is chosen:

Table 3 Summary of relevant attributes. The questioned attributes are part of the study.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

2.2.1 Personality

In the literature there is a strong indication for a relation between personality potential e.g. “Personality type & Career Achievement” (Owens, 2015), “10 Important Questions to Help Identify High Po tentials” (Wilk, 2014) and “15 Ways To Identify Bad Leaders” (Myatt, 2012).

Personality is the first of the attributes to be considered relevant for a high potential. Personality is the sum of all personality threads (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012). It is the individual difference in behaviour patterns and experiencing, including also the physical appearance. Being able to have a good understanding of the personality of others gives orientation in everyday interaction. It is a basic instinct to differentiate between safety and danger, between friend and foe.

The basic principle is delivered by S. Freud in his book “Das Ich und das Es” 1 (Freud, 1923), the personality consists of several instances with different levels of consciousness which differ in visibility to the outside and to itself.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 9 . Original graphical representation of “The ego and the id” by S. Freud (Freud, 1923).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 10 . This is an own representation of the figure for better understanding based on (Freud, 1923). It shows the instances and processes of “The ego and the id”. The text is an English translation from the original German text.

J. B. Asendorpf mentions in “Psychologie der Persönlichkeit” (Asendorpf & Neyer, 2012, S. 103ff) that in the practical application of personality-psychology the measured personality treads are chosen according to respective requirements. This is not a given number, but a subset of context related traits. However, it is recommended to always use the lowest possible number of character traits.

According to the article “The structure of phenotypic personality traits” there are five most relevant attributes for the human personality called “Big Five” (Goldberg & Fowler, 1993) also known as the “five factor model” (FFM). These five main factors for personality derived from a large amount of personality treats, but these five appear to be hierarchically on the highest level (Goldberg & Fowler, 1993, p. 27).

For the sake of completeness, some additional attributes are locus of influence, reflectiveness, self-esteem and values, and many more. However, these attributes mainly derive from the personality and are therefore not considered further in this thesis.

2.2.2 Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the second of the relevant attributes to be considered relevant for a high potential and can actually be considered part of the personality. The concept of emotional intelligence gained importance as an additional, important factor for success in addition to the rational intelligence (IQ). The term emotional intelligence is coined by D. Goleman in the 1990th as a complementary attribute to the well-established IQ (Goleman, Emotionale Intelligenz, 1995, 2015). In the article “What Makes a Leader?” (Goleman, What Makes a Leader?, 2000) D. Goleman defined five components of emotional intelligence.

- Self-awareness (Emotional Awareness) means being able to know the own strength and weaknesses and being able to cope with them in a productive way. Self-awareness effects the attribute “authenticity and type-adequate behaviour”.
- Self-regulation (Emotional Management) means being able to control affects and impulses and leave the ego behind for a greater purpose.
- Motivation is the passion for achievement. Analogous to the statement in “Praxishandbuch Managementdiagnostik” (Lackner, 2012) motivation is the link between performance and success and therefore mandatory for the last step in the ladder of success.
- Empathy (Social Emotional Awareness) is the ability to understand and deal with other’s emotions and threat them accordingly.
- Social skill (Social Relationship Management) is the ability to create and manage relationships with others, to build rapport and to find common ground and make people cooperate and support.

Except of motivation, all components are covered in this thesis and are part of the study.

2.2.3 Upbringing

With the term “upbringing”, three environmental influence factors are covered: birth order, family structure and family wealth. In the relevant literature found on this subject it is clearly stated that the upbringing, parenting and environment have a major impact on a person’s future. Especially the first years of life, the bonding stages, have a significant and sustainable impact on the personality, the identity and the behaviour and therefore the ability to develop potential. The significance of the environment is underlined when taking a closer look at how our brain works in “Denken, Lernen, Vergessen” (Vester, 1975, 2014) as well as the typologies in “Grundformen der Angst” (Riemann, 1961, 2013) or performing studies on the human characteristics in “Emotional Intelligence” (Goleman, Emotionale Intelligenz, 1995, 2015), just to name the most prominent references.

Given this fact, some of the questions in the questionnaire will address background data on the childhood. For example the birth order (Leman, 1982, 2015), family structure (McCullough & Ashbridge, 1994) and family income (Miller & Gentry, 2010) are asked for as these environment variable are stated as significant in the corresponding literature. The answers to the questionnaire may give some clues about the upbringing and the effect on the current attributes and therefore on the potential.

Birth order

Especially the effect of the birth order on personality is significant, according to K. Leman’s “New birth order book” (Leman, 1982, 2015). The traits according to K. Leman are as follows:

Firstborn – the Perfectionist: leadership abilities, controlling, competitive, reliable, conscientious, list maker, decision maker, structured, cautious, independent, aggressive, well organized, hard driving, serious, logical, scholarly, does not like surprises, technical understanding, compliant.

Middle Born – the Mediator: Conventional, loyal, big on friendships, values social contact and relationships, has a large social circle, peacemaker, independent thinker, compromising, diplomatic, secretive, team player, reliable, loyal, steady.

Last Born – the Charming: uncomplicated, spontaneous, humorous, fun-loving, high on people-skills, charming, tenacious, affectionate, engaging, attention seeking, manipulative, self-centred, blames others.

Only child – the Little Adult (super firstborn): mature for their age, confident, self-assured, high achiever, self-motivated, organized, driver, list maker, logical, scholarly, leaders, diligent.

Table 4 Mapping of personality treats and birth order

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Of course, the birth order has to be considered in relative terms (Leman, 1982, 2015). There are a lot of side effects to be taken into consideration. First of all, the gender of each sibling has an impact as well as the age difference. Lemans says, that only within the first six years of life, the birth order and changes to the birth order have a significant impact. Also the genetic predisposition has to be taken into account (physical and mental) as well as changes in the family structure (adoption, death, divorce, marriage, family blending and patchwork). Further, the parent personality type, and thus the birth order of the parents, has influence as well. Also the relationship between the parents among themselves and to the children, the parenting style, has an impact.

Leman is characterizing four different personality traits (Leman, 1982, 2015, p. 12) which are roughly comparable with the Riemann typology (Riemann, 1961, 2013), but with different titles. For example, Leman titles the perfectionist as type A, whereas in Riemann titles the perfectionist as type C. The conclusion is eligible that a correlation between the birth order and Riemann’s personality types can be made as well.

Following this chain of correlations based on the hypothesis, that there is a significant connection between personality type and high potential, it leads to the hypothetical conclusion, that birth order has an impact on the likeliness of becoming a high potential.

Family structure

There are several types of family structures (Blessing, 2013) which various effects on the growing up. The upbringing is considered one of the environmental attributes which has influence on the child’s outcome (cognitive ability, education, mental health, emotional health, social behaviour etc.) and consequently on the potential of a person (Mackay, 2005).

Table 5 Influence of family structure

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Family income

According to R. Miller and M. Gentry in “Developing Talents Among High-Potential Students From Low-Income Families in an Out-of-School Enrichment Program” (Miller & Gentry, 2010), where they reference to a variety of studies, the children from low-income families are underrepresented in high-potential programs. Children from families with higher than average income gain better support and consequently have a greater chance to climb the ladder of success.

2.2.4 Political Activities

It appears that the Party Book (German: Parteibuch) may still be relevant for being able to advance in the hierarchy (Bauer-Jelinek, 2007). It is not outspoken, but it even appears mandatory to have the right contacts to political influential circles to gain certain positions. This may be the only explanation why people, that obviously lack the attributes mentioned to be considered a HiPo, are in top positions. Part of the questionnaire is the query for political activity. The answers may give an indication if the selection of high potential pool members can be correlated with political activities.

2.2.5 Social Network

Social network is considered relevant for being visible, gaining opportunities and being promoted by mentors (Wright, 2011). Also, having a suitable social network may be an indication for a certain character type e.g. extroverted according to C.G. Jung or type B or D according to F. Riemann. Sociable and popular people tend to have large networks, as well as individuals that will be able to provide opportunities to others. There may be a correlation between the opportunity to gain access to a high potential program and the social network, which has more to do with personality (talent to socialize well) than with talent on a technical matter.

2.3 Additional Attributes

Following attributes are stated as relevant in the literature. However, there are no tests or questions in the questionnaire assessing this attributes of the probands. The Attributes are listed for the sake of completeness.

2.3.1 Authenticity and Type-Inadequate Behaviour

The Oxford Dictionary defines “authentic” as “undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine not false or copied; genuine”. Authenticity means, the perceived behaviour matches the genuine behaviour. In correlation to the personality types, “type-inadequate behaviour” would mean a perceived behaviour that does not reflect the true character type.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 11 . Visualization of the self-perception versus the public image, own representation based on (Luft, 1982). The intersection is the “me” or “I”, where all aspects are known.

Type-inadequate behaviour may be conscious or unconscious (Luft, 1982). When the behaviour is unconscious, it is called unconscious type-inadequate behaviour which derives from the “Area of Unknown Activity”.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 12 . The “Johari window” displays the known and unknown aspects. Own representation based on (Luft, 1982).

One possible reason for deliberate type inadequate behaviour is the social desirability bias. This conclusion is derived from the “Social Desirability Bias” (Grimm, 2010). The person acts in a way that is thought to be the expectation from the environment, rendering the person to behave unauthentic.

There are negative side effects to the type inadequate, ergo unauthentic, behaviour:

- The environment normally detects the incongruity. Even if it is perfect acting and the incongruence is not obvious for the environment, the negative effect of the discrepancy is worse than the conformity with the allegedly expected type inadequate behaviour.
- It is very exhausting for the acting person to keep up the masquerade. Sometimes the exhaustion is too much, driving the person to sudden, unexpected contrary behaviour, shocking the socioenvironment. These people may behave complete different, when in an unobserved environment such as personal life or on vacation with strangers.

The reason why authenticity is important lies in the evolutionary past. It is a very basic reaction, some sort of brain-reflex, to permanently assess the surrounding for friend or foe, for danger or safety (Ellis, 1991). In short, type inadequate behaviour creates stress for all participants making the interactions with an unauthentic person less pleasant.

The tests and questionnaires performed in this study will also help to discover the areas not known to self. However, there is no test for “authenticity” in the questionnaire.

2.3.2 Intelligence

Rational intelligence is a collection of cognitive abilities such as memory, logic, communication, creativity or problem solving skills (Laufer, 2008). The rational intelligence is measured in intelligence quotient (IQ). There are various, well established and standardized tests to determine the IQ. An IQ of 100 means, that 50% of the population scores better, and 50% worse. IQ is considered somewhat innate, see chapter 2.1.4 Innate or Acquired. Until the end of the 20th century the IQ is considered to be the sole factor of success. Then, the EQ is evaluated and gained importance.

2.3.3 Power

According to C. Bauer-Jelinek in “Die geheimen Spielregeln der Macht” (Bauer-Jelinek, 2007) there are two types of people. She calls them „Gutmenschen“ (loosely translated into good-people) and „Geldmenschen“ (loosely translated into “money-people”). The “Gutmenschen” believe in justice, in moral and ethics. They fight for solidarity, social equity and ultimately for a better world. According to R. Banis (Banis, Jung, & Wolf, 2014, S. 4) the “Gutmensch” correlates with the Riemann Type B. The “Geldmenschen” are seeking for power and control, exploiting the good nature of “Gutmenschen” for their own agenda. “Geldmenschen” believe in evolution-theory (survival of the fittest), pushiness and in first come first serve. They are the natural nemesis of the “Gutmenschen” and appear to be more successful by using power and control for their personal success. It may be a valid assumption, that “Gutmenschen” correlate with Riemann B (B, BD) and “Geldmenschen” with Riemann Type A (A, AC). Anyhow, power and the ability to use it for the own needs appears to be relevant for success.

2.4 Typology

Typology is the approach to define personality threads and individual characteristics systematically. There are several approaches to create personality models. The most prominent are F. Riemann (Riemann, 1961, 2013) and C.G. Jung (Jung, Typologie, 1921, 2014). F. Riemann defines four types of characters, based on four dimensions of fears in his book, which is now standard reference on this subject. Because personality is complex by nature, a person’s personality rarely is on one pure type (soloist-structure). It is rather described by a mixture of Riemann types (pattern), typically with a dominant type and supplementary types. The alternative is to define a larger variety of types where only one type applies, with the setback, that it normally is more complicated and the type tends to shift from one to the other over time. For instance, C.G. Jung’s model is much more complex. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Lloyd, 2012), which derives from C.G. Jung’s studies, differentiates between 16 different types (Cook Briggs & Briggs Myers, 1962). Many “new” and “innovative” models and tests basically originate from F. Riemann and C.G. Jung.


1 English: The ego and the id

Excerpt out of 125 pages


Personality structure and emotional intelligence of high-potentials compared to low-potentials in a business context
Sigmund Freud University Vienn  (ARGE Bildungsmanagement)
Coaching, organizational- and personnel development
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
3372 KB
Riemann, Personality, Emotional Intelligence, Big Five, high potential, HiPo, Leadership, Typology
Quote paper
Michael Orter (Author), 2016, Personality structure and emotional intelligence of high-potentials compared to low-potentials in a business context, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Personality structure and emotional intelligence of high-potentials compared to low-potentials in a business context

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free