Political Psychology: The Personal is Political

November 30, 2011

 

I recently gave the following presentation to a group of aspiring politicians who wanted to deepen their understanding of personality impacts statesmanship and the ability to successfully run for office. I hope you’ll peruse the slides but let me touch on a few highlights of the presentation:

There is no “gold standard” for what makes a successful politician. The best politicians are representative of their constituency.

None of the “Big Five” personality traits discussed are inherently good or bad. For example, even a trait like Neuroticism has its upside – leaders who have lived through depression are often empathic and able to keep their thumb on the pulse of the national mood and respond accordingly. It’s not about whether your personality is good or bad – it’s about knowing who you are relative to who you’d like to be.

There is a conspicuous lack of the trait “Agreeableness” in the current political milieu and the recent Super Committee fiasco is a great exemplar of this. Voters need to take responsibility for electing people who are measured and willing to compromise, not some hyperbolic representation of one or the other end of the spectrum.

Democrats and Republicans tend to differ along some of the dimensions of personality. Dems are more likely to favor Open and Agreeable candidates and care less about Conscientiousness. The GOP favors Conscientious candidates and places less of a premium on Openness to Experience and Agreeableness.

Finally, I tried to emphasize that “You can do it!” The average political leader is slightly smarter, taller and heavier than the Average Joe or Jane. It doesn’t take superhuman skill or talent to lead in the political arena, but please, try to bring a willingness to negotiate and work toward compromise!

 

 

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