Successful leadership appears to depend on the personality of the leader. Judge et al. (2002) found the following correlations with the "big five" personality factors in a meta-analysis:

Personality trait       Correlation with leadership success

Neuroticism           -.24
Extraversion           .31
Openness               .24
Agreeableness          .08
Conscientiousness      .28

Kock (1965) found the following correlations between the needs for achievement, power, and affiliation, and economic success:

                         Achievment   Power   Affiliation   Ach+Pow-Aff

Gross Production Value   .39          .49*    -.61**        .67**
Number of Employees      .41          .42     -.62**        .66**
Turnover                 .46*         .41     -.53*         .60*
Gross Investment         .63*        -.06      .20          .45*
Profit                   .27          .01     -.30          .34

These two studies found that leaders must not be neurotic, need not be agreeable, and must not have a need for affiliation.

But personality influences not only a person's workplace behavior and success, but also his choice of a romantic partner and how he shapes his relationships to the members of his family. I wonder therefore:

Are there studies on the family situations of leaders, how they relate to their spouses and children, and how they influence their children's development?


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    $\begingroup$ +1 Thank you for this great question, what. I am highly interested in organisational development and leadership theories - stay tuned for a reply. $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 1:33

1 Answer 1


This is an extremely interesting question. I'm going to take a different approach to the question by focusing on both personality traits and leadership theories (e.g. authentic leadership, transformational leadership, servant leadership etc) to answer whether those two distinct areas can influence leaders' children's development. I will admit that I didn't come across specific studies on the actual family situations of leaders and the developmental impacts of the leader's personality traits towards their children.

Experiential learning and development by children

See Murphy and Johnson (2011) about how early life experiences and parenting styles can shape the development of a children in relation to general development and leadership potential.

but parents undoubtedly work to influence their children's thoughts on leadership, through role modeling leadership and through the leader behaviors and experiences they encourage in their children ... “[Parents…] contribute to their children's religious beliefs, intellectual and occupational interests, feelings of self-esteem or inadequacy, adherence to traditional or modern notions of masculinity and femininity, helpfulness to others, skills, and values (Beer, Arnold, & Loehlin, 1998; Kruger, Hicks, & McGue, 2001; McCrae et al., 2000)” (Wade & Tavris, 2008, p. 502).

Servant leadership promotes spirituality and servant behaviours in leaders, i.e. serve your employees first before you serve the company. This type of behaviour from a leader would most likely influence the parent's value and style of parenting. For example, leaders who are recognised as servant leaders may be generous and selfless - this may spill over into their parenting style to be compassionate and caring towards their children which in turn, influences their children's development into similar characters.

ADDED: Destructive leaders, narcissism and potential impact on children

Behaviours of destructive leaders tend to be correlated to narcissism (Padilla et al., 2007). Assuming that these behaviours manifest in the home/family environment, there is some evidence that child narcissism can arise from the parent's control over them (Horton, 2010):

There is also substantial evidence supporting the object relations viewpoint that child narcissism comes from a parent’s selfish use of the child that is manifest in excessive or inconsistent parental control. For example, both Horton and colleagues (2006) and Miller and Campbell (2008) found that psychological control correlated positively with maladaptive narcissism...

Similarly, destructive leadership involves an element of the urge to control (Padilla et al., 2007):

... destructive leadership involves control and coercion rather than persuasion and commitment (Howell & Avolio, 1992; Sankowsky, 1995)

I would dare say that if we compared destructive leaders (core trait: narcissism) and servant leaders (core: selflessness) - both would exhibit different parenting styles that both impact a child's development. Children of the former group may grow up to develop childhood narcissism which may stretch out to adulthood. Children of the latter group may grow to develop selfless behaviours in childhood and adulthood. Yet, I wish there would be a study demonstrating this.


  • Murphy, S.E. & Johnson, S.K. (2011). The benefits of a long-lens approach to leader development: Understanding the seeds of leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 22, 459-470
  • Horton, R. S. (2010). On environmental sources of child narcissism: Are parents really to blame? (pp. 125-143), In Barry, C, Kerig, P. K, Stellwagen, K. K, & Barry, T. T (Eds.) Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth: Implications for the Development of Adaptive and Maladaptive Behavior. Washington, D.C.: APA Press.
  • Padilla, A., Hogan, R. & Kaiser, R.B. (2007). The toxic triangle: Destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 176-194
  • $\begingroup$ I realise some of this could only point to the various leadership traits/behaviours developed based on certain variables of the childhood so I will edit if necessary. $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 7:51
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    $\begingroup$ +1, but it seems to me you are answering the question how leaders are made by their parents, instead of how the children of a parent who is a leader (politician, manager) develop differently from parents who are not leaders. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 10:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's true. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any articles directly addressing your original questions. I'm alluding to the possibility that leaders' behaviours and traits may spill into the personality development of their children. I've added more information that might address your question (though no articles directing studying the comparison you mentioned in your comment). $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ I've removed content that doesn't seem to really answer your question. $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ @what: try to read Daniel Goleman - Social Intelligence on the machiavellic leaders. The chapter is entitled "dark triad". According to his searches many "leaders" are Narcissistic. $\endgroup$
    – Revious
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 22:40

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