The achievement motivation construct has long presented a significant challenge to the study of presidential leadership. The purpose of this paper is to overcome the limitations of prior research by proposing that whether achievement motivation is related to effectiveness in the US presidency may not be a matter of if but how achievement motivation is manifested.
Drawing on the channeling hypothesis, it was proposed that presidents’ trait behaviors should be accounted for as they directly impact the way that presidents express achievement motivation. To test this thesis, this study relied on data generated from diverse sources that provide both direct and indirect information about US presidents’ personalities and effectiveness, including content analyses of inaugural addresses and presidential biographies and surveys completed by presidential biographers and scholars.
Results show that among achievement motivated presidents, display of motive-congruent, conscientious behaviors contributes to their effectiveness, whereas display of motive-incongruent, agreeable behaviors tends to detract from it.
The small sample size of US presidents and the limited amount of archival data available for some of these subjects prevented more fine-grained analyses. Thus, further research among senior leaders is needed to not only confirm the explanatory mechanism offered herein, but also explore the possibility that there are optimal levels beyond which the personality traits under study may cease to be a help or hindrance to achievement motivated chief executives.
This study represents the first effort to formally integrate motives and traits in the study of chief executives. The findings of this research also substantiate the need for researchers to consider the complex nature of motives in predicting important outcomes across different contexts.
Knights, A. (2019), "Achievement motivation and presidential effectiveness: It’s not whether chief executives are achievement motivated but how that achievement motivation is manifested", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 38-57. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-08-2018-0041Download as .RIS
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