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Measuring leader behaviour: evidence for a “big five” model of leadership

Peter H. Langford (Voice Project, Macquarie Park, Australia) (Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia)
Cameron B. Dougall (Voice Project, Macquarie Park, Australia) (Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, North Ryde, Australia)
Louise P. Parkes (Voice Project, Macquarie Park, Australia)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 6 March 2017




The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence for a “leadership big five”, a model of leadership behaviour integrating existing theories of leadership and conceptually aligned with the most established model of personality, the big five. Such a model provides researchers and practitioners with a common language to describe leadership behaviour in a field with a plethora of leadership models. The model also describes a wider range of leadership behaviour than other models of leadership, and presents dimensions that correlate with important organisational outcomes as demonstrated in this study.


In total, 1,186 employees completed the Voice Leadership 360, a survey designed to measure the leadership big five, collectively rating 193 managers from a range of different sectors and industries, using a 360-degree survey methodology.


Confirmatory factor analyses and internal reliability analyses provide evidence for 22 lower-order factors of leadership behaviour that aggregate into five higher-order factors of leadership aligned with the big five personality descriptors. Further evidence for the validity of the model is indicated by significant correlations between 360-degree survey ratings and raters’ judgements of leaders’ personality, and significant correlations between 360-degree survey ratings and both work unit engagement levels and manager reports of work unit performance.

Research limitations/implications

The cross-sectional design is the main limitation of the present study, limiting conclusions that changes in leadership behaviours will lead to changes in organisational outcomes. The primary research implications of this study include the support for an integrating model of leadership behaviour that aligns with a large body of psychological research, as well as the development of a survey that can be used for future exploration of the model.

Practical implications

Practitioners may use the results of the study to rethink how they develop competency frameworks and measure leadership behaviour in organisation development contexts. This broad model of leadership and the familiarity of its dimensions could increase the effectiveness of behaviour change interventions, and the presented survey provides a reliable and valid tool for 360-degree assessments.


The study provides evidence that leadership can be described in a structurally similar way to human personality. It presents a leadership model that consists of a broader range of leadership behaviours related to organisational outcomes compared with previous models of leadership.



Langford, P.H., Dougall, C.B. and Parkes, L.P. (2017), "Measuring leader behaviour: evidence for a “big five” model of leadership", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 126-144.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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