McNair Scholars Program


Date of this Version



McNair Scholars Research Journal, 2013. University of Nebraska–Lincoln


Copyright © 2013 Ross Benes


Although a great deal of research has established personality differences between leaders and their followers (Lord, de Vader, & Alliger, 1986) there has been little research on how leaders at different levels of organizations may differ from one another. In particular, no research to date has examined whether or not there are personality differences between those who are first in command of their organizations and those second in command. The present study attempts to explore whether or not these differences exist in terms of both lay perceptions and in reality. The researchers in this study asked 401 individuals to contrast the personalities of first- and second-in-command leaders in general. Results generally showed that lay individuals believed that first-in-command leaders were extraverted and open to new experiences while second-in-command leaders were more neurotic. Next, the researches verified whether or not these stereotypes were true by having 1,262 individuals rate their actual first- or second-in-command leaders. First-in-command leaders were rated as being higher on conscientiousness. Second-in-command leaders were rated as being higher on neuroticism. Although there were fewer significant differences between the two levels of leadership, the pattern of differences between these leadership roles was consistent with lay stereotypes for these roles. Though the differences were not substantial, there was a great deal of accuracy in perceiving the traits that were different.