Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Identifying the Traits That Differentiate Chief Executive Officer Performance Levels

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Michael Zickar


Success in the chief executive position is crucial for both organizations and shareholders; however, there has been a minimal amount of empirical research dedicated to understanding what traits are common for success in the position. The research that has been conducted has largely been qualitative case studies, plagued by methodological difficulties (Piotrowski & Armstrong, 1989). The present study was designed to develop an empirical understanding of the attributes required for this unique leadership position using well-defined subjective criteria. Drawing from previous literature, certain traits were hypothesized to be related to performance in the CEO position. Although these traits were not found to be related to performance, the study did discover the additional traits of competition, persuasion, abstract and theoretical were positively related. In addition, the present study investigated the uniqueness of the Chief Executive profile, specifically if certain traits were more likely to be found in the CEO position than other leadership positions. Results indicated that Chief Executives possessed a greater amount of ambition, persuasion, and independence than the average leader.