Building cross-disciplinary bridges in leadership: Integrating top executive personality and leadership theory and research

R. Michael Holmes, Florida State University
Michael A. Hitt, Texas A&M University
Pamela L. Perrewé, Florida State University
Joshua C. Palmer, Kennesaw State University
Gonzalo Molina-Sieiro, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


The top executive personality literature has grown significantly in recent years. We review this literature, consider its contributions to leadership research and practice, and discuss how future research on top executive personality should draw more heavily on the broader leadership literature. The paper first describes the top executive context and highlights the advantages and challenges of studying top executives. We then review the top executive personality literature in four areas that capture the bulk of the research: leadership of human resources, ethical leadership, strategic leadership and corporate governance, and firm performance. We examine how the top executive personality research in each area compares with other research on leaders' and their personalities that has been conducted on similar topics. The paper concludes with a future research agenda, which identifies other leader, team, and contextual considerations to advance our understanding of top executive personality and its influence. We also address methodological challenges related to measurement and endogeneity, because they are important for theory development and have received much attention in top executive personality research. In short, our paper examines how the literatures on top executives and leadership inform one another, and it helps lay a foundation for integrating these literatures more thoroughly.