According to research at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business it’s people who are more guilt prone who make better leaders.
Using the TOSCA (Test of Self-Conscious Affect) and performance ratings Francis Flynn and Rebecca Schaumberg found that those employees with higher levels of guilt were also the ones with the higher performance evaluations.
They were also seen as more committed to the organisation and seen as stronger leaders by their peers.
Even stranger you might think is the fact that there were also more likely to accept redundancies as being necessary for the company and carry them out. They may feel guilty about it but they can rationalise layoffs in the interests of the organisation. So they see the bigger picture.
Previous research has shown that being conscientious is a good predictor of employee performance and an important element in effective leadership and recruiters often look for stable extraverted personality types. This is the first research to suggest that employing people who are more neurotic has advantages for the employers.
And you might think that behaving in this way might have a downside for the individuals but according to Flynn they are no more stressed than other employees and don’t have lower levels of job satisfaction.
It seems that there is also a connection between guilt proneness and altruistic behaviour in terms of giving to charities and helping out colleagues.
The research was carried out in a Fortune 500 company’s finance department so may not be applicable in other functions. But it’s intriguing and if you believe that we should have more diversity in terms of personality variables you will probably welcome it.
Source: HBR Jan-Feb 2011 issue