How To (and How Not To) Assess the Integrity of Managers (19 pages)
subordinates think they are not treated fairly, they will get even— by withholding effort, by theft and
sabotage, or by leaving the relationship and/or the organization (Greenberg, 1990).
Finally, an evolutionary perspective on leadership brings these various lines of research together
by emphasizing two points (cf. Van Vugt, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2008). First, leadership is best
understood by considering the costs and benefits for both leaders and followers. The benefits
associated with status make it obvious why some people want to lead. However, it is not obvious
why anyone would want to follow. The reason seems to be that although not everyone can be the
leader, followers in well led groups are better off than those in poorly led groups (Van Vugt et al.,
2008). Therefore, it pays to follow good leaders and is costly to follow bad leaders.
The second point concerns the fundamental ambivalence of leader–follower relationships. On
the one hand, followers depend upon leaders for collective success. On the other hand, leaders are
often tempted to exploit their position for personal gain (Maner & Mead, 2010; Van Vugt et al.,
2008). Dominance and despotism are part of our primate heritage, and as Freud (1921) suggested,
people who aspire to positions of power are often selfishly motivated. Not surprisingly, there is
evidence that evolved mechanisms help followers avoid being taken advantage of by selfish leaders.
For example, in all primate groups, members pay disproportionate attention to higher-status
individuals (Chance, 1967). Among humans, gossip and public criticism are often used to control
bad leaders (Boehm, 1999). Humans also have finely-tuned mechanisms for detecting individuals
who take more than they give in relationships and cooperative efforts (Cosmides & Tooby, 1989,
1992). Strong instincts for reciprocity, which Piaget (1965) observed among young children, also
encourage followers to avoid or sanction unfair leaders. These findings help explain why followers
in every culture are concerned about the trustworthiness of leaders and why perceived integrity plays
such a pivotal role in leader–follower relations. At a deep, unconscious level, followers are wary of
leaders who may abuse their power.
Personality Theory and the Measurement of Integrity
Gordon Allport (1937) and the moral philosophers agreed that issues of integrity are linked to
personality. Allport explicitly stated that character reflects an evaluation of one’s personality.
Similarly, whether philosophers analyze principled behavior, the impact of behavior on other
people, the motives for behavior, or the virtues displayed in behavior, they are also concerned with
evaluating characteristic patterns of social behavior.
There is a connection between personality psychology and integrity testing. The integrity tests
commonly used for preemployment screening do not measure integrity directly; rather, they measure
a combination of the three dimensions of the Five-Factor Model of personality that reflect
socialization: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Emotional Stability (J. Hogan & Ones, 1997).
Although these tests predict counterproductive work behavior (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Schmidt,
1993), they do not measure counterproductive behavior. Moreover, there is a question about how
well integrity tests work with leaders (Howard & Thomas, 2010). As the head of assessment for a
major executive search firm put it, “I have not found (integrity questionnaires) to be frequently used
for senior executives. Many of these existing integrity questionnaires are more “junior” in their
focus and attend to items such as stealing staplers and other office products” (Stamoulis, 2009, p.
Our approach to using personality psychology to assess integrity does not rely on the adoption
of established methods for measuring personality. Rather, we use personality theory to identify
optimal conditions for measuring the integrity of managers. Our approach draws on the concepts of
reputation, the dark side of personality, and the influence of “weak” situations on the expression of
Identity Versus Reputation
MacKinnon (1944) observed that personality should be defined in two ways. On the one hand,
personality refers to factors inside people that explain their behavior. Different theorists prefer
SPECIAL ISSUE: HOW TO ASSESS INTEGRITY