This study addresses the role of rater personality in ratings of transformational and transactional leadership. In a naturalistic field study, we found that rater personality (i.e., agreeableness, openness, extraversion, and conscientiousness) was positively associated with ratings of transformational leadership, but significant rater personality effects were not found in an experimental study where leadership behavior was invariant. These results suggest that disagreements among raters about leaders' behaviors are not due solely to random error and may instead reflect true differences either in (a) the behaviors leaders exhibit toward individual followers or (b) personality-related differences between followers in attention to and recall of leadership behaviors. We also found that personality (of subordinates and peers) was not randomly distributed across leaders, though clustering effects were generally small. Practically, our results suggest that (a) individual reports of leadership may be better at predicting leadership outcomes than aggregated group reports – especially those related to individual attitudes and behaviors – though they are rarely used in the literature; (b) aggregation is complicated because rater personality is associated with leadership ratings and is not randomly distributed across leaders; and (c) corrections for measurement error based on inter-rater agreement may not be appropriate due to non-random unique rater variance.
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