Personality analysis is an effective tool to some extent inunderstanding the motivations, behaviors and actions of political leaders (t’Hart2010, pg.100).
Personality analysis is influenced by Sigmund Freud who explainsthat personality is developed through childhood experiences (Post 2013,pg.460). In studying the psychobiography of political leaders, we can determinethe personality of political leaders, and apply that to understand theircurrent motives and predict their future behaviours. In order to understandpolitical conduct and behaviours we need to study the personalitycharacteristics of political leaders (t’Hart 2010, pg.103).
For example, Greenstein and Barber have usedpsychoanalysis to create psychological profiles of the presidents of the UnitedStates of America. This has helped us to understand political decisions thatare questionable or startling such as, the Watergate scandal that PresidentRichard Nixon was involved in and the Iraqi war that was authorised by PresidentGeorge W. Bush (Barber 1992, pg.4).
Using Greenstein andBarber’s personality profiling analysis of presidents we are then able toanticipate the presidential policies and political outcomes of current andfuture political leaders. The rational theory model statesthat individuals pick decisions based on their self-interest (Chong 2013,pg.98). As self-interest is informed bypersonality, it is understood that policy decision making is affected by apolitical leader’s personality. However, personality analysis can be criticizedas not being able to falsify, too subjective and not based on rigorous scientificmethodology (Greenstein 2014, pg.33).
It is important to notethat policy and political leadership decisions are not just made by individualactors but by groups (leader and advisors). Therefore, policy and leadershipdecisions are not solely based on the personality of the political leader. Forexample, the phenomenon of ‘groupthink’ downplays the role of individuals indecision-making processes as a desire for a conformity in the form of group consensusis more important than individual differing opinions (Janis 1982, pg.
5).Additionally, Milgram and Zimbardo conducted group experiments whichwitnessed that individuals are strongly influenced to be obedient to a group consensus(Zimbardo 1973, pg.5; Milgram1974, pg.1). Therefore, it may be more beneficial also to examine the politicalleader’s and advisors’ group dynamics. Only if the group consensus is dictatedby an authoritative figure (who may be the political leader) then studying thepersonality of that authoritative figure is deeply beneficial.
In conclusion,understanding personality is important in understanding political leadershipbut other factors such as group dynamics should also be studied