A personality test used by major companies screens leaders for these 18 traits

I recently took the CPI 260, a personality test designed to assess leadership potential, and one piece of feedback I received was a report comparing my characteristics to those of successful leaders.

The report, which includes clients’ ratings in 18 key areas such as decisiveness and the ability to handle sensitive problems, is based on years of research on the factors that go into effective management. The CPI 260, and the reports that come with the results, are used by major companies including Red Cross, AIM Investment Services, and Delta Associates.

We spoke to Rich Thomspon, divisional director of research at CPP, the organisation that publishes the CPI 260, about how the report is produced. (You can see a sample report here.)

In the 1990s, 5,610 managers and executives participated in leadership development programs at The Center for Creative Leadership. All the execs — a group of mostly white men from a wide range of industries — took the CPI 260 and received 360-degree feedback from managers, peers, and subordinates.

A team of researchers led by psychologist Sam Manoogian, Ph.D., then looked at which CPI 260 scores correlated with the most positive feedback in different areas. Manoogian was the chief assessor at CCL from 1996 to 1999, and based on his experience, he selected the 18 traits that he felt were crucial to successful leadership.

They are organised into five core competencies: self-management, organizational capabilities, team building and teamwork, problem solving, and sustaining the vision. The competencies represent a hierarchy, so each competency builds on the ones before it. Self-management is at the bottom: You can’t excel in any domain until you’re able to regulate your own thoughts, emotions, and habits.

Here are the 18 traits of successful leaders, according to the report:

1. Self-management

Effective leaders can regulate their time, attention, and emotions, and are familiar with their strengths, weaknesses, and potential sources of bias.

Self-awareness refers to your ability to manage your own feelings so that you respond to people and events in an authentic and appropriate way.

Self-control is about being disciplined, without being too reserved or inflexible.

Resilience involves managing stress and devoting time to important areas of life outside work.

2. Organizational capabilities

Successful managers know how to use power appropriately, work within established procedures, and make decisions.

Use of power and authority involves exercising power without overwhelming coworkers.

Comfort with organizational structures means following rules and policies — while still supporting individuality.

Responsibility and accountability involves owning up to your mistakes and expecting others to do the same.

Decisiveness is about balancing different perspectives and taking appropriate action.

3. Team building and teamwork

Team building comes down to leading or participating in groups of people with distinct personalities, motivations, and skills.

Interpersonal skill refers to the ability to be approachable in spite of the authority you hold.

Understanding others is about being able to empathise with different people’s feelings.

Capacity for collaboration means knowing that problem solving requires a variety of ideas and opinions, without getting sidetracked by conversation and debate.

Working with and through others involves both sharing and delegating assignments.

4. Problem solving

Problem solving is very much about managing group politics, and understanding why people act the way they do.

Creativity is about challenging the status quo, even while respecting organizational procedures.

Handling sensitive problems involves confronting delicate issues head-on, instead of running away from them.

Action orientation means knowing when it’s time to make a decision — even if you haven’t gathered all the information you’d ideally like to.

5. Sustaining the vision

Successful leaders don’t just have a plan in mind for their own success — they can also see the company’s future and have concrete goals for the organisation. They are consistently able to inspire confidence in and motivate their coworkers.

Self-confidence means being optimistic, even in spite of your worries, and communicating that optimism to others.

Managing change is about striking a balance between stability and growth, and being open to new approaches without getting distracted from the main goals.

Influence involves being outgoing and persuasive, without being overbearing.

Comfort with visibility means not freaking out when you’re in the spotlight talking about the organisation’s values, or when you’re networking for the sake of furthering your organisation’s mission.

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