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Feature

Traits for greatness

From M, spring 2008

Who would make the best president? And what counts when looking at a nominee? Intelligence? Toughness? Optimism? Experience?

Using data gathered from presidential biographers and historians, University psychologist Deniz Ones and her colleagues studied which personality traits have historically been associated with superior presidential performance.

The historians and presidential biographers answered more than 300 standardized questions about the personalities of past presidents before they were elected. The questions assessed the 35 personality traits that all people can be grouped under.

Of these 35 traits, Ones and her colleagues found 9 to be predictive of both job performance in the White House and eventual historical greatness (their conclusions were purely statistical; no judgments were involved):

Although we can't foresee which situations and crises a future president will face, if he or she has these nine traits, the country may be in good hands.