Understanding the Big Five Personality Traits

Doug Thorpe
7 min readSep 21, 2022

Executive Leadership Development frequently turns to various forms of personality assessment to help leaders better understand their view of the world. As we grow and mature, we ‘evolve’ into core beliefs, values, preferences, and motives. The blend of these factors makes up our ‘personality.’

With that comes the inevitable conflict of realizing what we believe to be truth, beauty, and light does not always show up in our effectiveness as leaders. Whatever we elect to DO during the days is received by others either positively or negatively. Taking a personality assessment can help untangle the confusion about what, where, and how to adjust our leadership presence to achieve a better outcome.

The Debate Begins

Ah, but which assessment should I use? That is the question.

One popular group of assessments relies upon Dr. Karl Jung and his 4 part definition of personality types. Typically we see these as red, yellow, green, and blue quadrants on a diagram. Various ‘experts’ have taken this 4-blocker idea and repackaged them as four cleverly named traits, giving us great fun and entertainment at couples retreats and executive leadership excursions.

Sadly the routine application of the classic four-blocker method is often improperly applied by a leadership team. Rather than learning others’ traits and trying to empathetically work together, I hear comments like “Oh, you’re a GREEN. I can’t talk to you.”

In addition, I find the four-blocker leaving us wanting actual ideas on how to be better leaders. The insights might be helpful to some degree, but too much is left to speculation on ways to improve leadership effectiveness.

This is why I prefer assessment tools rooted in the Big Five Trait Model.

Five Factor Methodology

The Big Five (also called Five Factor) trait model of personality is the most widely accepted personality theory in the scientific community. Although it is not as well understood among laypeople as systems like Myers-Briggs personality typing, it is generally believed to be the most scientifically sound way of conceptualizing the differences between people.

The Big Five is so named because the model proposes that human personality can be measured along five major dimensions, each of which is distinct and independent from the others. The Big Five…

Doug Thorpe

Business Advisor and Executive Coach for Entrepreneurs & Large Corp Executives | Maximize People, Process & Profits