The effects of personality trait diversity of UK company directors on board governance processes and board task performance
: an empirical study

  • Alan K. I. Walker

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This study examines whether homogeneity in personality traits on a board of directors enhances the processes and outputs of that board. The question of whether homogeneity or heterogeneity of director characteristics is better suited to positive board outcomes has a rich history (Milliken and Martins, 1996; Williams and O’Reilly, 1998; Nielsen, 2010; Adams et al., 2015).

    In this thesis the role of the board is first reviewed under four main governance theories, finding that all are limited in the extent to which they explain director behaviour. The influence of board demographic diversity on process and outcomes is then examined. Several authors have attempted to relate top management team and board output with the demographic diversity of input (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978; Hambrick and Mason, 1984), but have generally failed to show many significant correlations.

    It is proposed in this thesis that the deeper diversity of personality traits is a better and more fundamental explanatory input variation than surface demographies. This input is measured using a well validated psychometric tool, the 15FQ+ and relationships between the diversity of personality trait data, the key cognitive mediating processes including trust, conflict and cohesiveness (Forbes and Milliken, 1999, Minichilli et al., 2009) and the task outputs of strategy, service and control (Zahra and Pearce, 1989) are investigated. A business process of “competitiveness”, extrapolated from sport psychology (Jones, 1997), is also included.

    Hypotheses are created and tested on the statistical relationships between personality trait diversity (PTD) of input calculated from mean Euclidean distances of personality traits on UK company boards. Hierarchical multiple regression is used to establish the relationship between PTD and processes / outcomes. The mediation of the effects of PTD by board processes on outcomes is also examined.

    Thirty complete UK company boards were surveyed between 2010 and 2012, with all 198 directors participating. No incomplete boards were included in the data since measuring diversity depends on total team member participation. Each director completed two separate questionnaires, one the 15FQ+ psychometric tool (200 questions) which generated 16 independent personality traits in each case. Another novel questionnaire (75 questions) investigated key board processes and the key board outcomes of strategy, service and control.

    It was found that homogeneity of many personality traits can have a significant positive effect on process and outcomes. It was found that PTD in general has a negative effect on board outcomes of strategy and control. Duality of the CEO / chair role and some other control data were also found to influence process and outcomes, particularly conflict and strategy.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBruce Burton (Supervisor) & Theresa Dunne (Supervisor)

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