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pms.1983.56.1.127

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Perceptual and Motor Skillr, 1983, 56, 127-132.
@ Perceptual and Motor Skills 1983
THE GHISELLI SELF-DESCRIPTION INVENTORY:
CONCURRENT VALIDITY VERSUS SUPERVISORS PERCEPTIONS
ROBERT B. BOWIN
California State College, Sun Bernardino'
Summary.-The Self-description Inventory was designed to measure the
traits of middle managers. 27 students who were' managers completed the
inventory and were evaluated by their immediate supervisors as more or less
successful. Managers' scores and supervisors' rankings of their success generally did not correlate, suggesting a problem of concurrent validity. However,
supervisors' rank of importance of the Self-description Inventory traits in
determining more or less successful managers also did not correlate, suggesting
a problem in perception.
An earlier study (Bowin & Leonard, 1981) reported that data for a sample
of 24 middle managers who completed the Ghiselli Self-description Inventory
did not distinguish between those middle managers who were ranked by their
supervisors as more versus less successful. The present study replicates the
original with new analysis as to a possible explanation for the difference in
findings.
The Ghiselli Self-description Inventory is an empirically based instrument
designed to identify the traits and talents of middle managers. Previous studies
present varying degrees of support and non-support (Frederiksen, Jensen, &
Beaton, 1972; Brief, Aldag, & Chacko, 1977; Miner, 1978). The inventory is
a questionnaire of 64 word-pairs from which the respondent chooses one each of
32 pairs that least describe and one each of 32 pairs chat most describe the
individual. GhiselLi (1971) found, of the 13 traits he ultimately selected to
be assessed, six formed a cluster described as playing a major role in managerial
talent with another three forming a group classified as minor. The remaining
four traits were considered not pertinent.
Ghiselli classified the following traits as major: Supervisory ability, need
for occupational achievement, intelligence, the need for self-actualization, selfassurance, and decisiveness. Three traits classified as minor include the lack
of the need for security, the lack of working-class affinity, and initiative. The
remaining four traits were considered by Ghiselli to have no pertinence to
managerial talent and include need for high financial reward, the need for
power, maturity, and masculinity/femininity. Of the 13 traits, Ghiselli found
that supervisory ability ". . . has a unique position with respect to managerial
talent. It is the trait which plays the most important role, and stands out clearly
and is apart from all of the other traits" (Ghiselli, 1971, p. 99).
'5500 State College Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407.
The methodology by which Ghiselli determined the relative importance of
the traits required that each satisfy three conditions: First, on the average, managers should obtain the highest score, line workers lowest, and line supervisors
(foremen) should fall in between. Second, there should be a substantial relationship for managers between the trait and their success. Third, the relationship between the trait should be highest for managers with line supervisors
in the middle, and the lowest for workers. For each of the three conditions
above, Ghiselli assigned zero to five points indicating the degree to which it
was satisfied. These points were added together resulting in an overall score
for the trait (Ghiselli, 1971, p. 98).
METHOD
The present study was conducted in an evening undergraduate/graduate
class in business policy that was part of a degree-oriented program conducted
at a high technology company located in the Pacific Northwest. There were
31 students in the class, of whom 27 were employed by the high technology
firm. Of the 27 participants, 21 were graduate students and 6 were undergraduates. Their tuition was paid by the company and there was a backlog
of several hundred prospective students waiting to enter the program. These
students were selected on the basis of their potential for managerial success
and were a l l in middle management.
During the first few weeks of classes, the 31 students were administered
the Ghiselli Self-description Inventory. Students were told beforehand that the
inventory was part of a continuing study of management by the author, would
be presented only as group data, and that all information would be coded to protect the individuals' identity. Upon conclusion of the course, the names and
addresses of the students' immediate supervisors were obtained through the
cooperation of the company's personnel department. These supervisors were
then mailed a covering letter with a return envelope requesting their cooperation in the study by completing two forms. One form requested the supervisor to indicate an evaluation of their subordinate (the scudent) as to whether
rhat individual was considered to be more successful or less successful. Ghiselli recognized that the supervisor's decision would be subjective and the
present study utilizes the same procedure of two categories, more or less successful, as in the original research (Ghiselli, 1971, p. 25). The other form
was a Likert-type scale listing the 13 traits requesting the supervisor to rank
the importance of the 13 traits in considering whether their subordinate was
a more or less successful manager. The scale ranged from 1 (not important)
to 5 (very important). All the supervisors responded by completing both
forms for the sample population of 27 student/managers.
The non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis one-way analysis of variance by ranks
(Siegel, 1956) was used in this study as in the original one to analyze con-
129
GHISELLI SELF-DESCRIPTION INVENTORY
current validity. The Pearson correlation coefficient from the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to interpret the supervisors' responses to the Self-description Inventory and their ranking of trait importance.
RESULTS
The data presented in Table 1 suggest that the scores do not differentiate
becween those middle managers who were ranked by their supervisors as more
or less successful. This finding replicates the earlier study. Further, this
finding is supported whether only the major traits are considered or whether
the major and minor traits are considered or whether all 13 traits are considered. This is important since Ghiselli (1971, p. 99) originally ranked the
importance of the traits in determining managerial talent as to major, minor,
TABLE 1
Major Traits
Less
More
Major and Minor Traits
More
Less
All 13 Traits
More
Less
and not pertinent. Table 1 demonstrates the lack of a significant relationship
between supervisor's rankings and subordinate's scores regardless whether the
major traits are considered, or both the major and the minor traits, or all 13
traits. T o reject the null hypothesis of no difference between the two groups
considering only the major traits, one would have to be willing to accept a
level of significance greater than .50 and less than .70. Considering both the
major and minor traits, the level of significance range decreases to greater than
.20 and less than .30. With all 13 traits (including the four regarded as not
pertinent), the range decreases further to greater than .10 and less than .20.
The scores in Table 2 generally demonstrate lower correlations with the
supervisors' ranking of more or less successful managers than in Ghiselli's
original study. An interesting divergence is the two major traits with negaand need for self-actualization
tion coefficients, supervisory ability (-.lo)
(-.12).
While neither of these correlations is statistically significant, Ghiselli obtained a positive correlation (.46) for supervisory ability, deeming it
the dominant element of managerial talent. The only significant correlation
was that of the minor trait, Initiative (.35). In total, the results of Table 1
and Table 2 are not supportive of the concurrent validity of the inventory.
TABLE 2
CORRELA~ONS
BETWEENSELF-DES(XIPTION
INVENTORY TRAIT SCORES AND
SUPERVISORS' RANKINGOF MORE
VERSUS LESS SUCCESSFUL MIDDLEMANAGERS
Major Traits
r
Supervisory Abiliq
-.lo
Need for Occupational
Achievement
.24
Intelligence
.04
Need for Selfactualization
-.I2
Self-assurance
.23
Decisiveness
.22
Major Total
.24
Minor Total
.23
Total 13 Traits
.25
* P < .05.
tGhiselli's sample correlations.
rat
.46
.34
.27
.26
.19
.22
Minor Traits
Need for Job Security
Working Class Affinity
Initiative
Not Pertinent Traits
Need for High
Financial Reward
Need for Power Over
Others
Maturity
Masculinity/Femininity -
f
ro
-.05
-.30
.12 -.I7
.35*
.15
.
-
r
fa
-.I6
-.I8
.13
.03
.12
.13
-.03
-.05
To determine why the present study does not demonstrate concurrent validity with the Ghiselli research, Table 3 analyzes the supervisors' rank importance of the 13 traits in determining a middle manager as more or less
successful. With a rating of 5 being very important, an arbitrary scale would
be 4 and above a major trait, 3 and above a minor trait, with the remainder
not pertinent traits. Using this schema, the supervisors' average ratings would
realign the traits to consider the most important major trait to be Initiative
(4.70) followed by Supervisory ability (4.44), Decisiveness (4.33), Need
for ~ c & ~ a t i o n aachievement
l
(4.33), Maturity (4.22), and Need for self-assurance (4.07). The minor traits would then be Intelligence (3.77) and Need
for self-actualitation (3.51). However, only two traits from this revised listing
are statistically significant, Supervisory ability (.013) and Need for job security (.029) with another, Maturity (.061), close. Yet, the correlations for
the Supervisory ability and Maturity traits ate negative. Also, Ghiselli found
that it was a lack of the need for job security which is a part of managerial
talent not the need for job security. The supervisors in the present study at-
GHISELLI SELF-DESCRIPTION INVENTORY
131
TABLE 3
BETWEENSUPERVISORS' RANKEDIMPORTANCE OF GHISBLLI
TRAITS
DETERMINATION
OF MOREOR LESS SUCCESSFUL
MIDDLEMANAGERS
CORRELATIONS
AND
Traits
P
M Rank
Importance
Ghiselli Traits
Major Traits
Supervisory Ability
Need for Occupational Achievement
Intelligence
Need for Self-actualization
Self-assurance
Decisiveness
Minor Traits
Need for Job Security
Working Class Affiniry
Initiative
Not Pertinent Traits
Need for High Financial Reward
Need for Power Over Others
Maturity
Masculinity/Femininitg
tach differing degrees of importance to the traits than the supervisors in Ghiselli's research.
DISCUSSION
The replicated part of this study supports the earlier finding that the
Ghiselli Self-description Inventory does not distinguish between supervisors'
ranking of middle managers as to being more or less successful. The correlation coefficients of the present study are generally lower than those of the
Ghiselli study. Some correlations are negative when Ghiselli's are positive and
vice versa. This could suggest a concurrent validity problem with the small
sample, since the instrument appears not to measure what it purports to do.
The supervisors' ranking of the importance of the 13 traits is quite different from the rank in Ghiselli's research. So it is not surprising that the
correlations differ. It is interesting to note that the supervisors valued the
supervisory ability trait as important yet downgraded that importance when determining whether a middle manager was more or less successful. Further,
the supervisors found two traits highly important that Ghiselli classified one
as minor and the other not pertinent. Perhaps the supervisors are behaving
in accord with that old saying, "do what I say, not what I do." This suggests
that the supervisors perceive other traits or combinations not present in the
small sample, which take precedence in their evaluation. However, it is pos-
132
R. B. BOWIN
sible that the small sample does not have concurrent validity. Yet, two small
samples remain two small samples.
Regardless, it appears prudent to approach the application of the Selfdescription Inventory with caution. There is a need for further research with
larger samples before definitive conclusions may be drawn.
REFERENCES
BOWIN,R. B., & LEONARD,M. R. The Ghiselli Self-description Inventorg as a predictor
of managerial success. Psychological Reports, 1981, 49, 291-294.
BRIEF, A. P., ALDAG,R . J., & CHACKO,T. I. The Miner Sentence Completion Scale:
an appraisal. Academy o f Management lournal, 1977, 20, 635-643.
FREDERICKSEN,
M., JENSEN,O., & BEATON,A. E. Prediction of organizational behavior.
New York: Pergamon, 1972.
GHISELLI,E. E. Expjor&ions i n mnagerial talent. Pacific Palisades, CA: Goodyear,
1971.
MINER,J. B. The Miner Sentence Completion Scale: a reappraisal. Academy o f Managemertt Journal, 1978, 21, 283-294.
NIB, N. H., HULL,C. H., JENKINS,J. G., STEINBRBNNER,
K., & BENT, D. Stlistical
package for the social sciences. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975.
SIEGEL,S. Non-parametric statistics for the behavioral sciences. New York: McGrawHill, 1956.
Accepted December 14, 1982.
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