Lead Right for Your Type (personality type, that is)

In 2008, Peter D’Adamo published a book called Eat Right for Your Type. The premise was that people with different blood types metabolize food differently. In addition to learning that bleached carbohydrates are not my friend (geesh, who knew?), a major takeaway/reminder for me was that we humans just don’t fit into a one size fits all. This is as true for leadership as it is for anything else. Forcing an introvert to act like Mel Gibson in Braveheart makes about as much sense as asking me to tell a story in three sentences or less, in a calm tone of voice. We might do it, but we’ll be miserable, with less than stellar results.

A major misconception about leadership is that one has to be an extroverted, powerhouse, Type A achiever to be a good leader. This often has the effect of deterring folks who don’t fit into that mold from pursuing leadership roles. The truth is that there are immense strengths that all personality types can draw on to be effective leaders.

For simplicity, I’ll use the DiSC personality to illustrate the point, although other useful personality indexes include the Enneagram or the MMPI. I like DiSC, because there are only four main categories, and I am an impatient, HIGH D, but you’ll get the idea whichever evaluation you use.

Speaking of D, the first type on the DiSC inventory is D, which stands for Dominance, and is characterized by being direct, strong-willed, and forceful. D’s are achievement-oriented and fast paced. The I (Influencer) type is much more sociable and talkative. They also enjoy fast paced but are warmer and more accepting than the questioning D types. The C (Conscientious) type is extremely detail-oriented and meticulous. They are cautious and reflective by nature as well as analytical and logical. The S (Steadiness) type is also cautious, but warmer and more receptive than the C. Nobody is just one type, of course, there are variations and combinations, and most people are a little dash of this and a dab of that. However most of us do gravitate more to one overarching style in our professional life.

Those of us who are D’s usually feel the leadership call loud and clear. Mostly because we don’t like anyone else telling us what to do, and we think we can do it better ourselves anyway. The biggest challenge for D leaders to overcome in their growth is to develop empathy and adjust our communication style to be better received by pretty much everyone else in the world. If you know that you are a D, you probably also know that those around you appreciate it when you talk a little less, a little more quietly, and listen a bit more.

But what about the other types? Is there room at the leadership table for an I, an S, or even a C? I say absolutely! Every personality style has unique gifts and strengths that make them highly effective as leaders. For example:

If you are a high I, you already know that you connect easily with people and love learning their stories. That likeability factor lends itself very well to leadership, as you are able to form meaningful relationships that can be transformational. You possibly are challenged with the detail side of things (much like your D counterpart), but if you’re aware of this, you can make allowances and be highly successful.

The C and S types are the ones who usually don’t see themselves as leaders, and can be particularly challenging for high D leaders and also some of the most valued team members. When you see C and D, think cats and dogs, and that pretty much sums up the relationship. While D casts a vision, C wants to work out all the details of exactly how the plan will work. C’s are very prone to paralysis by analysis and this can be an obstacle in their leadership. However, if you are a C, do not count yourself out. You bring a wealth of strength to your role and are able to provide true support to your team, because you will make sure you understand their jobs as well as they do. If C’s can remember to explain the Why before the How, and to do their best to stay out of the weeds, they can be excellent leaders who do very well on the back end of change management and implementations. If you are leading a C, especially if you are a D, try to take advantage of their ability to dive deep into the minutiae and their passion for excellence (even if it does feel like they are dream killers).

And finally the S. S’s are definitely not your typical CEO. They do not seek out change, and you will not find them on a soap box leading a charge. But their calm composure, and warm demeanor can be very reassuring in a storm. S’s are great leaders and second to none at gelling a team.

So, as you see, if you have a passion for serving others in a leadership role, you should never count yourself out just because you don’t fit the ‘typical’ profile of a leader. Similarly, if it’s your job to coach or groom up and coming leaders, be aware of your own type, and our propensity as humans to gravitate towards like individuals. If there’s any lesson to be learned, it’s that every type has something to offer.

Ask us about our premier management development programs – all you need when you promote from within, and if you want to learn more about how to optimize your personality style when it comes to leadership, click here for info on our upcoming workshop on this topic. 

Today’s Leadership Solutions is a Seattle-based consulting firm dedicated to providing business owners peace of mind and job fulfillment by ensuring their management teams are equipped to run their businesses successfully. With certified executive coaches, organizational development experts and HR Professionals, we consult with small to medium sized businesses on management, leadership, and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. We can be reached for consultation at info@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Not ‘inspirational’ enough to be a good leader? Think again!

Inspiration! The word itself is infused with optimism and a sense that the sky’s the limit. When I think of inspiration I think of creativity, positivity, and hope. When it comes to managers and leaders, I’ve found there are two main camps. Those who desire above all to inspire their followers to greatness, and those who feel that ‘inspiration’ is a bit silly, or at least unnecessary, to successfully attaining performance goals.

Now before you start thinking bad things about the leaders in the second camp, I think it’s helpful to understand why they might feel this way because it’s there that we’ll find the most helpful clues as to how to be an inspirational AND effective leader.

There are only a handful of reasons why someone would dismiss the ‘inspirational’ part of leadership. One that we can take off the table is the folks who actually don’t like people or care about their success. They see people as mere tools (or ‘resources’) to accomplish their goals. These people are likely sociopaths (or narcissists) and while they certainly can show up in senior leadership roles (for reasons we’ll table for another day), they’re really not who we’re talking about, because there are other, far less sinister reasons to mistrust the more intangible aspects of leadership. These reasons have everything to do with one’s perception of oneself, and one’s perception of the leadership role.

If a leader does not see him or herself as a particularly inspirational person, they are likely to eschew that aspect of their role. This can happen if one is introverted, or just doesn’t see oneself in that light. The introverted leader has probably felt for the most part that they have been effective due to perseverance and technical excellence, and sees inspiration as the territory of his/her more flamboyant peers. As Carol Dweck so excellently explains in her book Mindset, the Psychology of Success, we tend to avoid activities that conflict with the labels we have assigned ourselves (or have had assigned to us). ‘Non-Inspirational’ leaders in this camp usually care very much about the success of the people who work for them, but feel that the best way to lead is to ensure they are hitting their goals. Goal achievement is reward enough, and the other ‘fluff’ isn’t that important (they tell themselves). These are the managers that the high achievers respect, but that many would also describe as cold and unfeeling at worst; lacking warmth at best.

But there’s another reason to feel skittish about inspirational leadership. We’ve all encountered that person who could charm the stingers off the bees with their personality. These leaders always make you feel good and motivated. You feel like they really care about you, and you’d follow them to the ends of the earth. Except they’re not going anywhere! This is the person who is great for rallying the troops, but underwhelming when it comes to actually achieving any type of organizational goal (and make no mistake, even non-profit organizations have goals). These folks (correctly) assume that people are the most important part of a business relationship and invest their heart and soul into validating, encouraging, and inspiring their people, which is wonderful. But without direction, those very people who are being inspirted will eventually grow frustrated and stagnant.

I’ve seen both types of leaders fail to fulfill their true potential simply because of their preconceived notion of what their role can or should be. The best leaders, who change lives and companies, are both inspirational and organizationally effective (and I know many people will disagree with me, but this has been my observation over twenty years, and backed by research). Of course a leader can’t be ‘in the weeds’ doing the work instead of overseeing it, but they simply MUST have the tools to enable their subordinates to be effective in their roles. They must understand not only WHAT leads to success, but also HOW to perform those tasks, how to measure them, and how to reinforce them.

At the same time, it IS true that when people believe you sincerely care about them, as people, and are rooting for their success, it brings out the best in them, not to mention elevating their morale and engendering loyalty. You show you care by getting to know them as people, learning their stories, finding out what they really want in life – and helping them attain it. Old school managers worry that by being ‘too personal’, people will take advantage, but you can rarely go wrong by looking for the gold in people.

A solid performance management system releases you from the fear of being taken advantage of, and allows you the freedom of truth. It allows you to clear away misunderstandings about performance and, when there’s a mis-fit between position and aptitude, you can handle the situation with dignity and compassion and, because you know the person, often find a better suiting role.

So don’t be afraid to inspire! And at the same time, don’t be afraid to manage performance. Mastering both will allow you to become a legendary leader!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com