The interaction of different personality styles and adapting leadership styles for circumstances and people

24.11.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course How to be a more mindful leader by The Plato Project


The more self-aware leader can take on the task of managing for different personality styles, as their self-awareness allows them to understand others better. Today’s episode explores different personality types and how the mindful and self-aware leader can best adapt to them.

A range of tools and frameworks have been created to objectively measure personality. The best known is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, a tool developed in the 1940s from the theory of personality types established by Carl Jung. It is robust and well used, providing an insight into apparently contradictory behaviors by understanding a person’s preferences in relation to four key dichotomies. The end point is sixteen personality types categorized by a four-letter “code” (such as “ESTJ”) that are useful for managing others and understanding team dynamics.


The four dichotomies of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

1. Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
2. Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in, or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
3. Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
4. Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

An understanding of leadership and working styles enhances the ways we relate to others in the workplace. By engaging with people in their own personal “zone,” we begin to interact positively with different personality styles. This gives us the opportunity to explore how to work with people in diverse ways, because it’s not reasonable to expect people to act homogeneously. It’s not even reasonable to expect people to respond in a way that feels “rational” from only your perspective or to expect people to act as you might expect. Rather, people act in a way that is internally consistent. Knowing these patterns is therefore useful.


How to manage the six personalities in every office

The MBTI personality inventory enables the consideration of people on four different axes—three of which give insights into how to manage people effectively.

Judgers vs. Perceivers. Judgers prefer order and organization. Perceivers prefer spontaneity. Workplaces tend to favor organization, so ensure that perceivers are not left behind.

Extraverts vs. Introverts. Extraverts like interaction with others. Introverts need space to reflect and recharge. Extraverts tend to do well in workplaces because they are happier managing people, so ensure that the beneficial traits of introverts are protected.

Thinkers vs. Feelers. Thinkers tend to do well in workplaces according to external metrics of success; however, feelers tend to be happier because they focus on jobs that match their personal values. Ensure that the thinkers’ metrics align with personal happiness and demonstrate to feelers how their work is making a difference.

A truly effective leader needs to be able to switch between “types,” or as described by Judith Nicol and Paul Sparrow, to be at all times able to operate in a “Hard Power” and “Soft Power” mode. A hard power approach will be necessary when decisions need to be made and action taken because it is clear, directive, confident, and rational leadership. A soft power approach will be better when collaborating or coaching because it is more about listening, reflecting, enabling, and supporting. It is only through self-awareness that a leader can see different modes of operating and know when and where to switch between these modes.

A great leader nurtures individual differences to create an effective team. A great leader builds on individual strengths and compensates for individual weaknesses. A great leader looks to develop both the team and the individuals in the team. It is only through both understanding others and fostering self-awareness that a leader can have the EQ necessary to knit together the many personalities into a highly effective team. An ineffective leader sinks into a morass of micro-management and haphazard relationships where “people like me” are favored or learns the skills of leadership and becomes adept at working with emotional intelligence.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore some ways of putting this new-found EQ into action through communication and building trust.

“Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” — Plato


Recommended book

“Top Brain, Bottom Brain: Harnessing the Power of the Four Cognitive Modes” by Stephen M. Kosslyn, Ph.D. and G. Wayne Miller


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