Knowing Your Personality Type Is the Key to Leading Effectively

Knowing Your Personality Type Is the Key to Leading Effectively

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As just about any manager or executive can attest, personality plays a defining role in leadership style. It determines not just what one is inclined to do in many situations but how problem-solving and communication are approached, one’s appetite for risk, and much more. It is one of the most important factors in unlocking full leadership potential, but maximizing associated strengths and accounting for weaknesses is only possible if you make an honest accounting of both.

There’s been a great deal of research done on what makes individuals different in terms of personality, and there are many tests/analyses designed to map such traits. Popular ones include the DISC (drive, influence, support, clarity) assessment, the Myers-Briggs type indicator, the Working Genius assessment and the Enneagram diagram model.

However, even rigorous tests can oversimplify traits and are inherently limited in the amount of nuance they can account for. Not everyone fits into neat categories, and many don’t like to be categorized in any way. Still, tests have the potential to point out traits you might not have noticed, though I’d recommend not relying too much on one: A better method is taking a few, then looking for results commonalities.

Whether you use such learning tools or not, understanding why you feel and behave the way you do is vital. Everyone has a style in this space that they naturally gravitate towards, and some are more effective than others. We can’t change personalities, per se, but we can understand them better and make suitable adjustments.

Related: How Leaders Can Use Myers-Briggs, DISC and FIRO-B Tests to Drive Corporate Culture

The “Big Five”

Used widely by researchers, the “Big Five” model encompasses a handful of major personality categories. Think of each as being on a sliding scale — their various combinations resulting in different personality types. They are:

  • Openness to experience: Those high on this scale tend to be creative, curious and ambitious.
  • Conscientiousness: People on the upper end tend to be thoughtful, productive and organized.
  • Extroversion: The high end here indicates sociability, expressiveness and assertiveness.
  • Agreeableness: Upper-tier responses correspond with trustfulness, empathy and kindness.
  • Neuroticism: Higher results reflect anxiousness and sadness, along with irritability.

Related: Are You A Visionary, an Executor or a Processor? Why Your Company Needs All 3 to Succeed.

A deeper understanding

You are doubtless already aware of some of your strengths, weaknesses and flaws, but likely not all of them, and that’s why analyses of the kind listed above — along with group work and perhaps individual therapy — are so pivotal. Both pay off in several ways, including finding an advantage in something you previously thought of as a deficiency and/or discovering that something once viewed as a strength may actually be working to your detriment. You can then apply workarounds: Tailor a team to fill in the gaps where you’re weak and apply your strengths strategically.

Identifying values

Moral and ethical principles play an indispensable role in identity, including overall behavior and worldview. Everyone has ones they live by, even if they haven’t necessarily stopped to think about and itemize them. In many instances, you don’t realize such bedrock beliefs until you are put in a situation where you’re forced to make a decision based on them.

The process of identifying and examining yours is likewise a part of leadership, including the important work of challenging these values and seeing whether they hold up. Do they make you a better leader? Are they really the ones you want to continue to live by?

Feedback from trusted sources

While personality tests can provide valuable insights, the very best information in this space comes from trusted individuals — those able to see the things you can’t. So, I highly recommend seeking feedback (the more specific the better) from loved ones, peers, mentors and others you trust and respect. This allows you to work on changing certain behaviors to achieve a more positive response from others and to lead more effectively.

Related: You Can Unleash Your Leadership Potential Through Executive Coaching. Here’s How.

An unvarnished awareness of strengths, weaknesses and values will illuminate blind spots and be an engine for more effective ownership/management. So, embrace self-discovery, blend it with external insights, and stride forth as someone who thrives on both understanding and adaptation.

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