Posted on February 25, 2019
Given the financial and societal impact of global business, there’s an urgent need to understand leaders’ personalities. If we fail to appreciate how personality influences strategic decisions, we risk selecting leaders who are incapable of setting an organization’s direction.
We are in the midst of great social, economic, scientific and political change. Intelligent approaches count more than ever if we’re to build sustainable results in rapidly changing, complex markets. The way we choose strategic plans is influenced by leaders’ personality, priorities and worldview.
Today’s leaders must excel at managing globalization’s systemic challenges. There’s no such thing as economic or political insularity. Every society’s problems affect the international community.
There’s no going back. Business cannot return to the leadership that was effective decades ago. If we’re to move forward, leaders must strive for economic success and the well-being of workers, customers and the environment.
Across the globe there’s growing political unrest, terrorism, climate change, economic disparities among nations and health-care needs for an aging population. If these issues aren’t sufficiently daunting, companies are dealing with continuous invention and experimentation. There’s a technology surplus today; we have invented much more than practical applications require.
The next 20 years will see radical advances in nanotechnology, genomics and gene therapy, robotics, artificial intelligence, bioscience, bioengineered agriculture, environmental and energy research, and medicine. Will our organizations’ leaders rise to meet the challenges?
For progress to occur in nondestructive ways, we need strong, visionary leaders who can unleash the power of emerging technologies and manage global diversity for the benefit of the common good.
But the way we’ve chosen leaders over the last 50 years may not serve us well in coming decades. We used to be a manufacturing society, with leaders who excelled at processes that could be replicated, measured and improved. Operations were key to success, and leaders tended to be obsessive, “by the book,” and conservative. They preserved order and maintained company values.
In contrast, 75% of today’s employees provide services. They’re knowledge workers who perform mental tasks instead of assembling product parts. Companies need leaders who can engage the workforce, manage people, and inspire collaboration and innovation.
Why Personality Type Matters
Evaluation of leadership personality types is an essential part of the selection process for CEO’s and top executives. Most of us intuitively recognize different personality types. We routinely notice personality quirks in coworkers that baffle us, challenging our responses and relationships.
Personality typing is not an intellectual pursuit for psychologists, nor a parlor game that helps us get along with others. Leaders in charge of developing business strategies set priorities based on their personality type and innate drives.
Many popular assessment tools reveal personality preference, including the Myers-Briggs Indicator, DISC personal assessment tool and 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire. Each is useful, yet few of us have a precise understanding of what they divulge.
Leadership selection can no longer be based solely on one’s prior experience or successes. Yesterday’s challenges (productivity, profit, efficiency) remain critical, but today’s leaders must also grapple with new technologies, global diversity, and political and environmental instability.
Basic Personality Types
Freud pioneered our understanding of human nature with his classification of three personality types: erotic, obsessive and narcissistic. One of his students, psychologist Erich Fromm, added a fourth type: the marketing personality.
These terms are somewhat misleading because of their negative connotations. The four types are classified according to what drives people and how they achieve a sense of security.
“Erotics” (not a sexual term) are driven by love, a need to care for others and, in return, be loved and appreciated. These individuals are relationship-oriented. Some management theorists call this personality type “enabling,” while others name it “amiable,” “diplomatic,” “supportive” or “compliant.” Erotics are often found in education, social services and health care, but they exist in every field. When they are most productive, they bring people together, making connections and facilitating collaboration. They seldom turn down a favor or someone in need. The downside to this personality is codependency and indecisiveness.
“Obsessives” are driven by a need for security, consistency, rules and logical order. You’ll spot them in every field—especially government bureaucracies, engineering firms, and law and financial offices. As leaders, they focus on operations, details and numbers. They’re often called “analytical,” “detail oriented” or “numbers people.” Obsessives are guided by rules set by some higher authority (a father figure, strict conscience or “the way things have always been done”). Most middle managers and some top executives are obsessives, especially CFO’s, COO’s and some CEO’s. The most productive obsessives are viewed as “systematic” or ”analytical.”
Obsessives often hold the Number 2 position to a narcissistic CEO—an unbeatable combination of narcissistic vision and obsessive implementation. The problems associated with the obsessive personality type are well known:
- They become mired in details and rules.
- They lose sight of overall goals.
- They’re more concerned with doing things “the right way” than doing the right thing.
- They may become control freaks and/or micromanagers.
- They resist change to the point of obsolescence.
- They can be rigid, judgmental and cheap.
- They insist on being right.
The “marketing personality” describes people who, as the name implies, adapt to the market’s demands. They’re driven by the need to be accepted and fit into society. They sense what the market wants and needs, and they conform to it. They align themselves with key people, thrive on change and seek others’ approval. Most of us adopt some of these aspects to survive in today’s volatile workplace. The biggest challenge with marketing types is their lack of a firm center and continual anxiety. They favor style over substance, spend a lot of energy selling themselves or chasing the next shiny thing, and may be incapable of fully committing to anything or anyone.
“Narcissists” are driven by the need to be unique, express their creativity and achieve greatness, and they’re readily spotted in leadership positions. The term carries a negative connotation, but it was originally meant to be descriptive (neither good nor bad). A narcissist can be productive (or not) and moral (or not). We often misuse the term, applying it to leaders who are egocentric, greedy, self-aggrandizing, and of little benefit to their organizations and colleagues. A productive narcissist may be viewed as a visionary leader.
Narcissists’ need to achieve greatness overrides everything else. They seldom listen to others and often show little interest in their coworkers (except for those who can help them get what they want). Few social controls are built into their mental model of how the world works. They aren’t worried about conscience or losing others’ love or respect, and they don’t bend to peer pressure or what the public wants.
The narcissist has few internal demands to do the right thing. He answers to himself as to what is right, decides what he values and determines what gives him a sense of meaning.
While the other personality types are deeply motivated to do whatever it takes to maintain their sense of security, narcissists never garner security from relationships or skills. Rather, they recruit people to join them in their worldview.
There’s a case to be made for narcissistic CEOs who can lead companies to greatness, inspire followers and achieve game-changing solutions in our rapidly changing world.
“It is narcissistic leaders who take us to places we’ve never been before, who innovate, who build empires out of nothing.” ~ Michael Maccoby, Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails (Crown Business, 2012).
The Productive Personality Types
All personality types have positive and negative potentials that can be described in terms of two hierarchies: productiveness and moral reasoning.
Productive vs. Nonproductive: Productive individuals are healthier than less developed, or even disturbed, personalities. A productive person is active and enthusiastic—someone who bounces back from failure and perseveres to achieve a reasoned purpose.
In contrast, unproductive people are less free and more reactive. They lack a clear purpose and are driven by addictive needs that make them fearful and dependent.
Moral Reasoning: Higher levels of moral reasoning don’t guarantee that actions will always have their intended benefits; however, we want leaders who seek to achieve a common good, not just feather their own nests.
While morally developed people are almost always productive, there are active, enthusiastic, productive people who cut corners (or worse) and score poorly on the moral-reasoning scale. In other words, being productive doesn’t necessarily mean being good.
Narcissistic or Visionary Leadership?
By creating a vision others can follow, narcissists gain personal security and overcome isolation. This is what motivates them to be captivating, inspirational, charming and seductive.
History and business have witnessed legions of successful, productive narcissists who led their organizations to great success: Napoleon, Rockefeller, Roosevelt and Churchill. In the last 20 years, we’ve enjoyed radical advances from companies led by productive narcissists like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, Howard Schultz, Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey.
Many companies, even those known for innovation, don’t want to hire narcissists who are visionary. No matter how much their leaders boast of encouraging independent thinking and creativity, many have little tolerance for true originals or mavericks. They prefer the obsessive leader who is driven to please and enforces company rules.
Productive narcissists want to create new paradigms that change the way we live and work. Conversely, obsessive business leaders excel at cutting costs, culling nonperformers from the pack, and implementing the right processes and systems. Which is the better leadership personality type for the future?
The answer, of course, depends on context. At this time in history, we need creative energy and passion more than ever before.
What apparently differentiates the more successful visionary leaders from the failures (besides moral reasoning) is strategic intelligence, which is why leadership personality matters.
Leaders in charge of developing business strategies set priorities based on their personality type and innate drives. Selecting future leaders cannot be based on one’s prior experience or successes without including assessment of leadership personality.
“All people, especially leaders, need a healthy dose of narcissism…it’s the engine that drives leadership.” ~ Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
Posted on February 19, 2019
Like all maturing adults, leaders progress through sequential developmental levels. At the higher stages, they become more successful. With increased effectiveness, there’s a 38% probability of seeing higher business performance, according to one study.
The increasingly complex and chaotic marketplace poses an urgent need to grow better leaders. Leaders remain confused, however, about how to strengthen their competencies.
Rather than focusing on training, skills and knowledge, developmental-stage theory involves expanding one’s “forms of mind,” defined by leadership coach Jennifer Garvey Berger as our changing capacity to cope with complexity, multiple perspectives and abstraction.
Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), applied developmental-stage theory to create the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360°assessment tool that measures leaders’ developmental stages.
Similarly, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs use developmental-stages as the foundation for Leadership Agility 360°, their 360° assessment tool, in Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (Jossey-Bass 2007).
By identifying stages of progressive development, we can use behavioral action plans and coaching to expand a leader’s forms of mind and modify behavior.
Foundations of Developmental Theory
Developmental theories have been around for decades, based on 50 years of psychological research into how adults mature. The basics are summarized here:
- Just as children improve their cognitive capacities with age, so do adults.
- Adults, however, develop according to needs and opportunities, not because of age.
- Some adults can function only at lower levels of development. A small percentage attains higher levels of awareness, wisdom and compassion.
- As leaders progress through developmental levels, they expand their mental and emotional capacities and become increasingly skilled at handling complexity.
- Each stage describes a form of mind: a way of thinking about responsibility, conflicts, perspective and assumptions (about self, others and the world).
- Leaders may operate partially at one stage and occasionally at the next, but return to old habits before transitioning.
- Transitioning requires changing one’s previous assumptions to expand consciousness.
5 Levels of Leadership
The following table explains how four leadership experts define levels of leadership behaviors and mindsets. Unfortunately, there is no uniform agreement on vocabulary, which has created a confusing array of names and definitions.
(Please note: The rows of stages aren’t equal; that is, while there may be some similarities, the stages are not defined as equivalent to others across the rows.)
Using a broad brush, we can summarize the various stages of leadership development as follows:
- Level 1: Leaders who operate at the first stage of development are focused on their own need to excel, which explains why it’s referred to as an Egocentric, Opportunist or Expert stage. These leaders are acutely aware of what they need to do to succeed and how they must be perceived by others. Leadership at Level 1 therefore tends to be autocratic and controlling. Growth requires one to become aware of, and interested in, other people’s needs and to reach out co-relationally. This is a normal developmental stage for young adults, but ineffective for leaders (although 5% appear to operate at this stage).
- Level 2: Leaders’ abilities to simultaneously respond to their personal needs and those of others is the hallmark of Stage 2, referred to as the Socialized or Reactive mindset by some, and the Diplomat or Achiever stage by others. At this stage, a leader plays by the organization’s rules and expectations and builds alliances, but with a focus on how to best get ahead. One’s emphasis is on the outer game to gain meaning, self-worth and security. At this stage, identity is defined from the outside-in and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength, intellect or results. Leaders fall into three categories at Level 2: Complying, Protecting or Controlling (reflecting overdependence on heart, head or will). Most leaders (nearly 75%, as with most adults) operate at this level.
- Level 3: Referred to as the Creative, Self-Authoring, Individualist or Catalyst stage, Level 3 is marked by personal transformation from old assumptions/beliefs and a quest for external validation to a more authentic version of the self. These leaders want to know who they truly are and what they care most about. They’re on a path to becoming visionary leaders, accepting that authenticity carries a risk of disappointing others, potential failures and hazards associated with contradicting accepted norms. Leaders trade their need to be admired for a higher purpose. They don’t feel the need to be the hero and begin to share power. About 20% of leaders operate with a Level 3 mindset.
- Level 4: Called the Integral, Transforming Self, Strategist and Co-Creator stage, Level 4’s hallmark is one’s ability to focus not only on an organizational vision, but the welfare of the larger system in which a company operates. Servant leadership emerges, as one considers more interdependent components and systemic complexities.
- Level 5: Level 5 is referred to as Unitive, Alchemist and Synergist. Other stages of development may be unexplored, as very few leaders grow past the fourth level. To some theorists, Level 5 encompasses a spiritual focus.
As leaders progress from one level to the next, they expand your strengths and abilities. Leaders can grow into the next developmental stage, recognizing there will be a learning curve and inherent challenges.
Leadership development programs must take developmental stages into account if organizations are to grow better leaders.
Posted on February 11, 2019
If ideas are the currency of twenty-first century business professionals, then their presentations must persuade action. Unfortunately, many fall short.
Presentations are critical, yet we too often focus on how slides look or where to stand on stage. Worse, we are prone to pack them with data, charts and graphics for fear of leaving information out. The result is often audience fatigue, information overload, and little chance of inspiring anyone to take action.
Communication experts know that shorter presentations are more effective, pointing to the revolutionary success of 18-minute TED Talks as evidence. TED Talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking.
“TED presentations change the way people see the world and they are springboards to launch movements in the areas of art, design, business, education, health, science, technology, and global issues.” Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015
Even if you don’t aspire to be invited to give a TED talk, you can benefit from learning to sell yourself and your ideas persuasively. As author and communication expert Daniel Pink notes in To Sell Is Human, “Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”
Presentations matter because they are a major way we sell products and services, find investors, establish trust and credibility, and gain support for new ideas. But ideas are only as good as the actions that follow the communication of those ideas.
What Makes Presentation Persuasive?
Although visuals and delivery matter, the ability to present novel content that makes an emotional connection is at the heart of whether a presentation inspires action or not. Leave out one of these three elements – emotional, novel, memorable – and you won’t persuade anybody to do anything and you won’t get the results you want.
- 1. Emotional
Most professionals tend to focus on the “what” and “how” of their information. But effective presentations appeal to both the head and the heart. Masterful speakers show their true passions. They use stories to help listeners emotionally attach to the topic. They show “why” this information matters.
Research from neuroscience reveals that stories sync minds and create connections with people. These connections are enhanced when a speaker has congruent body language and nonverbal behaviors that are conversational. Instead of delivering a speech, great speakers converse with their listeners.
Of course, a lot of practice is required for anyone who strives for a more comfortable and natural impact. Masterful speakers may rehearse up to 200 times in preparation.
- 2. Novel
Presenting information in a unique way captures a person’s attention. Neuroscience reveals that novelty is required in order for a listener to recall the speech later on.
The brain can’t ignore unusual information. Speakers must find a way to grab the audience’s attention with “jaw-dropping” or “wow” moments. The skillful use of visuals, video, and genuine humor can help.
- 3. Memorable
If the audience can’t remember what you said, your ideas don’t matter. You can present truly game-changing information but unless it is delivered in a way that is emotional and novel, your audience won’t pay attention and won’t remember it.
Scientists have known for a long time that what gets remembered are events that happen during significantly emotional times. We remember what we were doing at the time of the 9/11 attacks. It’s hard to create emotional events during a business presentation, but you can connect the audience to multisensory experiences that deliver dry data in meaningful ways such as graphics and analogies that relate to everyday experiences.
Why Shorter is Better
In the last ten years we’ve learned more about the brain and how it processes information than ever before. There is a reason why 18-minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across.
The brain works hard to process information and in doing so uses up reserves of glucose. Brain cells need twice as much energy as other cells in the body. If you don’t make a powerful argument and attract people’s attention in under 18 minutes, you risk losing them to fatigue. Too much information prevents the successful transmission of ideas.
Cognitive processing – thinking, speaking, and listening – are physically demanding activities. As the brain takes in new information, millions of neurons are firing at once, burning energy, causing fatigue. There’s not much left to transfer information from working memory to short-term memory, and none left to share it with others and transfer to long-term memory.
If people don’t talk about your ideas afterwards, don’t expect them to remember or act on them either.
3 Steps to Craft a Message Map
According to author Carmine Gallo, a message map is the visual display of your idea on one page. Building a message map can help you pitch anything in as little as 15 seconds.
Step 1: Create a Twitter-friendly headline. The headline is the overarching message you want your audience to know. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I want my listener to know?” Make sure your headline fits in a Twitter post – no more than 140 characters.
Step 2: Support the headline with three key benefits. The mind can only process about three pieces of information in short-term memory. Outline the three or, at most, four benefits of your product or idea.
Step 3: Reinforce the three benefits with stories, statistics, and examples. Add bullet points to each of the three supporting messages. You don’t have to write out the entire story. Instead, write a few words that will prompt you to deliver the story.
A message map can help distill your idea into a presentation that is emotional, novel, memorable and most importantly, persuasive.
Posted on January 23, 2019
We have a lot to learn from research–not only living well, longer — but happier. So a group of demographers published papers on those areas in the world where people do just that: Areas where people were up to three times more likely to live to 100 than the average American. And they didn’t just live long — they lived well. Healthier. Happier. Fewer diseases. More energy. Read this concise blog to find out what the researchers did — lessons for living longer from people around the world who lived the longest. Hint: the answer is not in a bottle of supplements or in a cream.
Posted on October 14, 2018
This HBR article written by Michelle Gielan,
Positive Psychology researcher gives a surprising view of Out-Of-Office (OOO) messages. She gives ideas as to how we can use the message to build social connections which, research finds that social connection, which adds meaning and depth to our relationships, is the greatest predictor of long-term levels of happiness, and can be a major contributing factor to our performance at work. She also offers some creative examples beyond the boring OOO that can forge conversational sharing and ways to be offer resources to your clients while letting them know that you are away.
Benjamin Franklin built his character around 13 virtues — and following his weekly plan could change your life
Posted on January 19, 2018
When I start to work with a client, I ask them to define what their values/virtues and strengths are — taking the VIA strengths survey helps to determine them. Then I ask them to rate their top 6 values each day on a scale of 1 -10. This exercise was also practiced by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Read this article on how esteemed Mr. Franklin defined his values and then contemplated each day how he used them. How many years later and we are still talking about Ben? I would say his method of defining his virtues and living them out served him well … and us.
Posted on January 2, 2018
Three simple (yet challenging to practice) behaviors can help in making intimate relationships stronger: Taking accountability for one’s own behavior, speaking from the heart and realizing what “true love” really means. In this blog post, novelist Richard Paul Evans reveals how asking his partner a simple question each day using behaviors mentioned above not only saved his marriage — but has also lead to a fuller, more meaningful relationship.
Posted on December 19, 2017
From Socrates who taught us to “know thyself” and “the unexamined life is not worth living” and to Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People… across the millennia we have heard themes of the importance of gaining and maintaining relationships. This brief article reviews recent studies on how developing emotional intimacy is a key in having a healthy understanding of ourselves which leads to attracting and maintaining emotionally rewarding relationships. Emotions you say, isn’t that “touchy feely?”…emotional intimacy is what is often called “emotional/social intelligence” and, the gaining of such, can lead to more successful outcomes in both work and family life.
Posted on December 12, 2017
Particularly as the holidays descend upon us and the seasons change, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the importance of self care. In our work life, it is challenging to unplug from the “E-Leash” which makes true rest and relaxation harder to attain as the electronic devices can distract us and cause a felt sense of vigilance. This article gives some simple mindful activities to do in order to move you into deeper rest-when you remember to take the time to do so. The author has developed simple practices one can take on to focus on the present moment, tune into your breath and begin the relaxation process.
Posted on November 12, 2017
It’s fascinating what causes people to remember certain experiences, activities, and times in their lives. Yet, most of the time we wonder what we did last week that was meaningful or, how fast time is going by and … what is there to show for it? This article describes the research behind what makes certain events memorable and how to create more of them to savor and enjoy the life we have. Here are some hints: tell a employee that you appreciate their work, celebrate getting past a disagreement and remaining friends, mark a memory with a ritual that involves a sensory delight…live your life and look to make more moments of connection and gratitude.