Which personality is best suited to leadership?
Would you say it’s the assertive, confident, won’t-back-down Driver (high D)? Or is it the charismatic, empowering, can-do Influencer (high I)? Or maybe you see long-term success for the steady, unflappable, persevering personality (high S)? Or would you rather have the always-do-the-right thing, process-driven, analytical thinker (high C)?
It may surprise you, but research comparing thousands of leaders has yet to find an ideal personality that is linked to greater leadership success. So what does that mean about your leadership style?
The Steve Jobs Conundrum
When Tim Cook took over as the CEO of Apple, many people said there was no way he could replace Steve Jobs. And of course, he couldn’t. The dumbest thing Tim could have done is to try to imitate Steve Jobs’ leadership style. If he had tried, it would have been a colossal failure.
Early on in our development as leaders, we tend to define good leadership based on the ones we know and respect. We compare ourselves to one or more exemplary leaders to gauge how we are doing. In some respects, that’s a good thing. Finding an excellent leader to emulate can help you develop essential skills and relevant wisdom. But the more you grow, the less those exemplary leaders can be a specific model for you.
You have to learn to lead according to your own style. More about that in a minute.
The Darth Vader Syndrome
When Luke Skywalker discovered that Darth Vader was his father, he reacted with denial and despair. Beyond the obvious shock was a deeper and more troubling realization. Beginning with his robotic hand, Luke started discovering that he had a lot in common with his father. In the final film, his battle against Darth Vader was also a battle to not become the next Darth Vader.
As we gain leadership experience, we often react against our own darker side. It’s actually pretty common for us to ignore or deny aspects of our own leadership that we think are not good. In my work with top executives and senior leaders, I have found most everyone has blind spots we don’t like to look at.
Bringing Balance to the Force
We have two counter-productive tendencies: we compare ourselves with leaders whom we can never perfectly imitate, and we deny our darker traits even when we can see them clearly in others. The solution to both of these tendencies is to develop an accurate picture of who you are as an individual—to understand your leadership DNA.
I don’t know any faster way to get a handle on how you are “wired up” than a comprehensive leadership self-assessment. The instrument I use with every single client includes a high-end DISC assessment. Leaders always tell me they are amazed by its accuracy and surprised by the insights it gives them.
A clear view of your leadership DNA will reveal both your strengths and your dark side. With that knowledge, you can begin to develop and intentionally leverage your unique strengths and to recruit a team that fills in your gaps.
What is the ideal leadership personality? It’s you being fully you—aware, deliberate, honest, humble, and bold.
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