What Leadership Looks Like

If you are lucky, at some point in your career you have worked for a manager who recognized his or her responsibilities to their team. This person was more than likely confident, decisive and was able to make the right decisions that helped move you, and your team forward. They were future-focused and may have taught you the importance of planning and execution as a means of reaching team goals. And he or she always, always took care of their team first. 

Congratulations, you are fortunate enough to have worked with a real leader.

Leadership is a favorite topic of business pundits who have authored literally hundreds of thousands of business self-help books, online articles and educational seminars focused on the qualifications for leadership.  

How are Leaders Defined?

There are not enough pages in the magazine to answer that question completely!

Perhaps Jim Collins leadership expert and author of  “Good To Great” fame said it best when he described leaders as “ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”  

To Peter Drucker, the management consultant widely credited for being the father of modern business, the definition of a leader was equally concise  – “the only true definition of leadership is someone who has followers.” 

Both Drucker and Collins’ definitions describe the result or by-product of an effective leader. The real question is how did the leader inspire the follower to follow? How are they able to do extraordinary things? What personality traits do leaders possess that encouraged such devotion? And last, but most importantly, how do you identify such leaders and hire them? 

Most experienced leaders understand that leadership is not a journey, but a destination. It is not something one ever really achieves. Whether you have been in business five years or 30, true leaders never stop learning, adjusting, and adapting.  

John Maxwell, another renowned leadership expert supports the concept of the “leadership journey” in his “Levels of Leadership:”

  • Level 1 – Leaders understand and embrace the need for continual improvement.
  • Level 2  – Leaders understand the responsibilities of leadership, and that they must give people a reason to follow them. 
  • Level 3 – Leaders produce results by knowing how to motivate others to get the job done.
  • Level 4 – Leaders invest in people development. They understand the importance of identifying, developing and investing in future leaders.

That’s a good start in knowing the questions to ask during the hiring process, but there has to be more. 

We do know that a wide variety of management experts, scientists and psychologists believe there are some men and women who are born with an innate skill to lead others. There is some truth to that theory. Scientists have proven in controlled tests that some subjects have an inherited trait identified as extraversion – more about that later.

Extraversion is just one of the many personality traits that define a leader. Not all leaders are extraverts, and there is no one personality that defines leadership. What the individual does with both the strengths and weaknesses of their personality style is up to them and is influenced by both nature and nurture. 

If true leadership is not a genetic gift, passed from one generation to another, then what are the traits or personality styles that define a leader? How does one recognize what a leader looks like? What type of leaders do you need to help make your company successful? 

Utilizing personality testing companies have become extremely popular with businesses in search of individuals with leaders at every level of their organization.  

In a recent survey of business managers conducted by Predictive Index, a leading personality testing firm, the top desired leadership traits were work ethic, followed by honesty, confidence, positive attitude, and a sense a humor.  

Meyers Briggs, another leading personality testing company defines the “natural” leadership profile as an ENTJ (Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinker, Judgmental). According to the company, only 4% of the population fit the ENTJ personality profile. Women ENTJs are rarer, representing only 2.5% of the population.  

ENTJs are defined as leaders because they possess the following personality traits normally characterized as “leadership attributes.” 

           Charismatic and confident

           Extraverted, intuitive, and highly intelligent

           Future-oriented and equally adept at managing challenges as well as opportunities 

           Goal oriented, hardworking, and ambitious 

           Logical and objective

World leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Margaret Thatcher were ENTJs, as were famous scientists like Carl Sagan and Wernher von Braun. ENTJ tech leaders include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs,
and Sheryl Sandburg. All very different people with very different
approaches to leadership. Some like Jobs and Gates were authoritarian and controlling in their management approach, others like Sandburg and Roosevelt, more collaborative in their leadership style. 

There is no magic formula in determining what personality will make an effective leader because there is a downside to every “leader” characteristic included in the ENTJ profile. 

Consider a former co-worker of mine who was fond of saying he had been a leader since he was a young boy. He was 60 at the time.  His lofty opinion was based on one life experience – being picked
as the quarterback for a Pop Warner football team. It seems his leadership journey was achieved at the ripe old age of 12. His personality profile was, you guessed it, ENTJ.  

My friend the football player provides a great example of the
vagaries of the ENTJ leadership profile. ENTJs can be overly confident, stubborn, arrogant, domineering and intolerant of
different opinions. Consider that Vladimir Putin is an ENTJ. Even the great Star Wars villain Darth Vadar makes the cut.  

If the extraverted ENTJ is considered to possess the classic leadership profile, what about the introverts?  

Science and Harvard Business Review research has disproven the assumption that ENTJs alone are wired for leadership. Harvard found that introverts can actually be more effective leaders than an ENTJ, particularly in complex business models. Because INTJs, as a rule, are more motivated by “getting a job done” rather than ambition, they also have the leadership potential to contribute more to achieving long-term goals.   

If an ENTJ is the “Field Marshall,” leader, then the INTJ is the “Mastermind.” Only 2% of the population are INTJs. Female INTJs are more rare, making up just .8%. Thomas Jefferson displayed INTJ characteristics as did Susan B. Anthony and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Tech leaders Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are both INTJ leaders. 

INTJs are:

           Introverted

           Perfectionist 

           Skeptical 

           Highly analytical 

           Creative

           Prefers logic over emotion

There are downsides to every personality and the INTJ leader is no exception. INTJs can take introversion too far, making it seem as if they are disconnected from their team. They are often overly skeptical and disconnected from the world around them, making them appear unapproachable. An INTJ boss is also prone to being characterized as a “control freak” by their staff. Add that trait to their tendency towards procrastination means that their leadership style can negatively impact a team’s performance. 

Personality attributes for leadership attributes is not an exact science for one simple reason – humans are involved. Most managers rely on their dominant styles most of the time. After all, it is very hard to change personality. Experienced leaders understand they must adapt their leadership skills to the unique situations they encounter, and always be focused on learning. 

For example, ENTJ leaders may have a tendency to overwhelm staff with their enthusiasm and the rapid fire of new ideas, INTJ’s must remember to connect with their teams, and servant leaders must understand that it is not all about empowering their staff, empowerment must produce results. 

Perhaps the most important trait of an effective leader is the ability to be self-aware of the pros and cons of their personality and its influence on their leadership style. In a recent management survey, 99.9% of respondents said that self-awareness is the number one trait for effective leaders. That means perfecting their ability to adapt and modify their personality styles to fit unique circumstances. The ability to adapt and learn are two of the most critically important traits of an effective leader.

 

Women in Leadership: Is there a Difference?
Research has shown us that while male and female leaders leadership styles are very different, both can be equally effective. Males are more prone to a “take charge” approach, females are more likely to employ a “take care” style.  

Males are typically characterized as transactional in their management style. A transactional leader will usually operate within the existing boundaries of a company’s processes, structures, and goals. When confronted with a challenge, a transactional leader will create a path for his team, provide clear directions, and often create competitions within their teams in order to achieve goals.  

In contrast, female transformative leaders may be more collaborative, and change-oriented in their leadership approach. Women leaders also tend to focus on motivation, and engagement of teams. They stimulate employees to be creative as the means to exceed performance goals. 

Of course, both leadership styles can be equally effective depending on the business situation. 

Utilizing personality testing in hiring the next leader for your company will certainly not provide you with all of the answers. Testing simply helps hiring managers to ask and analyze an applicant’s answers more effectively. Such testing can also provide your existing employees with an awareness of their potential and how to interact with different personality styles.