Determine Your Leadership Style

Personality, Psychology and Leadership

The previous discussion of leadership orientations shows you there's much room for leaders who have various combinations of leadership styles. Most leaders take a situational approach and use different styles under different conditions, depending upon the urgency and nature of the task, experience and expectations of subordinates, and the degree of trust and rapport in the work relationship.

A central concept in leadership study is that to better understand the behaviors of leaders and subordinates, it's useful to understand the psychological nature of the people involved. One popular and extensively used resource is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. After individuals respond to questions based upon how they usually would feel or act in different situations, this survey classifies them into one of 16 types, based on four continua: extraversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling and judging-perceiving.

These types will provide insight into a test-taker's work preferences and decision-making patterns. A leader can use this as a tool to gain insight into his or her subordinates or team members; it can be a useful way to increase understanding.

Although such resources will give you a quick profile of yourself or your subordinates, it's important to be careful when using them and never completely rely upon them. They should be used only in conjunction with skill development tools and other resources. There are several reasons for this.

First, though many companies use the tests, experts disagree considerably as to their reliability. Unfortunately, there's no magic formula for what test is best. It's up to you to examine those that are available and make the best choice for you and your organization. Second, these resources are sometimes misunderstood. People often make major style changes based upon the results of one survey, without realizing the extent to which those results were due to bad testing conditions or the person's mood at the time of the survey. Third, some people are skeptical of tests or resentful of being arbitrarily typecast. You can avoid this reaction if you take the time to explain the process and results to them.

Qualities of a Leader
As scholars have studied leaders over the years, they have attempted numerous times to identify leadership qualities. There are certain recurring qualities that seem to surface in the best leaders. To give you an idea of what makes a great leader, here are some of the best qualities.

  • Adaptable
  • Ambitious
  • Caring
  • Confident
  • Convincing
  • Courageous
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Decisive
  • Discerning
  • Empathetic
  • Ethical
  • Fair
  • Honest
  • Innovative
  • Persistent
  • Responsible
  • Self-directing

While these sample qualities provide great insight into leadership behavior and help you understand why some leaders are more effective than others, it's difficult to conclude the degree to which these 18 qualities help people become great leaders; therefore, it is important to understand three points about leadership qualities. First, there is no complete list of leadership qualities.

If you attempted to list every possible quality of a leader using published studies since the early 1900s, you would have hundreds of qualities. Second, very few, if any, leaders have all the qualities on any given list. It isn't necessary nor is it possible for a successful leader to completely fit a leadership mold that someone suggests is best for him or her or for his or her organization. Leaders, like their subordinates and team members, are individuals who are alike and different in many respects and can be successful without radically altering their inherent qualities. Third, a person can possess many leadership qualities and still not be a leader.

Randall J. Ponder, a consultant focusing on leadership development, has extensive leadership experience as an Army officer, the owner of a small business and a manager in a Fortune 100 company.

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