Why Personality Types Matter When Building TeamsImagine a world in which every other person alive is exactly like you in how they are: thinking, speaking, and doing. With your temperament, your strengths, and your weaknesses. With the same things that can make you irresistibly charming (let’s all, since this is fantasy, go ahead and pretend that we have at least one quality that people find charming about us) and obnoxiously annoying. Everywhere you turn, you see an exact clone of yourself.

Do this sound like a great dream or an awful nightmare?

For me, it’s an awful nightmare.

Even though there are things that drive me crazy about personality types (also known as temperaments) different from mine, there are things about my personality type that drive me crazy (both in myself and in other people with the same personality type).

And because I have the personality type that I do, I recognize objectively the limitations and pitfalls of having a sole type of input and output, both from a leadership perspective and from a team perspective.

More importantly, I recognize that each personality type brings something valuable and unique to the table and broadens the perspective and increases the capabilities and potential, as well as the chance for successful outcomes, when they are successfully integrated into a team.

So let’s talk about personality types and quintessential leader team-building. From my experience and my observations, this is one of the most fundamental parts of team-building, and, yet, it is not only the least understood, but the most neglected.

And this is why team-building is so hard, and teams are often fractious and impotent, and why so many projects and, eventually, organizations fail. It’s that important.

As quintessential leaders we must understand and be able to recognize different personality types in order to be effective team builders.

First, we must know what our own personality type is and how that impacts our lives and our leadership.

I’ll go the confessional route first. This, by the way, is completely antithetical to my personality type (and under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t do it), but I know, also because of my personality type, that I can’t ask you to do something without showing you that I’m willing to do it myself.

INTJ quintessential leaderMy personality type is INTJ. The graphic on the left shows the general characteristics of this personality type. Clicking on the link in the first sentence of this paragraph will provide a more comprehensive description of INTJ’s (you will probably understand my writing and my leadership and me better after you read the full description).

What do I know about INTJs that helps me as a person and as a leader? One thing I know is that INTJ’s are extremely rare (about 2% in the general population), and women who are INTJs are even rarer (about .08% of the general population).

Why is that helpful from a practical perspective? It helps me to understand why my approach is often so unique from other people’s and why it seems, a lot of the time, that initially I’m the only one for whom it makes complete sense.

At times, in the early going, I get frustrated because it’s so simple, logical, and crystal clear to me and yet it seems that almost nobody else gets it or sees it. 

So then the next two questions for me become “Why am I the only one or one of a few that seem to understand this?” and “What do I need to understand about the other 15 personality types and find ways to relate to those to make it clear to everybody?” 

These two questions, my friends, are the heart of the difference between quintessential leaders and everyone else.

Quintessential leaders don’t want to be the sole possessors of knowledge, of vision, of understanding, and of scope. Instead, we want to find ways to build the bridges of connection to help everyone on our teams get it. And that means we have to reach our teams where they are in terms of personality types. 

To do that, we have to know what their personality types are and how best to relate to them and to have them relate to each other. That’s why I strongly advise leaders, whether existing or newly-hired, to make personality type testing the next (or first) team exercise (and potential employees take the test as well).

This serves two purposes. Most people have no clue what their personality type is unless they’ve had to take the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (most college graduate programs require it) somewhere in the course of their education or career.

Our personality types affect everything we do, so understanding why we do what we do and our strengths and weaknesses – and how to address those weaknesses – helps to explain ourselves to ourselves. There is an amazing sense of relief that comes with insight and understanding and there is also a platform for change. You can’t change something you don’t even know exists.

“That’s just the way I am” is never good enough and it’s not acceptable if the way we are is, at times, detrimental to our lives and to our teams. Knowing what’s behind it and how to modify or subdue (some things are hardwired) it is the key to growth and moving forward.

The second purpose of this team exercise is that each member on the team gets to know and understand every other member on the team. This fosters better cooperation and a better working relationship among team members.

It also makes us better quintessential leaders because we understand more fully how the parts make up the whole. It gives us both the big picture and the detail we need to lead our teams effectively and to provide the qualitative leadership they need collectively and individually.

And, ultimately, this means higher productivity, greater efficiency, greater success, and more profitability from an organizational perspective.

So how do we get started? 

There are plenty of free testing options online, this site most closely parallels the original Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and it’s completely free. 

Understanding Personality Types Quintessential LeaderI also highly recommend David Keirsey’s Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, and Intelligence as a comprehensive reference for both us as quintessential leaders and our team members to take the information we learn from the personality type testing and apply it in a practical on-going way.

As usual, I will add a caveat that should be readily apparent.

Taking personality tests and reading a book will not solve all the problems we face as quintessential leaders with our lives and our teams and it will not solve all the problems our team members face in their lives or as members of our teams.

Real life and real people can’t be boxed up and pigeon-holed into neat little packages that we can wave a magic wand over to make perfect. To assume that is the height of foolishness.

This is but one tool that will help in the hard work of becoming quintessential leaders, building and growing teams, and developing the next crop of quintessential leaders. But it, in this quintessential leader’s view, is a most necessary tool to help figure out what kind of hard work is before us.

Do you know your personality type? Do you know the personality types of your team members (parents, your kids are part of your team, so this applies to you too!)? How does this help you personally as a leader and how does it help your teams?

If you don’t have answers to these questions, there’s no time like the present to start getting them and using them to help as a part of the process of growing ourselves and our teams to reach our fullest potential in every aspect of life.

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