From what I see in the organizations where I consult, there’s an urgent need to understand leadership personality. Today―and especially for the future―we need leaders who can engage the workforce, manage people, and inspire collaboration and innovation.
Evaluation of leadership personality types is an essential part of the selection process for CEOs and top executives, but perhaps we do not fully comprehend how important personality types are for influencing leadership effectiveness. 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.
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. If you are interested in learning more about these tools, please reach out to me.
Four Basic Personality Types
Freud pioneered our understanding of human nature with his classification of three personality types: erotic, obsessive and narcissistic. The psychologist Erich Fromm added a fourth type: the marketing personality as described by Michael Maccoby in Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails, Crown Business, 2012.
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.
In my next posts, I’ll describe the other three personality types as they show up in leadership behaviors: obsessives, marketing personalities, and the infamous narcissistic personality.