Influence, John Maxwell suggests, lies at the heart of leadership. Last week I wrote about the determined, directive sort of personality, outgoing and task-focused and observed that we often see leadership in terms of this type of person. But today I want to reflect on the outgoing, people-oriented person; and the word that sums up this type is, influencing. I started with the comment about leadership because one of the ideas that I want to come out of this series of blogs is that; there is no one best personality style when it comes to leadership and that leadership can wear many faces.
Perhaps the number one takeaway from today needs to be that, when working with an I style personality, it is critical to remember that, in contrast to a D style person who finds satisfaction in the task, I style people need recognition and popularity. They need, and I use the word advisedly rather than something like want, approval. Their food is fun. They tend to epitomise the trope of ‘the life and soul of the party’. This means that they are great at an environment, creating contexts in which it is fun to work. For them, leadership is about influence.
Of course, this approach brings its challenges. I types often find it hard to maintain focus. Being process oriented is very good, but if it is all process and no outcome then we have a problem. We need to maintain a course in order to arrive at a distant destination, and that can be tough work for someone who is focused on people and having a good time with them. But while it is true that tasks must be accomplished, the value of the I style leader needs to be recognised. While a D style leader can have a clear goal and the focus to get there, an I leader will be able to inspire people to go for it and help them to enjoy the journey. Put them together and you have the making of a truly powerful leadership team.
Here, of course, is the rub. If they are aware of the strengths each brings to the table, and also the points of weakness which need to be made up by the other, of how they can complement and fulfil each other, then they really can develop effective team leadership. But if they don’t, if instead they are perplexed and frustrated by the oddities of the other person, even angered by what they perceive as weakness and irresponsibility, then their potential will be greatly hampered. They will quickly become toxic and undermine each other and their team.
So coaching for yourself and your team can be of real value. Often we are aware of the struggles but less certain of how to meet them and help the team become truly effective. This is what we help people do, to become more productive and effective through understanding and applying principles of human behaviour. The team might be in business, a school, a family, sport, really any place in which people need to work together.
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Next week we will start looking at the more reserved types of people and how they deliver leadership.