Nov 14, 2007

Leadership Personalities

by Faith St. Clair

My employer asked if I would take a seminar on business/professional writing. I was not interested in going, since my love for writing emerges from creativity and emotions, not technicalities. However, I figured that any knowledge of writing would be advantageous, so I agreed to go.

The seminar, however, was less on the technicalities of writing in the business world (although that was discussed, i.e. formatting, proper punctuation, etc.) and the majority of the day was talking about “who” you are writing to and how to approach your audience with the content of your message. The instructor talked of Tony Alessandra’s “Platinum Rule.” We all know the Golden Rule to treat others as you would have them treat you, but the Platinum Rule suggests treating others as they would like to be treated, indicating that not everyone is the same and people react different to different communications.

A Director personality, for instance, is someone who is targeted and has two governing needs - to control and to achieve. They are most comfortable when in charge of people and situations, they are fast-paced, task oriented and love to accept challenges. A Director can often be dominating, impatient, stubborn and insensitive to others. Their motto is: “My way or my way!” A Socializer is someone who is enthusiastic, friendly, party animals. They like being in the limelight, they have charm, are optimists, persuasive and good idea people. They don’t like being alone, have short attention spans and can be risk-takers, not inclined to verify information. A Socializer’s motto is: Any topic, any time, anywhere, or let’s party!” A Thinker is analytical, persistent, detailed-oriented, systematic and enjoys problem-solving. They are always in control of their emotions, they have high expectations of themselves and others and are slow deliberate decision makers. They can often be skeptical and over-critical. A Thinker’s motto is: “Everything in its place, everything done correctly.” A Relater is one who is warm and nurturing. They are people-oriented, excellent listeners, devoted friends, approachable, loyal, team players who like the status quo. They avoid risk and need security. Their motto is: “Let’s all just get along.”

A few weeks ago, I spent a few days with 100 fifth-graders up in Prescott Pines at an Outdoor Education field trip. One of those 5th graders was my youngest daughter. It intrigued me to watch her with her peers and for the most part, she acted as though I wasn’t even there (except to hold her water bottle or hone in on special privileges like first in the shower or lunch line). As I observed her, I was amazed at her leadership and four separate adults that week spoke to me of the same observation. My usual comeback was, “leader or just bossy, I’m not sure which.” They argued for a leader. As you watched the reaction of those she led, they flocked to her, her suggestions and ideas. If she was just bossy, their reaction to her would not be so agreeable.

There were many times, however, that I had to remind her to join in the activity, not just direct it - to take a minute and talk with a girl who didn’t seem so eager at the “direction” my daughter had given her. My daughter reminded me of my husband who shares with her a domineering “director/socializer” personality.

What I have felt for years about my husband, I all of a sudden realized with clarity while watching my daughter – what power they have! Focused in the right direction, with gospel principles behind every venture or idea, the power they have to be a guiding light to their fellow men blows my mind. If they just realized the power they have, they could work wonders by building the kingdom of God, creating praiseworthy environments and putting positive energies out into the universe.

How to get them to realize the gift they have been given?

I turned to The Book of Mormon’s King Benjamin, my favorite leader, and re-read the reasons that drew me to that decision. A true leader is not one who directs people, but one who guides. You can tell people what to do, but the results are far better if you show them, guide them, love them, work with them and be an example to them. King Benjamin was humble, an optimist, nurturing, devoted, courteous, in control, able to take charge, but considerate as well.

So what kind of personality is a leader? Most would think that leaders are Director-type personalities. I think that a good leader, like King Benjamin, is a little bit of all of them. A good leader may be driven by one particular personality quadrant, but they emit the good characteristics of all the quadrants.

We all have weaknesses in our personalities. The trick is to nurture our best qualities and try to garner the other good qualities that perhaps aren’t so intrinsic to us. We all are leaders; we just need to decide what kind we want to be.

I am a Thinker. So I’ll have to muse about it a while, but I think I would like to not be so critical, be more approachable and garner a little more charm. Any ideas how I get there?

Addendum: Here is how you communicate with the different personalities:

With a Director - you need to be sensitive to their time – don’t waste it. Be organized, get to the point and give them bottom line information and options. Appeal to their egos by supporting their ideas, let them call the shots and if you disagree, argue with facts, not feelings.

With a Socializer - remember they thrive on recognition, so pour it on sincerely. Support their ideas, goals, dreams and opinions. They are social butterflies, so a stimulating and entertaining conversation, jokes and liveliness will win them over. They are people-oriented so give them time to socialize, don’t rush into tasks.

With a Thinker - be sensitive to their time. They need details, so give them data. Support their organized, thoughtful approach to problem-solving, but be systematic, logical, well-prepared and exact with them. Give them time to make decisions and work independently. Recognize their contributions and compliment them on their brain power.

With a Relator - remember they want warm, fuzzy relationships, so take things slow and earn their trust, support their feelings and show sincere interest. Argue with feelings, not facts (opposite of Directors). They don’t like ruffled feathers and want to be assured that everyone approves of them and their decisions. Don’t back them into a corner, coaxing is much more effective.


  1. Fascinating, Faith. As I tried to figure out which type I am, it pleased me to find we would do well to be a bit of each. Then came the addendum! The hard part, it seems to me, is not only to know how to approach each type, but to have the expertise to be able to decide which type a person is and, more daunting to me, being able to act in all these ways. I suspect it's where we most need the Spirit's guidance.
    Thanks for the urge to make me a thinker. You gave me much to ponder.

  2. wow, Faith!
    I am going to have to think on this one for awhile. you make some outstanding observations and comments about leadership and the use of power. Great information! Thank you!


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