How often do you think about leadership – what is good leadership, and what is not? It seems like this is a subtopic of the headlines from Washington… Leadership, when it is effective, is so good. From running the house, to running a company or even the nation, leadership skills have to be honed, sharpened, and always in use.
All of that said, for years i have been fascinated with what people write about leadership. Sometimes the ideas are abstract or etherial, and book learning-esque. And there are other articles that are clear, practical and applicable immediately. It was somewhere around grad school that i began subscribing to a number of emails that abstract the journals and business magazines and provide brief synopsis of articles. So as a part of my daily ritual, usually while i am riding the bus to work or home, i catch up on these feeds. Every once in a while an article is compelling that i want to just share it with the world.
“What the Best Leaders Understand about themselves” by Julie Bawden Davis appeared in the American Express Open Forum website on 11/24/13. Quoting the Karen Ziegler, who is a life strategist “When a leader doesn’t explore who he or she is, it’s like buying a new car and not knowing what type of fuel is best suited for the vehicle,” Zeigler says. “The car may still run, but it will not run optimally, and in the long run, it will likely break down. Knowing who you are allows you to perform at your best. You’ll have greater energy and be more effective and productive.”
The article mades some amazing points:
- Discover your values – know what you hold as absolute, what is significant. One value i have always held very significant is honesty – always be honest, do business honestly, speak the truth. This is one thing i will never compromise on. It is a core value that drives my life, and my business.
- Identify those values – write them down, look at them, ruminate on them, know them.
- Stay true to your values – It is only when you cross that invisible fence to break a value you hold important that you will sense things are wrong. Sometimes decisions in leadership are hard, especially when they involve a core value. But hold your ground.
- Discover your passion – what really ignites you, energizes you and challenges you? For me it has to be using creativity – putting my creative hat on and going for it… i can loose track of time completely when i am working on something artistic.
- Know your temperament – OK, this may seem odd in a list on values and knowing yourself, but there is some sound logic to this point. Anyone who has taken a Myers Briggs Test will know and appreciate how much information you gain. In my capstone class in grad school I can remember the professor having us take the test, and based on our results she grouped us into 4 general groups…. In Myers Briggs there are 4 “dichotomies”, or contrasting points that make up a profile. Here is what wikipedia writes about the test:
Dichotomies Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling Judging (J) – (P) Perception
The four pairs of preferences or dichotomies are shown in the table to the right.
Note that the terms used for each dichotomy have specific technical meanings relating to the MBTI which differ from their everyday usage. For example, people who prefer judgment over perception are not necessarily more judgmental or less perceptive. Nor does the MBTI instrument measure aptitude; it simply indicates for one preference over another. Someone reporting a high score for extraversion over introversion cannot be correctly described as more extraverted: they simply have a clear preference.
Point scores on each of the dichotomies can vary considerably from person to person, even among those with the same type. However, Isabel Myers considered the direction of the preference (for example, E vs. I) to be more important than the degree of the preference (for example, very clear vs. slight). The expression of a person’s psychological type is more than the sum of the four individual preferences. The preferences interact through type dynamics and type development.
Attitudes: extraversion/introversion (E/I)
Myers-Briggs literature uses the terms extraversion and introversion as Jung first used them. Extraversion means “outward-turning” and introversion means “inward-turning”. These specific definitions vary somewhat from the popular usage of the words. Note that extraversion is the spelling used in MBTI publications.
The preferences for extraversion and introversion are often called “attitudes”. Briggs and Myers recognized that each of the cognitive functions can operate in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things (“extraverted attitude”) or the internal world of ideas and reflection (“introverted attitude”). The MBTI assessment sorts for an overall preference for one or the other.
People who prefer extraversion draw energy from action: they tend to act, then reflect, then act further. If they are inactive, their motivation tends to decline. To rebuild their energy, extraverts need breaks from time spent in reflection. Conversely, those who prefer introversion “expend” energy through action: they prefer to reflect, then act, then reflect again. To rebuild their energy, introverts need quiet time alone, away from activity.
The extravert’s flow is directed outward toward people and objects, and the introvert’s is directed inward toward concepts and ideas. Contrasting characteristics between extraverts and introverts include the following:
- Extraverts are “action” oriented, while introverts are “thought” oriented.
- Extraverts seek “breadth” of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek “depth” of knowledge and influence.
- Extraverts often prefer more “frequent” interaction, while introverts prefer more “substantial” interaction.
- Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.
Functions: sensing/intuition (S/N) and thinking/feeling (T/F)
Jung identified two pairs of psychological functions:
- The two perceiving functions, sensing and intuition
- The two judging functions, thinking and feeling
According to Jung’s typology model, each person uses one of these four functions more dominantly and proficiently than the other three; however, all four functions are used at different times depending on the circumstances.
Sensing and intuition are the information-gathering (perceiving) functions. They describe how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere”. They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.
Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. The thinking and feeling functions are both used to make rational decisions, based on the data received from their information-gathering functions (sensing or intuition). Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. Thinkers usually have trouble interacting with people who are inconsistent or illogical, and tend to give very direct feedback to others. They are concerned with the truth and view it as more important than being tactful.
As noted already, people who prefer thinking do not necessarily, in the everyday sense, “think better” than their feeling counterparts; the opposite preference is considered an equally rational way of coming to decisions (and, in any case, the MBTI assessment is a measure of preference, not ability). Similarly, those who prefer feeling do not necessarily have “better” emotional reactions than their thinking counterparts.
A diagram depicting the cognitive functions of each type. A type’s background color represents its Dominant function, and its text color represents its Auxiliary function.
According to Jung, people use all four cognitive functions. However, one function is generally used in a more conscious and confident way. This dominant function is supported by the secondary (auxiliary) function, and to a lesser degree the tertiary function. The fourth and least conscious function is always the opposite of the dominant function. Myers called this inferior function the shadow.
The four functions operate in conjunction with the attitudes (extraversion and introversion). Each function is used in either an extraverted or introverted way. A person whose dominant function is extraverted intuition, for example, uses intuition very differently from someone whose dominant function is introverted intuition.
Lifestyle: judging/perception (J/P)
Myers and Briggs added another dimension to Jung’s typological model by identifying that people also have a preference for using either the judging function (thinking or feeling) or their perceiving function (sensing or intuition) when relating to the outside world (extraversion).
Myers and Briggs held that types with a preference for judging show the world their preferred judging function (thinking or feeling). So TJ types tend to appear to the world as logical, and FJ types as empathetic. According to Myers,:75 judging types like to “have matters settled”.
Those types who prefer perception show the world their preferred perceiving function (sensing or intuition). So SP types tend to appear to the world as concrete and NP types as abstract. According to Myers, perceptive types prefer to “keep decisions open”.
For extraverts, the J or P indicates their dominant function; for introverts, the J or P indicates their auxiliary function. Introverts tend to show their dominant function outwardly only in matters “important to their inner worlds”
Wow, I did not want to make this a textbook… sorry, but the value contained in the article was signficant enough to explain Myers Briggs with the assistance of Wikipedia. So do you know what you value, and have you determined to never sidestep your core values? And are you willing to examine yourself to know how you work and how you work with others? It is good stuff that helps develop that leader within.