World War II. In a dark, muddy field, the troops huddle inside their trench with the rain pouring down and artillery shells exploding around them, showering them with mud and shrapnel.  Despite the hell of the situation, the alternative is worse – getting up and over the trench and rushing the enemy, who seem to have exceptional fire-power and accuracy.

The captain walks along the trench telling his men to get ready for the attack and to follow his charge.  They reluctantly get on their feet and anticipate his command. With a shout of “CHARGE”, the captain launches himself out of the trench and begins running toward the enemy.  He gets just a brief chance to look back and see all his troops still huddled in the trench, and a look of dismay crosses his face before he dies.

There is little doubt in my mind that leadership is the most-analyzed, most-studied and most written-about human behaviour.

What is it about leadership that fascinates us so much?

After all, leaders are nothing without followers, who make it all happen.  I guess we have all witnessed or experienced control without leadership, and we understand how ugly that can be.  The story of the WW2 captain is one of my favourite images of command without leadership. If you are planning to do the corporate equivalent of rushing out of a trench, you had better make sure your team is ready to follow, otherwise your fate may be similar to our captain (but likely less severe).

So what attributes will get others to follow, even to their death?

Leadership comes in all shapes and forms, and according to my research, there is no “one personality type” that makes an ideal leader.  Consider the quiet, powerful leadership of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi compared to the public spotlight leadership of Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama or Bill and Hilary Clinton.

The swiss psychologist, Dr. Carl Jung, identified four basic personality types. These four types each bring their own unique set of strengths to their leadership.  Each, however, also has typical negative behaviours that are exhibited on “bad days”. 1

Leaders with an Extraverted Thinking preference will exhibit determination, focus, courage and purpose, but on bad days may be too direct, impatient and dismissive of other’s opinions.

Leaders with an Extraverted Feeling Preference will be empowering, engaging, encouraging, adaptable and dynamic but on bad days may lack focus, lose interest and over-involve others.

Leaders with an Introverted Thinking preference come across as diligent, consistent, thoughtful, principled and objective, but on bad days may get stuck in analysis and detail and be unable to move forward.

Leaders with an Introverted Feeling preference will be seen to be appreciative, respectful, valuing, service-oriented and accommodating, but on bad days may be indecisive and submissive and try too hard to please everyone.

Which type are you?  Do you recognize your leadership strengths and possible bad-day behaviours? (sometimes these are difficult to acknowledge).

The good news, and the most important take-away here is that these are only preferences – not capabilities!

We all have the ability to learn and develop a complete toolkit with the best of each personality type – like a carpenter who has his favourite saw or chisel, we may have one style that we prefer and use more often – but we can learn to pull out other styles as the situation, team or individual demands.  We can customize our approach and accommodate whatever comes our way.

Lastly, leaders know themselves and are secure in who they are and what they bring.  They present themselves with integrity and authenticity.  Leaders honour their own personality preferences and those of others, and know how to maximize the potential of each individual, resulting in engagement, trust, loyalty and success.  Leaders don’t care about perfection, but they continually strive for excellence.

This guest post was written for Impact People Practices by CEO Russell Cullingworth, founder of The Centre of Excellence for Young Adults, www.ceya.ca.

You can read more of Russell’s blog posts  at ceyavancouver.wordpress.com. Russell and Christine McLeod have recently connected through mutual networks and ae looking forward to collaborating on projects that combine leadership and millenials in the workplace.

  1. Insights Discovery, “Discovering Leadership Effectiveness”, Dundee, Scotland