When you describe a leader’s personality, how often do you describe them as a people-person or an extravert? It’s common to think that to be a successful leader that one has to be an extravert, but in reality, there’s a lot more that goes into understanding someone’s personality type than simply extraversion or introversion.
All my life I’d felt that being labelled an introvert came at a cost and unnecessarily categorized me as someone who wasn’t as into being around with people. This idea came at a significant juxtaposition from my love of teaching and working with people on understanding themselves. While as an assistant dean in a master’s program I was given the opportunity to train on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and delve deeper into what the personality classifications really are. The MBTI is an instrument used a lot in Fortune 500 companies, schools, churches, and all types of organizations looking to help make people aware or themselves and how to better handle situations.
Most people describe personalities as simply extravert or introvert, but our personalities are really based up four distinct dichotomies, with two preferences in each:
- Extraversion/Introversion – This dichotomy is about how you receive energy and your preference of focusing on the outer or inner world. Extraverts tend to get much of their energy from interactions with people. Meanwhile introverts, who can and still do love human interactions, tend to get drained faster from those same interactions and need a way to recharge their energy reserves. Introverts may prefer writing over talking and are known to be great listeners.
- Sensing/Intuition – How do you take in information? If your personality type is sensing you prefer to take in concrete facts. Whereas, intuitive-type personalities are focus on patterns and trust inspiration over experience.
- Thinking/Feeling – In this dichotomy the names can be misleading; it’s not about logic and feelings, but about how you view making decisions. Thinkers are more analytical and approach decisions in an objective manner. They can step outside how they might feel about a situation and give an objective viewpoint. A feeler, while still logical, tends to focus more on creating harmony in relationships and thinks in an empathetic manner. They're not looking if something is true or false, but what would build harmony among the group.
- Judging/Perceiving – The final dichotomy looks specifically at the outer world and our preference of having things decided or being open to new information. If you have the judging preference, you typically like to live in a planned and regulated fashion. Closure is important to your methodical life. The perceiving preference favors to experience and understand life than control it. Detail plans and final decisions are confining to perceivers.
When you put these four dichotomies together you’re able to better comprehend what comes most naturally to you. Just like which hand is most comfortable to write with, this analyzes what comes most naturally, but understand how you handle situations can be fluid. Each dichotomy is not the individual, instead they are part of the whole. A public situation may still drain an extravert because it’s out of sync with one of the other dichotomies. By understanding what comes naturally, people can put in place precautions – like extra time to recharge or setting a specific agenda – to create success. This can also be used when working with coworkers and becoming aware of how their different personality type may make certain methods easier or more difficult for them.
In the workplace, the MBTI and other assessments aren’t an indicator of success or how skilled people are in a professional setting. Instead, they should be used as a tool for better self-awareness and a way to create synchronized teams. Understanding an assessment can help you get improve team building and even understanding your employees, your employers, and your colleagues. I like to think of it as a way to build strong relationships with those that you work with personally or professionally. Simply taking an assessment doesn’t create understanding, instead it’s important that these tools are administered by certified professionals and time is taken to truly understand the results and how that plays into relationships.
Just because someone is naturally an introvert doesn’t mean they can’t be a leader. An introvert can call upon their other dichotomies to excel in their environments and use their introversion as a chance for reflection. By understanding who you are at a personality level you’re able to us it to your benefit and succeed.