Leaning Into Your Personal Leadership Style

by | Dec 10, 2023

I am an introvert. When I make decisions, I tend to consider the underlying principles, pros, and cons, and I try not to let my or other people’s wishes influence me. This can sometimes come across as uncaring or indifferent (fact: I care a lot). I like to plan out my work and to make decisions that minimize uncertainty. This is who I am, and it works for me as a partner, a teammate, and a leader. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay. These are my preferences, my inclinations, my personality – in short, they are what make me tick. I learned this about myself when I completed personality assessments on professional teams. I always knew these things about myself, I just hadn’t articulated them, or had someone else articulate them, in a way that made me understand the beauty and of each person’s leadership style, whatever it might be. 

Before taking part in these assessments and the facilitated team discussions that followed, I often compared myself to others whom I thought were more outgoing, more analytical, more creative, or more “something else” than me. These comparisons sometimes drove me to believe that I couldn’t be a successful leader or teammate because I wasn’t “enough” in some way. I venture to guess that we have all felt that way at some time, and I can attest that this monologue of self-doubt has plagued me throughout my career.

While those thoughts still creep up now and again, I’ve come to learn that I am the exact leader and human whom I am meant to be. Further, my distinct approach to work, to problem-solving, and to relationships brings perspectives and value that I should embrace rather than doubt. By “leaning into” these things, I have seen that I am more impactful and successful than if I try to show up differently or lament what I am not. 

In this blog, I share how I’ve moved toward embracing this mindset and how you might consider exploring a similar path. 

Getting Started with Personality Assessments to Inform Your Leadership

First, some background on the assessments that led to these revelations and my new mindset of “enoughness”: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram

  1. MBTI – The MBTI is a personality inventory that describes the practical applications of individuals’ preferences for how to use their perception and judgment. It posits that seemingly random variation in behavior is consistent with these preferences, which can be seen in 16 distinct personality types that are informed by the following:
  • Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or your own inner world? Your preference is either Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I).
  • Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in, or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? The first preference is Sensing (S), and the second is Intuition (N).
  • Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first consider logic and consistency – Thinking (T), or to look at the specific people and circumstances – Feeling (F)? 
  • Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to make decisions, or to stay open to new information and options? The first is Judging (J), and the second is Perceiving (P).

Your answers to the above – based on about 93 questions – inform your four-letter type. For example, someone whose answers indicate preferences for extroversion, intuition, feeling, and perceiving is an ENFP, while someone preferring introversion, sensing, thinking, and judging is an ISTJ. Doing the math, there are 16 possible combinations or personality types.

  1. The Enneagram –  The Enneagram is a personality-type system that similarly describes patterns in how individuals interpret the world, perceive people around them, and manage their emotions.  After completing the 105-question Enneagram survey, you receive a report that provides you with a “score” in each of nine personality types. The type with your highest score is your primary Enneagram type; those with the next-highest scores are your “wings.”

Understanding your own Enneagram type can help you to identify strengths in the way you approach the word, as well as any limiting beliefs that may serve as “blinders.” This can suggest how you might broaden your perspectives and approach situations differently. Similarly, learning about another person’s Enneagram type can help you to see their motivations and understand their actions and behaviors.

I am not an expert in either framework, and am not devoting this blog to exploring its ins and outs, but I encourage you to learn more about the MBTI here and the Enneagram here

Taking a Deeper Dive Into Your Leadership Style

Through the above assessments, I learned that I am an INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, and judging). This is known as the “Architect” personality – putting me in the company of real-life architects such as Michelle Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Colin Powell, as well as Game of Thrones’ Tywin Lannister and The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen (how does anyone even know this?).

Architects are “thoughtful tacticians [who] love perfecting the details of life, [and] applying creativity and rationality to everything they do.” One of the rarest personality types – only 2.1% of all people, and only 0.8% of women are INTJs –  we are rational and quick-witted, pride ourselves on our ability to think independently, and are constantly analyzing everything around us. We want to be successful; we have high standards of competence and performance for ourselves and others; and we don’t mind working alone. We also tend to be cynical and are not known to be “warm and fuzzy.” 

(Those of you who know me are undoubtedly nodding your heads right about now.)

From the Enneagram, I also learned that I am a Type Six: The Loyalist, one who is reliable, hard-working, organizing, vigilant, persevering, cautious (and courageous!), funny, and affectionate. My wing is a Type One: The Reformer, one who is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic, along with accepting, wise, principled, and fair.

Owning All That I Am (and Am Not) as a Leader

So first let me say that my MBTI and Enneagram reports were like a window to my soul. Yes, yes, and yes all around. When they say these tools are evidence-based, my experiences align. 

That said, I gleaned several takeaways that have helped me to understand how I show up as a leader and teammate, and to embrace the fact that we each “are who we are”:

  • First, everyone’s personality profile has implications for how they communicate, deal with conflict, collaborate, and otherwise engage. For example, during conflict, an Enneagram Type Nine, known as “the peacemaker,” unsurprisingly focuses on what is working, not the contested issue; while a Type One, “the reformer” tries to achieve a resolution; and a Type Six, “the loyalist” (me) likes to get everything out on the table. Understanding which approaches others bring to your conflict – as well as your own default approach – can help you bring compassion to your discussions. It can also help you to see productive paths to agreement.
  • Second, there is beauty (deliciousness, perhaps) in the “alphabet soup.” Both the MBTI and Enneagram shed light on how my own preferences and styles contrast with others’. Suddenly it became clear why the ESFP’s on my teams sometimes drove me – an INTJ and a Type Six – crazy. (Um, have you heard of a planning matrix?)  I realized that their approaches weren’t inferior to mine, but wholly complementary, and a team or organization needs a mix of “letters” to be effective. I stopped wishing away others’ different approaches to work and began embracing our collective awesomeness.
  • Third, as an INTJ, it is no surprise that I launched my own business. We architects are forward-thinking and future focused – visionaries who prefer to operate “under the radar.” While we might seem like we’re interested in positions of power, we prefer to have full autonomy in our jobs rather than controlling others in leadership roles. If you are also an INTJ, consider that being an executive director, for example, may not be the right fit for you. If you are an ENFP, who tend to be highly individualistic, prefer to be around others, and tend to be drawn to more casual work environments, you may want to consider pursuing work as a reporter, a schoolteacher, or a social worker. Think about what your profiles mean for the type of job and role you that will allow you to shine and feel fulfilled.
  • Fourth, don’t lament what you are not. I will never love making small talk at a party, being in the spotlight (my bridal shower was mentally exhausting), or making decisions centered on feelings and intuition. I sometimes need to do these things, and that’s fine. But I no longer beat myself up over not enjoying or excelling in them. I have a ton of respect for those who are great at these things and seek out opportunities to do so. And I love to have those people on my teams.
  • Finally, and most importantly, lean into who you are as a leader and a teammate. Whatever your preferences, aversions, and gifts, they are enough. If you are lucky, you will get to work with people who see that. If you are smart, you will never forget it. 

Thank you for reading. If you want to connect with me, please reach out via email or follow me on FacebookLinkedIn, or Instagramwhere I promise not to overwhelm you with meaningless chatter.

Some information in this blog was adapted from the following sources: