What makes a great leader?
What essential skills will make a leader successful?
What is the best leadership personality?
Because we are in the business of developing great leaders, we frequently get asked these questions. Here’s what we do, and what we are learning.
We use a personality and communication framework called the Process Communication Model that is effective at improving how leaders communicate, and how they resolve conflict with different personality types. It conceptualizes personality as being made up of six parts, stacked much like the six floors of a condominium. We all have all six parts, and they can be arranged in any order, and can exist within us at varying “bandwidths” or degrees of strength. Each part is correlated with unique character strengths, perceptual frames of reference, environmental preferences, motivational needs, communication styles and predictable distress behaviors.
So what’s the perfect leadership personality structure?
Sorry, no can do. Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes – there is no one best personality. The good news is that there is one key predictor of great leadership, and it exists “between the lines” of a leader’s personality.
It’s called “personality agility.”
Everyone is capable of “moving around” in their personality condominium, rallying the character strengths, perceptual frames of reference and communication styles that go with each part of their personality. Because everyone has all six parts, each of us has the potential to “relate” to people different from us by aligning our matching personality parts.
This alignment is called “syncing,” and it can be seen through words, tones, postures, gestures and facial expressions. It has been scientifically proven to produce a host of positive outcomes including increased mood and feelings of goodwill, engagement, better attention and memory. Related to this, it has been found that the best salespeople are ambiverts – neither extroverts nor introverts can outsell ambiverts because they are agile and can adapt to people and situations.
For this potential to become reality, great leaders must excel in three key competencies for personality agility:
• Meeting psychological needs. PCM identifies psychological needs for each personality type – one of them being primary in each of us at any given time in our lives. The single most important key to “moving around in our condo,” or gaining access to other parts of our personality, is getting our own psychological needs met in healthy ways every day. We call this being self-ful. The more capable a leader is in this area, the more agile and resilient she will be.
• Growing bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the capacity, strength and proficiency of each part in our personality. It predicts how well we can access the capacities inherent in this part, how effective we are communicating with people different from ourselves, and how long we can keep at it. Even though you can’t change your personality, you can grow your bandwidth to become more agile as a leader.
• Staying out of distress. Negative distress behavior happens when leaders are not getting their psychological needs met or do not have the bandwidth to deal with a situation. This is why recognizing and preventing their own distress is the third skill of agile leaders.