The right to lead part 6: Personality

  • Published
  • By Gene Kamena and Navy Capt. Scott Askins
  • Air War College
Given that competence determines what a leader is able to do, and character bounds what a leader will do, personality then is how leaders do what they do.

There are a various scholarly debates as to what determines personality, but suffice to say that it is developed through some combination of your DNA, environment and experiences. These factors determine, affect, and mold your personality, which then serves as a leader's delivery system.

Your personality reflects how you think, feel, act or behave in any given situation. Personality is the filter through which all talent, qualities and skills must pass in order to be delivered.

The how is what followers see manifested in a leaders actions. Even the most competent leader, who also happens to possess good moral character, may never achieve their personal leadership potential if their personality is such that people do not want to be around them.

What we refer to as personality for the purpose of this commentary may also be expressed as emotional maturity or emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, who pioneered the term "emotional maturity," attributed four competencies to a balanced and mature personality:

· Self-awareness: the extent to which a leader has a realistic understanding of their own being.

· Self-management: the ability to control one's emotions and actions.

· Social awareness: the level at which a leader understands the value of relationships and other people.

· Relationship-management: the ability to establish a meaningful connection and bond to others.

Regardless of what you call it, personality, emotional intelligence or emotional maturity, what matters is the realization that your actions and interactions matter. If a room becomes brighter when you leave it, people will avoid your presence.

A leader's personality goes a long way in determining a personal milieu, (the physical space surrounding the leader) but also sets the tone for the work, social and personal environment for the entire organization.

A toxic personality, or more appropriately a poor delivery system, supersedes competence, character and other positive qualities a leader may possess, affecting negatively all who come into contact. On the other hand, a leader with a positive outlook and balanced personality, even one of average capacity, can inspire others to greatness.
So what does a leader need to understand about personality and how it affects their organization? Here are some thoughts:

· Consistency in behavior may well be the most important quality of a leader's personality. People would rather deal with a consistently grumpy boss than one with Jekyll and Hyde qualities.

· The ability to put self aside is fundamental to having strong and meaningful relationships. Although the ability to build trust and confidence is directly related to a leader's character, the leader's personality will either amplify or dilute the level of trust and confidence in relationships.

· Leaders who are not able to receive feedback are out of balance with regard to their image of self. Remember, you have a biased view of reality.

Personality is controllable, leaders who embrace feedback and work to improve their actions and reactions to situations, are well on their way to controlling their personality. Here are some things you can do today:

· Become a better listener
· Look for feedback
· Be humble
· Be yourself
· Have a sense of humor
· Find ways to connect, work to bring out the best in people
· Step outside of your comfort zone
· Believe in yourself
· Have a mentor or mentors
· Realize that you might be the problem in a relationship (self-deception)

Leading is the business of people. The strength of the connection between you, the leader, and those you lead, determines your effectiveness. Your personality will either make the bond between you and the people you lead stronger, or it will act as a barrier--you won't lead if you can't connect.