Psychology and Leadership: What Does Your Style Say about You?
Leadership is a complex skill that is difficult to pin
down. Much of the research on the subject has focused on obvious traits such as
command, decision making, risk-taking, etc. While these definitions capture
much of what is widely recognized as leadership in business and politics, it
limits leadership to one or two of the six distinct human Perceptual Styles.
On the surface, it’s true, some of these psychological styles look more like natural-born leaders than others—but leadership is not a Perceptual Style quality; it’s a human quality.
There are many definitions of ‘leadership,’ but here’s the version we prefer: Leadership is when one person points in a direction and others follow. This ‘pointing in a direction’ can be obvious or it can be subtle. Either way, here’s the thing to remember: it’s not the nature of the direction that determines leadership; it’s the existence of a reciprocal relationship between leader and follower.
People follow a leader not because that person has a certain Perceptual Style, but because they recognize—either consciously or unconsciously—that the leader possesses certain qualities:
- Their behaviors build on their natural strengths.
- They are aware of their limitations, and seek input from people with perspectives different from their own.
- They are aware that any group of followers contains people who see the world differently than they do, and they find ways to communicate effectively to each of them.
- They recognize the talents of others, and seek to build teams based on complementary skill sets and perspectives.
- They learn how to ‘borrow’ successful leadership techniques from leaders who are different from them- and use those techniques in a way that’s all their own!
1. Their behaviors build on their natural strengths.
According to the Perceptual Styles Theory, people tend to find the most satisfaction and meaning in their lives, no matter what they are doing, when their actions draw upon their natural skills. It is also true that people are most effective and efficient as leaders when they are using skills that are naturally supported by their Perceptual Style.
Effective leaders are not only aware of their own natural skills, they develop and use these skills as much as is realistic, possible, and appropriate. Not only does this contribute to personal satisfaction, it builds trust among followers.
Why? Because behavior that is in tune with a leader’s natural skills and abilities ‘rings true’ to others, while behavior that is incongruent with that person’s Perceptual Style comes off as false.
2. They are aware of their limitations, and seek input from people with
perspectives different from their own.
One of the most important aspects of the Perceptual Style Theory is that everyone’s understanding of the world is limited by their Perceptual Style. While this is easy to grasp intellectually, it’s challenging to remember this in the course of daily life.
Effective leaders tend to be those who understand and accept that they have an incomplete view of the world, and actively seek the advice and counsel of others with different Perceptual Styles to help them get a handle on the big picture in all its complexity.