Leaders have an arsenal of useful tools to help them better understand themselves, ranging from Meyers-Briggs (which suggests our personalities are pretty much hardwired through life) to DiSC (which suggests who we are at any given moment depends on the situation). In between there are models such as Big 5, Birkman, CRG, and many others. Each one lets you look at yourself from a different perspective.
What they all have in common, however, is the assertion that when we are aware of our dominant behavioral style, we can choose to adapt to the situation.
Why should a leader adapt his or her style? Isn’t that a sign of weakness or inauthenticity? Shouldn’t others conform to the leader? Doesn’t adapting make you look weak, inconsistent, or insecure?
Certainly, if he does it poorly, the adaptive leader may confuse his team or appear to be a flip-flopper. But done right, adaptation displays confidence and greatly enhances team effectiveness. Authentic leaders are driven by their values and goals, and realize that style is just a tool. They adapt their style to present information and engage in relationships in ways that best allow the other person to understand them and engage back.
Just as you have a dominant personality style and a powerful set of needs, so does every other person you deal with – and theirs are different from yours. While desiring to serve you (the boss), some people may prefer you to give specific orders, while others may need to feel as if they have created the solution, while still others need a sense of collaboration. If you insist on using your dominant style with all people – staying in your comfort zone – you might as well be speaking a foreign language to most of them.
Leaders need results. Thus you have a strong incentive to adapt to others’ needs – to serve their needs – so that they can be most effective at achieving the goals you set for them. You don’t need to change what you do, only how you do it. We’re talking style, not substance.
Your subordinates, suppliers, or customers may not even be aware of their style and needs. You are (and if you’re not, give me a call; I’ll happily point you in the right direction), so you’re the one that needs to bridge gaps. And if they are aware enough to adapt themselves to fit your style, so much the better – two people working to accommodate each other while grounded in their own goals and values is the basis for a very healthy relationship.
Good dancers know how to conform to their partner. And what is business if not a dance?