Ok, it sounds simple. Learn how to plan. Focus on efficiency. Follow through on your actions. Develop the habit to specify the steps of your projects and anticipate your future needs. Enhance your own objectivity. Who wouldn’t want to learn to be thorough, efficient, and effective? Who wouldn’t like to use time more efficiently or learn to manage his or her priorities perfectly?
There’s just a little glitch... those competencies, while admirable and useful, will drain the life blood of some of us. Simply put – some of us are not wired that way. Some of us crave the very flexibility and spontaneity that make careful planning (and follow through with the planning!) a real challenge.
I’m talking about personality.
Personality can be defined as a set of observable and fairly consistent behaviors. Personality changes little after about age 30, and impacts our “energy” for developing competencies. For instance, if your personality is flexible and spontaneous you probably have low energy for planning, organizing, and following through on your plans. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to plan your days or organize yourself better – but it does mean that it won’t be easy. You’ll need to want it really badly, and you’ll probably need some coaching.
Personality researchers such as Bob McCrae and Paul Costa from the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore have agreed on five “clusters” that encompass most personality traits. This “set of clusters” is called the “Five Factor Model” (FFM). The five clusters are:
Of these, the set of personality traits that most impacts our ability to plan and follow through on our plans is Consolidation. Some of us have “single processor minds” that go straight towards a pre-established goal. High Consolidation people are typically efficient, disciplined, and focused.
So – why can’t you just hire people like that? That would solve the problem, wouldn’t it? Yes, it would... but then you might end up with a work environment devoid of flexibility, spontaneity, and spur of the moment changes of direction. Can you imagine a step-by-step Improv? Or a carefully planned conflict facilitation? Oops.
Learning organizations require the presence of a multiplicity of personalities, including the flexible and spontaneous free spirits, the organized and disciplined planners, and everyone else in between. It is vital, however, that we all "learn to speak" the personality language. After all, not all personalities learn the same way, have the energy for the same things, or even hope to succeed in the same competencies.
Leaders are in the people business. It is virtually impossible to do what we do and not understand people.
He was a proud Commander in the Brazilian navy, a man in love with his country and deeply committed to his family. As I reflect on Commander Horacio de Mello e Souza, I think of the leadership lessons he taught me - the indelible lessons I carry with me today and hope to teach my daughter.
Lesson # 1: Integrity
Integrity defined my father. He made every decision - personally and professionally - with the unwavering determination to be a man of integrity. My father followed the integrity path when it hurt him, when it hurt his friends, and even when it cost him a much beloved career in the Navy. Honor first - always - no apologies, no politics, no half-way measures. Today, as I face life's inevitable moral dilemmas I ask myself: What would my father do? What is the honorable course? Almost twenty years after his death, my father is still my moral compass.
What has your own father taught you about integrity? As a leader, what do you teach your followers about integrity? Are you their compass?
Lesson # 2: Service to Followers
My father focused far more on his followers than on those above him. He would fight for the little guy always - the sailor, the worker at the factory, the administrative assistants at the office. He would fight for the less powerful followers with gusto, ignoring politics and his own interests.
What has your own father taught you about service to followers? As a leader, who comes first - your followers or "higher up" people in your organization? Would you defend your followers even if that cost you your own career aspirations?
Lesson # 3: A Sense of Adventure
His eyes would light up as he told stories of danger, excitement, and exploration. He was always ready for adventure - even when "adventure" meant hauling a huge log onto a boat only to discover the log was rotten and had to be thrown back to sea. Life was too short to be lived in fear.
What has your own father taught you about adventure? As a leader, do you transmit to your followers the joy of discovering? Can work itself be joyous and exciting?
Lesson # 4: Friendship, Always
He was forever loyal to his navy buddies - best friends forever, in good and bad times, when they drove him crazy and when he loved them. In fact, I believe he always loved them. Friends were everything to my dad. Friends mattered more than rank or money or politics.
What has your own father taught you about friendship? How does friendship support your own leadership journey?