Know thyself

I have a confession to make: I am not a particularly easy-going personality type. In fact, I have heard on occasion that I am somewhat difficult. I admit I can be abrupt, to the point, and quick to move from one thing to another, meaning that I may not always take the time to ask someone how they are feeling. As I really focus on what I am doing, I often get irritated if I am interrupted.

These flaws are contrasted with other traits of mine, such as the level of trust I place in people around me, my ability to give my team enough autonomy to feel empowered, and that I am open to criticism.

Because I know this about me, it is increasingly important for me to gather the right people around me and ensure they know how to be great leaders also. I am acutely aware that we are all in this together, and the company is only as good as its people. My second in charge, Mathew, is brilliant at rallying the troops and overseeing the hundreds of people we have to engage each week to produce our work. I trust him completely, although one thing that used to bug me, is that he has a really relaxed personality. It would irritate me when he would send emails to our team in an informal tone. But you know what? I’ve learned that his methodology works.

Knowing myself—in addition to the multitude of personalities other people have—it would be wrong of me to ever assume a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership.

It would be a mistake, for example, to approach a softly spoken meek person in a bombastic manner and hope they respond well, when evidence and experience suggests they won’t. Rather, my attempt to communicate with them would be centred around making them feel comfortable. It’s not about changing my communication style, but tweaking it slightly to get the results I desire. I have had to learn (through trial and error) to pick my audience.

Empathetic detachment

The reason I think I am able to do this goes back to my comment at the beginning of this article regarding detachment. I am not particularly attached to whether or not someone likes me on a personal level. Most of my closest friendships and commercial allies have come from the organic alignment of personalities that mesh well together.

If I am with a personality that doesn’t quite work well with mine, there is no reason that we can’t aim for a mutually beneficial outcome. I think I would struggle more with this however, if my attachment was less about the outcome and more about personal dynamics. If I am hoping this person really likes me, then my communication with them would likely alter. Part of my job is to leave certain things at the door, which enables any business negotiation to become about strategy and outcome.

I rarely get hurt feelings when I act in this ‘detached’ manner, but I do become frustrated when engaging with certain personality types; as we all do. However, my aim is on achieving proactive outcomes rather than having my own personal feelings bolstered or my ego stoked.

Having understood this concept, I really only care about one thing when communicating: if the interaction gets the desired results. If I go in for a negotiation and the people think I am lovely but don’t sign the deal, I didn’t achieve what I went there for.

When it comes to leading different personalities, I have realised that you don’t have to speak as I do, find what I find funny or even be the sort of person I would want to hang out with; I just want to know that we are in this together.