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The Impact of Personality on Leadership

By Bruce Watt, Ph.D.

Bruce Watt, Ph.D.Recently during a feedback session, an executive who had participated in a DDI assessment process shared with me that their team had recently struggled with some business execution issues. They observed that it was not so much a skill gap but rather personality derailers that were getting in the way. One of the constant challenges leaders face, especially when under pressure, is the ability to deploy the right skills at the right time. For example, a leader may possess the skills to engage and mobilise people when times are good. However, if their perfectionistic derailer rears its ugly head, they are more likely to micromanage than mobilise.

The Impact of PersonalityDerailing personality patterns lurk in the corners of some leaders’ minds—unknown and unacknowledged until stress brings them to the surface. Although hard-wired traits are very difficult to change, they can be managed with proper leader training.

The following recommendations may help a leader navigate toward a solution when their team’s performance is being negatively impacted by derailing personalities.

  1. Explicate and discuss the tangible impact of derailing personality patterns on key business drivers. For example, if your business has an urgent need to identify cost controls or for innovative ways to generate sales, consider the impact of a leader with an arrogant derailing tendency. If the leader acts like a know-it-all in meetings, dominates the discussion, and prevents others’ good ideas from surfacing, he or she becomes a serious barrier to generating effective solutions.
  2. Ensure that leaders have a 100-day action plan that identifies their derailers and specifies the actions needed to manage these behaviours. This plan should be reinforced by timeframes, mandated support (e.g., coaches), and measures to indicate improvement.
  3. Heighten self-awareness and sustain improvement in managing derailers by creating an open environment and ensuring that leaders have feedback skills. A leadership team that has an understanding of one another’s derailing tendencies—and the skills and receptivity to provide feedback—will be more successful in avoiding situations that trigger these potentially destructive behaviours and resultant business execution flaws.
  4. Implement stronger governance and accountability processes to manage the heightened risk that stressful situations will promote individual derailing tendencies and get in the way of execution.

Bruce Watt, Ph.D. is managing director, DDI Australia

Posted: 10 Apr, 2014,
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