Be A Better Leader: Embrace Your Unique Personality
Updated: Nov 18
Our personality dictates how we interact with the world. It’s the unique set of characteristics, traits, behaviors, and patterns of thoughts and feelings that make us who we are. It’s a key part of building self-awareness and being a better leader.
If you’re interested in being a better leader by building self-awareness, you’ve likely spent some time unpacking your values, your passions, your skills and abilities, and maybe even your personal history. But how much time have you spent reflecting on your personality? If the answer is “Not much,” we highly recommend you fix that!
Unpacking Personality: What Makes You, You?
Our personality is a blend of inherited traits, environmental influences, and life experiences. Genetics gives us a baseline, but our interactions with the world around us and our experiences shape and mold our personality over time.
Every individual possesses a unique blend of personality traits. Some might be more dominant, while others play a subtler role. Understanding this interplay helps us appreciate the diversity within ourselves and others.
Our personality heavily influences how we interact in relationships, be it personal or professional. Understanding our personality type can enhance our ability to communicate, empathize, and connect with others.
Taking a Global Perspective
While Western psychology has focused heavily on the individual, many cultures around the world take a more holistic approach. For instance, within the context of Hinduism and Buddhism, personality is often seen as an interplay of various elements, including the concept of the self, karma, and the continuous cycle of rebirth. This view emphasizes the transient nature of personality and its connection with the spiritual realm.
In some African cultures, personality is understood in the context of the community. The Ubuntu philosophy in Southern Africa, which roughly translates to "I am because we are," highlights the interconnectedness of individuals within a community. It suggests that a person's personality is significantly shaped by their relationships and interactions within their social group.
Native American views on personality can integrate a deep connection with nature and the spiritual world. Many tribes believe that personality traits are influenced by spiritual forces and the natural environment, reflecting a harmony between the individual, community, and nature.
Surveying a broader range of perspectives provides us with a more holistic and interconnected view of personality, differing significantly from the more individualistic approaches often found in Western psychology. They underscore the importance of considering cultural and environmental factors when understanding the complexity and diversity of human personality.
Understanding Your Personality
More so than with other aspects of self-awareness, there are a number of popular tools out there to help us understand our personality. A good place to start is to take a personality test. At Starling, we encourage our members to take several different tests and look for themes across the results. You have many options, including The Enneagram, The Big 5, Meyers-Briggs, CliftonStrengths, and more.
A note on personality tests: we highly encourage you to use these tests as a jumping-off point and a basis for deeper reflection. When it comes to these sorts of evaluations, there are plenty of criticisms to be considered, from the fact that some aren’t based on evidence or science to the reality that some of them are culturally biased. These things are tools we can gain insight from, not diagnostic devices!
The key part of this work is reflecting on the results and combining that with what you know about your personal history and cultural background. Take your examination a step further, and consider your personality through some different cultural lenses than you are accustomed to. What resonates with you? What themes do you notice? Where do you see conflicting data points? Use the information you gather to build a picture of your personality that is more than just the results of a personality test.
Once you’ve built a picture of your personality that resonates with you, share it with some folks who know you well and see what they think. Getting feedback is a great way to refine your results.
As with our personal history, it’s important to remember identifying themes in our personality is just one part of the bigger picture of self-awareness. Our personality types don’t define us, and we shouldn’t feel limited by them.
Be Aware of Stereotyping
The appeal of personality tests is that they simplify complex human traits into neat categories. However, it’s important to be mindful about using these categories to engage in stereotyping. This stereotyping isn't just about pigeonholing others; it can also limit our self-perception and our attitude toward growth.
Applying Your Findings in the Workplace
Developing an in-depth understanding of your personality helps you navigate workplace dynamics and relationships more effectively. By sharing what you discover about your personality and learning from others, you'll build stronger relationships and work more effectively with peers, reports, and higher ups.
Getting this right can enable you to create a work environment that is in harmony with your unique set of traits. For example, if you are naturally sensitive to the needs of others, you might thrive in a job where you are solving problems for folks in a customer-facing role.
If your cultural background has provided you with a strong foundation of community, you might seek out a stable team environment or cross-functional projects to help build those meaningful connections.
Knowing your personality can also help you find areas where you need to work a little harder to create balance. For instance, if you're naturally introverted, you might enjoy thoughtful, independent tasks but you may need to consciously seek out collaborative opportunities in order to stretch yourself and grow.
As a leader, understanding our personality helps build empathy and creates opportunity for connection -- both important aspects of more self-aware leadership.
Understanding our personality is a powerful component of self-awareness. It’s not about confining ourselves to labels but about understanding our unique makeup to foster better relationships and growth.
At Starling, we recommend that you spend some time reflecting on your personality traits and pair that with what you know about your values, your personal history, and more to truly build a better sense of self-awareness.