June 19, 2024

Styles Of Leadership

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These Two Personality Traits Separate Leaders

3 min read
  • When it comes to who makes a good leader it depends on who you’re asking, and what matters to you.
  • Antagonistic traits might serve wartime presidents better, but most employees prefer conscientious leaders.
  • The challenge is most employees don’t have a say, they usually get stuck with the boss they get.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a 57-year-old clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology, based in Los Angeles, California. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I work as a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at California State University. I also run a consulting firm that serves individuals, educators, clinicians, and workplaces.

When it comes to work leadership, personality can play a significant role. We often think the aggressiveness, bombastic-ness, intensity, and fear-induction of antagonistic leaders is what gets things done, but that’s not the case, as we can see from conscious leaders.

Companies and institutions can thrive under conscientious leadership. A conscientious leader is typically more aware of others, has more humility, and is less impulsive. Let’s look at the characteristics of antagonistic and conscientious leaders.

Antagonistic leaders make for great headlines because they can be so arrogant and shameless in their behavior

An antagonistic leader may be seen as someone who is impulsive, entitled, and more grandiose. Also, they might not put the needs of others before their own. A person who believes their way is the only way and loves the limelight might be an antagonistic leader.

Antagonistic traits might serve wartime presidents better, since they might need to be more decisive during times of crisis. However, one could also argue an antagonistic president, or world leader, might be exactly what got the country into a war in the first place.

When looking at decisions that sometimes need to be made from a profit standpoint, an antagonistic leader might be what shareholders, board members, or even upper level view as a good leader. But I believe, if you were to poll employees and ask them directly what they’d like to see in a leader, they would most likely say fairness, justice, and equity.

An employee may find an agreeable, conscientious leader to be better than an antagonistic one

Even though employees might find conscientious leaders to be better, they might also be fine with a boss that isn’t particularly warm if they feel recognized for their hard work. Many workers aren’t looking for their boss to be their best friend, but they do look for traits like fairness and friendliness.

Conscientious leaders are more open to hearing different perspectives. But the challenge is most employees don’t have a say in the matter — they usually get stuck with the boss or the manager they get. They might even interview for a position with an HR person and get little insight on what their boss or manager will be like until after they start working for them.

Good leadership or bad leadership is not a straight line

While a conscientious leader might get the job done in the most mentally healthy way, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the ones who bring in the most profits. Yet, those who are only concerned with profit and getting the job done may burn through their employees, as they’re not concerned with maintaining some form of their employees health, loyalty, and longevity.

When it comes to who makes a good leader it depends on who you’re asking, and what matters most to you. No leader leads alone. If a leader feels they’re too antagonistic, they should lean more into collaboration and intention, asking themselves “why” and answering the question honestly. Then they should check their response against the mission and vision of their organization.

A leader actually draws and sees the best of those they work with and that requires empathy, compassion, and humility.

If you can speak to leadership at work and would like to share your story, email Alyshia Hull at ahull@insider.com


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