By business psychology experts at OPP

Ask a room full of people the characteristics of the ideal leader, and it’s likely that you’d receive some broadly similar responses. Charisma, authority and decisiveness are commonly offered as crucial elements for success in leadership. Examine this in our daily lives, however, and the picture is less clear cut.

Leaders use different styles and for every brash and demanding Alan Sugar there’s a considered and softly-spoken Angela Merkel. Evidently, both of these styles, each deriving from a different personality can provide effective leadership in highly public and stressful roles.

This suggests that there may not be a single personality ‘type’ that can consistently deliver good leaders. Instead, a range of personality profiles — not just the ones that incorporate charisma — that can underlie the ability to lead.

There is literature to suggest that the most effective leaders do not simply rely on their personality characteristics to get them by. They supplement these by recognising that there are goals to which they must aspire if others are to follow them.

The methods by which leaders attain these goals are determined by their individual personalities. The four goals which all good leaders should attain are:

1. Increasing trust and communication

2. Managing conflict effectively

3. Building organisational capability

4. Driving organisational strategy

By focusing upon goals rather than trying to emulate behaviours, leaders can be both more effective and more authentic if they rely on their own personalities rather emulating others. There is no point of simply acting in the style of somebody who is widely seen as successful such as the uncompromising, dictatorial Alex Ferguson or the charismatic and engaging Richard Branson. Nobody can play a character all day every day and doing so will inevitably lead to strain on the actor or an inability to flex across a range of situations.

All leaders have to hone the capacities that will allow them to attain the four major leadership goals and tailor their style to different situations. No individual can work in a leadership role without focusing on their development. It is easier to do this if you define yourself first by gaining an insight into your own personality and preferences. This is where the assistance of psychometric assessments such as the MBTI questionnaire can be valuable.

Once you know yourself better, you can plan how best to work on the four leadership goals through using your natural preferences. Some people might prefer to build organisational capability by researching all the detail before building towards a solution. Others may wish to list solutions first and then work backwards to see which ones best fit the situation. By knowing and using their own personalities in this way, current and potential leaders can develop an authentic style for achieving their goals. There is no best way to lead and there are many routes to the same end as long as people are encouraged to be authentic — and authenticity always beats acting.

Originally featured on Authenticity Rules