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Beware Personality Pigeonholing

Do you ever feel pigeonholed by your personality?

Maybe you believe your personality leads others to develop expectations about how you will behave in certain situations. You may feel other people let those traits predict your future success as a leader.

I understand that frustration.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a room with other facilitators at an assessment certification course. We spent days diving deep into this content, understanding how it could lead to greater self-awareness and overall effectiveness as a leader. While unpacking some of the nuances around a particular component of the assessment, people in the room began making declarative statements.

People with a low score here could never be effective leaders.

If a leader has that characteristic, their team will just walk all over them.

The component we were discussing is designed to measure the amount of directness a person uses when sharing an opinion. A high score indicates someone is very direct and to the point. A low scoring individual tends to take a more suggestive and agreeable approach.

I sat there, quietly listening to these assumptions, growing more and more frustrated.

What the group didn’t know (but would soon find out) was that I had a low score in this area. In fact, I had the lowest possible score. Unlike everyone else in the room who tended to be direct in sharing their opinions according to the assessment data, I typically take a more suggestive approach. I was the only one in the room who had this particular result.

Of course, when the group data was projected onto the screen, heads quickly turned in my direction, curious as to how I would respond. I quickly shared with them how that particular characteristic actually benefits me and my leadership, and there are also times that I can successfully modify my approach when the situation calls for it.

What happened in that room was such a good example of what often happens on many teams.

It’s easy to make assumptions about what is “good or bad” when it comes to personality traits, especially when we make comparisons to our own traits. We often misunderstand personalities different from our own, and if we’re not careful, that misunderstanding can lead to unfair assumptions about people.

Assessment data does not have the power to tell us whether or not a person CAN be a successful leader. Instead, it gives the leader the power of self-awareness to know HOW to effectively manage themselves in ways that lead to success.

What I experienced that day is just an example of what happens to all of us from time to time. I know I can be guilty of it. It can be easy to form false beliefs about someone simply because their approach is different from our own.

A leader worth following doesn’t fit into a box when it comes to personality.

Instead, a leader worth following harnesses the complexity of personality, and successfully manages their own characteristics to lead others well.

Be careful not to make assumptions about the personality of others. Instead, expand your narrative and get to know the benefits of traits different from your own.

Participants in our limited-space flagship program, Milestone Leadership Intensive, have the opportunity to receive incredibly personalized assessment results that get to the heart of who they are and how they lead. But we don’t stop with just providing the data…we help our participants explore the details. We focus on helping people gain understanding of what the information is telling them. Then we help them learn how to use it to their advantage. If you or someone you work with could benefit from unique insight designed to unleash leadership capabilities, we are reserving seats for our immersive September 14-17, 2021 Intensive.


Written by: Stephanie Brown, Operations Manager – Milestone Leadership

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