We’ve been told that Type A extroverts run the world, but heavily praise our introverted ‘thinkers’ who grease the wheel. This is especially interesting since not very long ago the “Quiet Leader” was idolized and imitated. Consider Dale Carnegie, Earl Nightingale, Billy Graham, Mother Theresa.
What’s with all of the social boxes?
The truth is leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and aptly so considering the groups they lead are similarly diverse. But it’s not surprising Type A leaders tend to get more coverage when their ardent and bold personalities command a certain amount of attention. I happen to be a Type B leader who often gets mistaken as Type A due to my goal-oriented work style. This confusion helped me realize that the Type B personality has gotten a certain stereotype as dependent and indecisive, which simply doesn’t have to be true. Type B personalities by definition are simply easy going and less susceptible to chronic stress. Thus it’s not uncommon to find Type B leaders who are team-oriented, calm under pressure and optimistic.
Because many of us are diplomatic and analytical by nature, it only makes sense that we will do our due diligence to attempt to understand all sides of an issue before voicing opinions or taking action. If I were to take a guess, we’re probably also some of the least likely to volunteer for political campaigns or jump into short-term cultural fads. It takes a lot of effort and energy to formulate values, and once we do we’re unequivocally committed. Those efforts are much better reserved for life goals and broad objectives than temporary projects or causes.
Therefore, the Type B leader may take longer than most to allow our convictions to produce a call to action. But I’m convinced that once we do we become a force to be reckoned with. To be able to balance firm objectives and passion with a whimsical ability to detach from day to day stresses is something to be envied.
So, here is a list of what I believe are 9 indicators of a Type B Leader:
1. We have some kind of isolated organization system that, if taken away, would end us.
People who know me outside of work settings can’t even start to imagine me as a spreadsheet junkie. Those who only know me through work type settings would assume I live by them.
Truth is I have a million ideas fluttering through my head at all times. My spreadsheets keep my finances budgeted well enough to sustain long term goals (retirement, new business ventures, etc). At work, I keep up with my departments’ spending and sales revenue using a quick monthly analysis. The sheets are color coordinated and automated. The less technical the better. Without this system, it would be virtually impossible for me to help my team move forward.
But that’s where the organization ends.
When people ask how I can sleep at night with millions of notifications on my phone and piles of junk mail on my desk, my general reaction is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
It is very possible for Type B Leaders to be orderly and in control of the most minute details, but my prediction is many of us compartmentalize the areas we choose to focus and tend to let less urgent details (like never-ending email) fall by the wayside.
2. We measure progress based on broad objectives
In my personal life I have only one or two areas that I care to be competitive. And even then I have to mentally pump myself up for the challenge. I love attending events that I don’t have to plan and traveling on adventures with Type A people who plot out our every minute. But at work, I need a clear idea of what my most important goals are and how each major task fits into those objectives. I need to semi-regularly evaluate development and confirm that my team has a clear sense of what overall progress (winning) looks like.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Type B micromanager. Ensuring that our team can function autonomously is important to the overall success of the organization. We also understand that our laid-back personality is risky as leaders, therefore we must work hard to determine and promote measurable, broad objectives that enhance structure and accountability.
3. Many times we enjoy the process more than success itself
Stress is a normal part of human life. We are fortunate that our bodies produce endorphins for extra mental and physical strength as needed. Type B individuals will recognize when an event or deadline is especially important to the overall objective and can work ourselves into a frenzy in those moment. But in general we are less likely to live in a constant state of stress.
Part of the reasoning for this is that many Type B leaders tend to enjoy the process of goal achievement more than the end goal itself. This day to day mentality takes pressure off the singular ‘win’ and can help us to curb some of the stress many Type A individuals experience.
Similarly, as leaders, we don’t want our team to have to wait on big wins to enjoy fruits of their labor. We try to celebrate small achievements regularly and discuss setbacks as opportunities for growth. Our primary goal is to preserve and maintain a healthy, energetic work environment.
4. We like to be followers when afforded the opportunity
Most of my life I wouldn’t have considered myself a leader. I was always intrigued with the concept of leading, but I didn’t feel like I had the natural juju that enticed people to follow my lead. I did, however, have strong ideals. Though I really wasn’t hard set in those until later in my young adulthood.
Once I settled upon my long-term plan and was allowed an encouraging environment in which to grow, I was shocked to find people suddenly eager to follow. Even better, my relaxed and amicable personality seemed to solidify the trust within those relationships. It took a minute to get used to the new position, but I was pleased to discover how much I enjoyed the role of developing teammates and helping them unveil their own passion.
That being said, I appreciate having friends who are leaders. I enjoy learning from others’ guidance and I really appreciate the mental break I get when someone else is in charge. Type B individuals are often creative and observant, and sometimes we must suppress those sides of our personality to carry out our normal leadership roles. Any opportunity to let others take control of details so we can return to our carefree thoughts is highly coveted.
5. We have an uncanny ability to turn on and off detail orientation as needed
If it hasn’t been abundantly clear by now, I hate details (generally). But I also see them as essential and usually the defining components of ‘the win’. As Steve Jobs famously stated, “success is in the details”, right? So when I’m putting together my goals list for the year, I’m meticulous about understanding what execution should look like. I spend quite a lot of time trying to understand every scenario of a project and what outcomes might result. I firmly believe that every single communication, physical task, key relationship and measurement have to be specific to the mission and as well utilized as possible on a daily basis.
Knowing that, I am the same person who has on multiple occasions driven dozens of miles off-course due to daydreaming. I forget to take out the trash on a regular basis and remember to buy shampoo only when I’ve exhausted every travel container hidden throughout my house. How I can plan down to the tiniest detail when something becomes a defined goal, and then overlook practically everything not immediately pressing, I will never understand.
There are plenty of Type B individuals who excel at multi-tasking and seamlessly executing the details of their lives. However, while Type A individuals have a difficult time being anything but consistent, Type B individuals can be as flighty as we are composed. And that’s because… well sometimes we just don’t care. No harm, no foul.
6. Conviction drives our leadership
Many times leaders are designated as the point person of a project simply because they are the most passionate about a vision or goal. The passion is what carries the leader through the more trying times, which is appreciated by, and builds trust in, followers.
Type B leaders are less likely to function in leadership roles simply for the pleasure of executing authority. As such, we can quickly recognize when others are more capable or are more committed to a particular vision and will happily hand over the reigns for the sake of efficiency. Our organizations and teams benefit greatly as a result.
On the other hand, especially novice Type B Leaders have to learn to focus and lead even when the end goal feels less than amazing. We quickly realize that our team is completely dependent on our energy and vision, and gruelingly accept that our new position requires mental discipline to be successful. Thankfully, with practice and commitment, we eventually develop skills needed to maintain leadership responsibilities and focus.
7. We prefer to lead and succeed as a team
Partly due to our creative, big-picture mentalities, we are more likely to see the team as integral in accomplishing long term goals. Not surprisingly, many Type B Leaders have Type A teammates who help balance the work environment. We’re used to functioning as a collective unit through most of our lives, so we’re pretty good at making sure our teammates understand how much we appreciate their roles and input.
Since our work habits aren’t particularly rigid, we have to focus on sharing the burden so teammates don’t feel taken advantage of. While we most likely are just as busy as everyone else, it might not appear as such if we aren’t breaking a little sweat during peak moments. So we learn how to jump in to get our hands dirty and prioritize our teammates needs however possible.
8. Mundane tasks are minimized at all costs. Especially in personal life.
In general we are less likely to enjoy mundane, life-sustaining daily tasks. That’s no to say we can’t— there is something very therapeutic about some mindless routines. But we don’t get the same high off of endless activity and box-checking like some of our Type A friends do. Some of us (me) go as far as loathing regular routines like cooking, getting ready in the morning, shopping, and mail purging. Alas, adulthood forces us to be complicit but we relish any chance to avoid these activities.
9. Inside every Type B Leader is a Ron Swanson.
Okay, maybe not EVERY Type B Leader. But one can enjoy the visualization of Ron in a dark seedy bar as his “Duke Silver” alter-ego, totally detached from the drone government world he normally endures. Type B Leaders are pretty rare, especially in my industry. Many of us develop creative outlets where we feel safe to relax and explore. We’ve adapted to be in control and focused at work, but usually don’t care to sustain that exhausting personality 24/7. Most of us have some group of friends or regular activity that allows us to completely clear our minds and detach from daily professional responsibilities. It’s not uncommon to stumble across Type B leaders in a jam band, performing weekend improve in a random dive bar or just passing the time in the mountains with cigars and close friends.
Obviously these indicators should be taken simply as an opportunity to spark some interesting discussion and not as comprehensive analysis. There is actually very little research on Type A/B personalities as it relates to leadership styles. The original findings on Type A personalities were conducted by cardiologists studying coronary heart disease. The Type B personality simply got pegged as the opposite of Type A, leaving a lot of wiggle room for people in varying degrees of the spectrum.
It’s pretty safe to say, at least in American culture, more Type A leaders exist than true Type B leaders. Our society has incentivized and glorified highly competitive, almost aggressive leaders as the winners of the life-game. Many Type B individuals would not be willing to sacrifice overall health and mental well-being just at a chance for success.
But some are driven by convictions, and/or possess the intelligence and interpersonal skills to take the leap. And thankfully so, as our community desperately needs a healthy mix of ideas and work styles from the top-echelon.
In conclusion, I hope you found some enjoyment from the results and will be able to contribute to the conversation in the comment section below.
And now we’re dying to know… are YOU a Type B leader?
Photo Credit: Office Snapshots