“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
Developing as an executive and leader requires gaining deeper insights into yourself. Personality assessments are valuable tools in this regard by helping people foster heightened self-awareness and greater insights into their strengths and development areas.
There are many personality assessments used in organizations. Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and the Big Five are but a few. While not all assessments are equally valid, they are still critical tools for executive coaches seeking to understand how their clients think, how they interact with others, and what their blind spots might be.
A valuable yet underutilized personality model is the Four Styles to Business Success developed by organizational psychologist Olaf Isachsen. Originally designed to explain different approaches to entrepreneurial pursuits, Isachsen's model transcends its initial scope by offering rich insights for any executive seeking to grow and develop. After all, we are all entrepreneurs when steering the course of our careers.
The Four Executive Personality Styles
Isachsen outlines four distinct personality styles in executives: the Administrator, the Tactician, the Strategist, and the Idealist. Grasping these styles helps executives gain clearer self-awareness, understand their strengths and blind spots, and formulate more attainable goals. Additionally, insight into an executive's dominant style proves invaluable to coaches by enabling them to craft coaching programs that address the specific limitations of that style.
Administrators are conscientious executives who value stability, hierarchy, and order. While very devoted and hard-working, the Administrator's preference for predictability can make them skeptical and slow to change.
A few opportunities for a coach working with an Administrator could be helping them become more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, improving their crisis management skills, and developing a more conceptual and creative approach to business and leadership challenges.
Tacticians are executives with a strong bias toward action, who value rapid decision-making and are very task-oriented. While highly effective at getting things done, Tacticians tend to be risk-takers and typically do not put a lot of thought into what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
An executive coach working with a Tactician could help them by providing a structured forum to explore longer-term considerations for their business and helping them think more comprehensively about important strategic decisions, two things that they are unlikely to do on their own.
Strategists are highly conceptual and independent executives who have a clear sense of the future and hold themselves and the people they work with to high standards.
Strategists can get bored with slow-moving organizations and teams and are not particularly interested in the feelings of the people they work with.
An executive coach can help Strategists become better team players by increasing their self- and social awareness and helping them build more collaborative and trusting relationships with their colleagues.
Idealists are driven by a passion for uniting people. They find greater inspiration in human connections than in financial pursuits, can conceive extraordinary dreams, and possess the charisma to rally people to achieve them. While great visionaries, Idealists sometimes fail to consider the concrete actions needed to bring their vision to reality.
Executive coaches can help Idealists be more focused and practical by bringing more structure to their vision and business through rigorous planning and follow-through and setting more realistic expectations and goals for their teams.
Executive Personality Style – Just One Part of the Puzzle
Human personalities are nuanced and encompass endless variations and subtleties. The four styles described by Isachsen are presented to illustrate how personality can provide insight into the type of coaching agenda that would best fit a particular client.
At Attain Leadership we use assessments as one component of an integrated approach to developing customized coaching programs. Other important elements are direct interviews and observation of the client, and possibly feedback reports from others. The benefit of this approach is more impactful coaching strategies that help our clients gain more clarity into themselves, grow as people and executives, and, ultimately, elevate their work performance.