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It takes all types to be a good manager
Published in The Globe and Mail, Friday, May 31, 2002


Basic personality types have been recognized for centuries; the ancient names for them are melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic and sanguine. Thanks to personality theorists David Merrill and Roger Reid, today they're generally known as analytical, driver, amiable and expressive. Others use different names, including ones that refer to animals, colours and numbers.
     Regardless of which labels you choose, it's the qualities associated with each personality type that matter in assessing who might make a good manager.
     For instance, the analytical personality tends to be logical, thorough, disciplined and fact-oriented. At the same time, that person might also be withdrawn, dull, quiet and reclusive.
     The driver is a results-oriented, extroverted, strong-willed, direct and decisive person focused on tasks rather than relationships. Weaknesses include being domineering, impatient, insensitive, and short-tempered.
     The amiable person is devoted, dependable and loyal. He or she is a hard worker, persevering and co-operative. Weaknesses include indecision and an inability to take risks.
     The expressive type is enthusiastic, outgoing, persuasive, fun-loving and spontaneous. That person is more geared toward relationships than to tasks. Weaknesses include lack of focus, a tendency to generalize, verbal assaults, and, sometimes, irrational behaviour.
     In my years of studying and analyzing boardroom presenters and top managers, I have come to one conclusion: good managers are balanced. They have traits that correspond to each of the four personality types, and work to eliminate or at least modify their weaknesses.
     The face of business and society is changing rapidly. Traditional patterns aren't working any more. For instance, both men and women now need to be gainfully employed, which is resulting in major changes, both in the workplace and at home.
     Traditionally, managers have encouraged employees to leave personal issues at home. But today, a productive manager is one who can help staff with problems both at work and at home, for a productive employee is one who has both houses in order.
     I call this managing with rapport, as opposed to managing by report. Men are great at the latter. Women are good at both, but they have a knack for creating a rapport with staff.
     In this respect, it's interesting to observe the differences between men and women. I have taught thousands of managers to make presentations with power, but never once have I seen a woman start her talk with a joke. When women begin a speech, they automatically try to link with the group. They instinctively realize that the most important element in any presentation is the bond of trust that must be generated between the presenter and listeners.
     With those who manage by report, it's a completely different story. They like to open with a joke. (If they're not good telling jokes one-on-one, they often think that with an audience of 30 people, they'll be 30 times better. It doesn't work that way).
        They also like to open with a very strong opinion -- which puffs them up in front of the group. They don't realize they're missing an opportunity to build rapport, and hence trust, with their audience.
     This ability to manage with rapport puts women in a good position for promotion to senior management roles.
     In the old days, the single-dimension businessman was quite effective. But in our changing world, we need more managers with balanced personalities, with the rapport necessary to encourage employees to be happier and more productive.
     Think of those organizations in which regulation is a fact of life, including banks, airlines, railways, postal services, the military and policing. All of these require certain standards to keep the organization functioning, so the one-dimensional approach will always be here.
     However, there's another factor to consider. I call it "gutfeeling". It's as important as reason, logic and analysis, which are customarily recognized as necessary for business success. Today there is a greater emphasis on more independent thought, based on instinct and intuition.
     The sensitive touch, while not always rewarded as it should be, is much more highly valued than before. It will become increasingly important as organizations try to change and respond to modern circumstances. It acts to soften the rigidity of guidelines without making them less important. The result is to encourage action rather than ordering it.
     Under the old one-dimensional management model, managers could get employees to produce simply by ordering them to do so and by threatening dismissal if they did not. But it required constant one-on-one supervision, and the moment supervision slackened off, so did production.
     I believe that women are better at intuition-based management than men. That's because they are used to paying attention to their emotions and feelings, and including them in their decision-making processes.
     Women can also be their own worst enemies, of course. It's human nature that once a person is admitted to a small, exclusive group, the tendency is to want to limit the membership to keep it exclusive. It's called kicking away the ladder. Whether you're male or female, resist the temptation.
     A good manager works without fear to train his or her replacement. When the time is ready or the opportunity occurs, that manager gracefully yields the place. No shame, no loss.
     If we look back, the boardroom belonged to the boys. But I think it is merely a matter of time before "rapporters" outnumber "reporters" there -- not necessarily because we have more female managers, but because they take their positions seriously and show up.

Peter Urs Bender writes on leadership issues. His latest book is Gutfeeling. He can be reached at

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