One of the biggest sources of workplace conflict shows up in differences on the fourth dimension of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - Judging versus Perceiving. A person whose style is "J" will schedule things in advance, organize their work with attention to deadlines and keep their eyes firmly on the goal. A "P" on the other hand, is pretty loose and free wheeling. They like to work on multiple projects simultaneously and to keep their options open until the very last minute, rather than forming a plan ahead of time.
In a leadership function, the Perceiving personality is viewed as limiting rather than enabling. In one study of over 26,000 high-flyers enrolled in a leadership development program at the Center for Creative Leadership, almost one in five delegates (18.2%) were found to have the ISTJ personality profile, followed closely by ESTJ (16%), ENTJ (13.1%) and INTJ (10.5%). Clearly, corporate America prefers its leaders to be tough-minded Thinker-Judger types. Roll-with-the-punches Perceivers simply don't make the grade.
We think it's time to change the narrative. Here are four ways that Perceiving leaders can make the most of their considerable strengths.
1. Think big, bold and out-of-the-box
When it comes to wandering the creative garden of the human mind, Perceivers win hands down. Your biggest contribution as a leader is the creation of ideas, which flow from you continuously, and you are not afraid to think outside the box or throw the box away altogether if this would push the organization to a better place. These traits make you a fearless, visionary leader.
Where Perceivers fall down is their inability to see ideas through. It's easy for you to fashion hundreds of compelling ideas in your mind, but far harder to turn your plans into practical reality.
For Perceiving leaders, it is worth making it clear that your role is strategy, not process management. There is bound to be someone in your team who can take your clever ideas and give them an action plan. Together, you'll be an unstoppable force of implementation.
2. Nurture and empower your people
Perceivers are far more able than Judgers to recognize, nurture and make use of the differences between their people. For example, whereas a Judger might cut a brainstorming session short just to get things done, a Perceiver is more likely to let her co-workers trouble shoot, share ideas and throw out any number of viable solutions, all of which will receive due consideration. In this respect, a Perceiver leads like a conductor, enabling other people's voices to be heard at the same time.
This is significant. Studies have repeatedly shown that good leaders encourage a culture where everyone's ideas are heard and valued. This benefits the organization since employees who feel engaged with the decision-making process typically show a greater degree of effort, productivity and job satisfaction.
3. Stay Open
People who like to try new things and enjoy new experiences score highly on the "openness" dimension of the Big Five personality assessment. Openness measures how curious, liberal and imaginative an individual can be.
Openness correlates closely with the Myers Briggs Perceiving function. Perceivers typically remain open to new ideas and experiences since they know that each new data point might create a breakthrough or solve a problem.
Good leadership requires a generous dash of openness for one simple reason: change is an inevitable part of business life. It is also feared by most people. Having a leader who is enthusiastic about change, and can adapt to it, and can even get others to relish it, goes a long way to ensuring that the business stays competitive.
4. Dare to Be Different
It can be tempting for Perceiving leaders to imitate the Thinker-Judger style of leadership by focusing on a logical cost-benefit analysis within carefully constructed time frames. This is a mistake. Strengths Based Leadership, a long-running New York Times bestseller, suggests that we all stop imitating others and start capitalizing on our own unique qualities. The theory is that we achieve more when we are empowered to do what we are already good at, and delegate the tasks that we're not as good at to others who are more skilled.
For Perceivers, strengths-based leadership is small in scope but profound in its implications. It gives you permission to forget about the things you don't do well (process management) and really explore your natural strengths and preferences (curiosity, adapting flexibly as new information arrives, spreading enthusiasm for change).
When other members of the organization become aware of the specialties of your type, they will come to recognize that leadership isn't all about immediate, bottom-line results. They will learn to take the "softer" stuff that Perceiving leaders bring to the table more seriously.