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There are Four Leadership Personality Styles. Which are You?

Learn more about the role of the Visionary, the Operator, the Processor, and Synergist...

Which of these Leadership Personality Styles Best Describes You?

This article originally appeared at Gen-i’

You should know Les McKeownby now: the author of Predictable Success, which I discussed in the article on predictable success. Today, I want to look at his idea of the four leadership personality styles. And, in particular, I want to look at why you need to know which describes you best.

Just to recap, in McKeown’s terms, a business doesn’t need to be just successful. It needs to be predictably successful: its success needs to be maintainable, scalable, and repeatable. Otherwise it isn’t success at all.

And this sort of success only comes once your business realises the necessary structures and processes to ensure it operates with autonomy. These structures help you to maintain efficiency, productivity, service, profitability, staff morale, and a whole host of beneficial qualities.

The Four Leadership Personality Styles – and Why You Need Them.

To ensure this condition of predictable success, your business needs four kinds of ‘personalities’, each with a key set of skills which, when combined, are a powerful and highly effective combination.

An essential part of McKeown’s philosophy is that everyone in the world fits into four leadership styles, each of which is necessary for your company. You can be a Visionary, an Operator – the one with the HOW Skill Set– a Processor, or a Synergist. Of course, you can be a combination, but you will have one primary dominant style.

Why does it matter? Thinking about these styles help you to know your leadership strengths and weaknesses, and to know the sort of people with which to surround yourself to achieve predictable success. Remember, successful businesses need allof these leadership skill sets if they are to grow and succeed.

I have covered each of the types below and you will see how their strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

The Visionary

The Visionary is the ideas-person. This, in all likelihood, is the founder – the one that came up with the business idea in the first place. The Visionary is great at thinking big, and they love to brainstorm, dream, and be creative.

In McKeown’s terms, the Visionary is charismatic. They are good communicators, willing risk-takers, and experts at thinking visually. They like to simplify, as they are focused with the big idea, but they have the courage and flexibility to get things going.

But that, in a way, is the problem with the Visionary. They can start things well – they can give a project that initial impetus – but they are no good at finishing. They might suffer from what McKeown calls the ‘shiny blue ball syndrome’: before one problem is fully solved, they move onto the next ‘shiny’ new one. This is because they are easily distracted, and don’t necessarily like the nitty-gritty of detail and practicalities.

Yet, what they excel at is providing creative solutions to problems, and they provide the ideas and the novelty that prevents the business from tread-milling – working hard but going nowhere new. They inspire, providing the energy a business needs to keep it growing and developing. They are the ‘Why’ person I refer to in my other article Start with Why.

The Operator: the HOW Person.

The Operator is the perfect complement to the Visionary. A business’s success lies in the relationship between the Visionary and the Operator. Whilst not red hot on thinking creatively, the brainstorming with the Visionary will be productive because the Operator gets things done. Once the creative mind has done its work, the Operator makes it a reality: if a Visionary can get things started, the Operator is the great finisher. In McKeown’s words, they’ll go through a brick wall to make what needs to happen, happen.

If the Visionary has his head in the clouds, the Operator is detail-oriented and action-obsessive.

Simon Sinek says “It is the magical partnership of the person with their head in the clouds and the person with their feet on the ground, that creates progress”. 

They want to dothings. But their propensity to action gives them a tendency to over-commit, and they might have a slightly unhealthy desire for rigid structure. But when complimented by a creative Visionary, and when there is excellent communication, there isn’t any problem these two cannot solve.

In honesty, however, a Visionary’s ‘WHY’ is frankly useless without an Operators ‘HOW’!

But equally the Operator has nothing to operate without the Visionary! This is a key interdependent relationship in any business.

The Processor

We’ve said that your business needs systems and processes to ensure its predictable success. However, neither the Operator nor the Visionary can provide these: the Visionary couldn’t care less, whilst the Operator’s skill set lies in liaising with the visionary, identifying the key things that need to happen, and then clearly communicating this to the Processor for execution.

That’s why your business needs a Processor, someone naturally inclined towards systems, processes, and protocol. The Processor doesn’t just want to do a thing. They rather want to do it right. These are the people that set up and maintain the things that allow your business’s success to be repeatable, and it is them that holds others accountable. This is the ‘WHAT’ of the business.

You’ll know that you are a Processor if you crave precision and certainty, and want things to happen as expected. You’re probably averse to risk; you’re probably not so fond of ambiguity or discussion without data. Clarity is key to achieving the best from these people. This is often why their effectiveness is directly linked to the Operators ability to clearly delegate tasks.

Synergist

The previous leaders provide the essentials of a functioning, creative, successful team. Yet, the final leadership style – the Synergist – is the linchpin; they are what makes the business team a team. 

The Synergist wants to make everyone happy, and they want to ensure that everyone concerned is satisfied and engaged. Teamwork is crucial, and this is the sort of person that ensures that your company’s culture is working for everyone. No-one can be left behind.

A Synergist might spend too much time on cultivating a nice working environment. They may be so concerned with everyone on the team, that action – or even just decisions – are deferred and deferred and deferred. Their spirit of inclusiveness and collegiality might put a break on things.

However, the Synergist is crucial to maintaining the balance of your workforce. Indeed, without the Synergist, you don’t really have a workforce at all, but just a group of individuals. They are the ones that hold your successful team together. Read my article Wise Eyes for more on this personality type.

Skills Can be Learned; Personality is Hard to Change.

Firstly, be aware of which of these leadership personality styles describes you best. We all work best doing the things we find naturally easiest, so it makes sense to realise our own strengths and weaknesses. We’ll then know the crucial skill set ‘holes to plug’ in our business as it grows. We can’t do it all.

Can you identify these leadership skill sets in your team? Do they each have clearly defined roles and responsibilities? If you want your business to grow, it will become invaluable to firstly assess, then hire to ensure these four skill sets are present in your management team.

Of course, I realise this makes it all sound very simple. Any person you hire will have a range of qualities, but they will have a particular talent in one of the leadership personality styles in particular. We all work best in our ‘zone of genius’ so leverage this to your advantage!

 “If you get the right mix of people working for your company, it will have a far greater chance of success”– Richard Branson

What to Do with Your Leadership Personality Styles? Action Points.

  • Don’t stress; embrace your style. Every style has its weaknesses alongside its formidable strengths. Own those strengths – and build on them.
  • Do a skills audit in your team. If you are a Visionary, do you have the HOW person – the Operator – you need to make your ideas happen? If not, find one.
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