To be an inclusive leader, you need to understand and respect personality preferences
Read time 5 min read
In my last article, I discussed how companies agree that developing more inclusive company cultures is a worthy goal while falling far short of achieving it.
There are three key diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to understand if you want an inclusive company culture. First, diversity isn’t effective without inclusion. Second, inclusivity must be addressed at the individual level. And third, the example has to come from the top down.
Regarding this last point, it’s critical to first define what it means at the executive level. At The Myers-Briggs Company we have a working definition for inclusive leadership which has eight components:
- Seeking diverse perspectives
- Emotional intelligence
- Awareness of personal bias
- Leading for team trust and engagement
- Leveraging the value of differences to support effectiveness
By better understanding their own personality preferences, leaders can take major steps toward developing these behaviors. Take the example of bias in personality preferences in terms of two MBTI preferences: Thinking and Feeling.
Bias and decision-making
Thinking and Feeling describe two different ways of making decisions. Many leaders, especially those at the C-level, have a preference for Thinking when it comes to decision-making. And most Western cultures prize behaviors associated with the Thinking preference over behaviors associated with the Feeling preference. However, about half of the world’s population has a preference for Feeling.
People with a Thinking preference tend to make decisions based on pros and cons, and weighing logical consequences from an objective point of view. On the other hand, those with a Feeling preference make decisions based on how those decisions might affect other people involved. A leader with a preference for Thinking who isn’t aware that they have that preference or that others may make decisions in a different way would likely have a personal bias towards their type of decision-making.
For example, a leader I’ve worked with has a preference for Thinking. This leader doesn’t need to be told she’s doing a good job—it feels condescending. Rather, she appreciates receiving constructive feedback and focuses on areas to improve. Because this is valuable for her, she delivers feedback in the same way to her team members.
In a discussion with one of her team members who had a preference for Feeling, I was told the leader’s style is blunt and doesn’t acknowledge the positive aspects of their team’s performance. This team member described the feedback as critical and demoralizing. After sharing this feedback with the leader, she was surprised. Her style was effective for her so why shouldn’t it be for others? She said her team shouldn’t take things personally and focus on the behaviors they can improve.
Bias and inclusion
This is how bias in personality preference can lead to less inclusive leaders. Once the leader and this team identified their personality preferences, it was apparent there was a great deal of diversity. They learned to recognize their own biases, appreciate differences on the team and began to flex their own style to become more inclusive. This leader recognized her bias in only giving feedback the way she’d prefer to receive it, and now strives to balance constructive feedback with supportive comments and praise and, as a result, has reaped the benefits.
An inclusive leader takes their personal biases, such as their personality preferences, into account when taking in information and making decisions, leading others to feel heard, respected and valued for their difference in perspective.
The Myers-Briggs Company has identified eight core competencies that support inclusivity in leadership development:
- Leveraging differences
Of course, without an action plan and some way of gauging progress, these are little more than buzzwords. So, you may be saying, “OK, these are nice ideas, but how do I actually cultivate them in myself and my team?”
Self-evaluation for inclusive leadership
Before you can improve you need to take an honest appraisal of where you currently stand. You can start with a self-evaluation. To gauge your own inclusive leadership, rate yourself based on the following criteria pulled from The Myers-Briggs Company’s Inclusive Leadership assessment:
- I can see how my experiences and background are different from others.
- I’m interested in people from different backgrounds and seek to include them.
- I make other people feel welcome by being open-minded.
Going through this exercise, and being honest with yourself, will help you gain a clearer picture of where your state of inclusivity currently stands. Start by looking at the areas where you rate yourself highly. Why is it that you think you perform well in these areas? Are there opportunities to build and expand?
For instance, if you’ve rated yourself highly on “making other people feel welcome by being open-minded,” think about the ways you’ve learned to put that into practice. Can you mentor others in these behaviors? Perhaps you make a point during brainstorming and other information gathering meetings to gain the full perspective of those who are often less forthcoming with their ideas. Could you promote an “every voice heard” policy that encourages wider adoption of this practice?
Or, if you gave yourself a lower rating on “I’m interested in people from different backgrounds and seek to include them,” what concrete steps can you take to develop this competency? Perhaps you start by making a list of people that you believe have different backgrounds from your own and make a conscious effort to reach out to them. This could involve social invitations, such as lunch or coffee, or it could be about making sure that you vocally recognize their contributions or actively seek their perspectives when making decisions.
Regardless of what you identify as your strengths and weaknesses, as you further develop these into competencies you’ll not only find that your inclusivity as a leader grows, but that the culture of inclusivity at your organization flourishes as well.
This article was written by Sherrie Haynie, Sr. Director of US Professional Services at The Myers-Briggs Company, and first published by Forbes Coaches Council, September 2021.