Wanting to be Led vs. Wanting to be a Leader

I have studied some psychological theory on personality differences and types. I’m certified to administer Myers-Briggs, but have worked with most of the more popular assessments. I generally agree with the theory behind these type tools. We can categorize certain personalities and traits together to help us understand ourselves and each other better. I am an introvert, for example. That’s not really a question for me anymore, now that I understand the term. It helps me know how I relate to other people on a regular bases.

At the same time, I hold loosely to all these types – believing that ultimately every human is uniquely designed by their Creator. No assessment can ever fully capture who we are as individuals.

But, I think understanding differences – and the broad categoration of them – has often been helpful to me in leading people. As much as I want to individualize my leadership based on the people I’m attempting to lead, it does help to have some broad ways to understand people.

Which brings me to a very broad difference in leading people.

There is a huge difference the way you lead someone who wants to be led and how you lead someone who wants to be a leader.

Huge. It requires a different approach.

The person who wants to be led desires structure. They want to follow the rules. They need someone to tell them how to do what you want done. He or she needs more specifics and more details – and less ambiguities. They tend to stress more during times of uncertainty, but they tend to be more compliant and cause less conflict when the path ahead is clearly defined.

You need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

The person who wants to be a leader needs space to dream, freedom to explore, and permission to experiment. He or she desires less direction and more encouragement. They need to be given a target of what a win looks like and then left alone to script the way to success. They continually need new challenges. They get bored easily. These people may stir conflict on a team – intentionally or not – because they enjoy testing and pushing the boundaries.

And, you need to know that and allow it to impact your leadership of them.

Again, these are generalizations, but there is nothing wrong with either person. Most teams need both types of team members. I have also found some people have seasons in their life where they float between preferring one or the other. And, of course, with any of these categorations there are huge variances within each of them. Again, everyone is unique.

The key is to know your team and the people you lead. The more we know the people we lead the better they are able to follow.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Tricia Tice says:

    There may be some gender issues here at work here. Leading women and men may be dramatically different. In general men desire a hierarchical system and like to fit in those rules. In contrast, women tend to have multiple hard and soft goals and want to see them all accomplished. They are less likely to seek control when those goals are being accomplished (to their standard) and are free to dream or plan new goals. They will only try to grab control if those goals are not being met adequately. In fact, when things are being handled well and smoothly, they feel like they are being treated like a princess and feel treasured. Women relate to God as a provider and, if they can release into trust, become avidly loyal to the Father. They understand He is "in charge" but that is not the same kind of issue to them as it is to men.

  • Denise Cooper says:

    Hi Ron,
    Love the post! I'd add a couple of points.
    Regardless which camp you are in it its important yourself and which style you prefer.

  • for leading one who wants to be a leader, i would add openness on your part (as leader) to have your ideas questioned or challenged. i think it is because the one who wants to be a leader will want to understand the thought process of a leader in troubleshooting, more than just running an errand… the "why aspect" is something one who desires to be a leader will often want to explore…

    am not sure about this one… but i also think the one who wants to be a leader should be given more responsibility as they are likely to want it as they may want to get as much "practice" as possible…

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