We see you and we understand you – Type A Personalities and Leadership

We see you and we understand you – Type A Personalities and Leadership.

Some time ago we came across a fantastic collection of essays in Mary Laura Philpott’s “I miss you when I blink” *.  It is a great collection of stories, lessons in life, beautifully written.  But this isn’t a book review.  One of the essays has stayed with us, probably because it spoke so loudly to us, saw straight into the personalities that flow among the professions.  It starts like this:

“A Letter to the Type A Person in Distress


Put down your phone and Post-it notes for just a minute. I know you’re busy rewriting your to-do list in your head, first chronologically and then in order of task magnitude and then visually like a pie chart with different colours for each slice of pie according to how long each thing will take. It takes concentration to keep the precision-tuned gears of your world-machine clicking along, but you can spare a minute.

I just want to tell you that your outfit today is spot-on. Are you wearing seasonal socks? Damn right you are. The rumpled, under-the-elbow half-roll of your sleeves didn’t happen by accident, either, and I appreciate that. You looked up a video tutorial online so you could do it right, I bet. And before you closed out the video, I bet you left it a review. You look like everyone’s favourite fun professor who’s also in a band on the side and knows how to arrange a handful of flowers in a jar. That’s a good look for you.”

We could go on. Perhaps later.

So what’s a Type A Personality?

Centred mainly around how people respond to stress, Type A Personalities are generally competitive, time urgent and hostile or aggressive when compared to Type B who are relaxed patient, and easy going.  Seems extreme but bear with us.  We’ve checked out Simply Psychology** for some more details here.

“Type A individuals tend to be very competitive and self-critical. They strive toward goals without feeling a sense of joy in their efforts or accomplishments.”

Sound familiar?

“Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock.  Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.”

And finally…

“Type A individuals tend to be easily aroused to anger or hostility, which they may or may not express overtly. Such individuals tend to see the worst in others, displaying anger, envy and a lack of compassion.”

Eeek, but it’s true.  Think about it.  The frustration that comes from looking after everyone’s needs, the feeling that you are managing everything.

Back to Mary Louise Philpott:

“You like having work to do but it’s hard for you to work alongside people who cut corners and blow off responsibilities. It feels like they’re doing these things to spite you, like they slack off because they know you’ll catch whatever balls they drop. You can’t fathom how they can feel okay letting so many things remain half done. This leaves you in a constant state of simmering, low-grade resentment, and you feel guilty about occasionally having the urge to throw your laptop at someone’s face. You wish these things didn’t get to you. You want to live and let live.

You wish you could take a break from carrying everything. It’s all so heavy. You are so tired.

I know.”

So why share this topic with you?

It is important to understand how the A Type Personality works for a couple of reasons.

First, in any leadership role you will come across a number of personalities.  You will have those who coast in a few minutes after 8.30am and those who show up early consistently.  There will be those that jump in and work together and others who do what they need to do and get out.  And those who pick up the staples left on the sorting table near the photocopier and those that don’t.  Everyone is different.  We all come to our workplaces from different backgrounds and with different personalities.  Knowing and understanding that will assist you in leading your team.

Second, knowing your personality type and understanding how you react to stress is key.  Managing and leading people can be stressful, particularly when you are managing all of the other personalities in your team.  Understand that others may see you as abrupt.  That parts of your personality might not gel with others.  This is not about changing who you are or how you operate, it is about having an acute sense of who you are and understanding the impact of that on others.

And third, we get it, you are not alone in how you work, what is important to you, how to get work done and the frustrations that flow from that.  We get that.  We see you.  You are doing a great job.  Well done.  Keep checking in and we’ll make sure you have some tips to lighten that load.

#leadership #personalitytype #typeapersonality


* See more about Mary Louise Philpott here


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