November 16, 2011

Leadership Is Not A One Personality World

An article in the Federal Times (13 November 2011) called "To Change Government's Culture, Recruit Leader, Not Loners" was very unfortunate.
According to the author, Steven L. Katz, "Government in particular, attracts, rewards, and promotes people who want to be left alone. As a result we have a government of loners...seen in the scarcity of people with a healthy balance of substantive and social skills who are needed for leadership, management, and bringing projects large and small to completion."
Katz identifies these "loners" as Myers-Briggs ISTJ--Introverted Sensing Thinking and Judging. Moreover, he proposes that we consider "more people who test in the range of Myers-Briggs ENTJ--Extroverted Intuitive Thinking Judging"--to assume the leadership mantle instead.
In other words, Katz has a problem with people who are introverted and sensing. In particular, it seems that the introversion type really has Katz all bent out of shape--since this is what he rails at as the loners in our organizations. What a shame!
Katz is wrong on almost all accounts, except that we need people who can communicate and collaborate and not just in government:
1) Diversity Down The Toilet--Katz only acknowledges two Myers-Briggs Types in our diverse population--ENTJ and ISTJ. He is either unaware of or ignores the other 14 categories of people on the continuum, and he promotes only one type the ENTJ--1/16 of the types of people out there--so much for diversity!
Further, Katz makes the stereotypical and mistaken assumptions that introverts are shy and ineffectual, which as pointed out in Psychology Today in 2009 (quoted in Jobboom) "Not everyone who is shy is introverted, and not everyone who's charismatic and cheerful is extroverted." Further, shy people are 'routinely misunderstood as cold, aloof, or stuck up."
Katz missed the point as taught at OPM's Federal Executive Institute that all of us have something to learn, teach, and a preferred pathway to excellence.
2) By the Numbers--Contrary to Katz's implication that introverts are a small and social inept portion of population that should shunned, a report in USA Today in 2009 states that '50% of baby boomers are introverts" as are 38% of those born after 1981 with the onset on the modern computing age, Internet, and social media. Interestingly enough, Katz is even dissatisfied with these Millennials who according to him: their "dominant form of communication and relationships is online and on cellphones."
Moreover, according to a 2006 article in USA Today quoted on, "Introverts are so effective in the workplace, they make up an estimated 40% of executives."
Included in these successful introverts are people like "Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Diane Sawyer, Andrea Jung, and Bill Nardelli"--Sorry, Steve!
3) Situational Leadership Is Key--While Katz is busy searching for personality type scapegoats to government problems, he is missing the point that Myers-Briggs is "neither judgmental not pejorative" and instead "helps assess the fit between person and job" (Reference: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Organizations: A Resource Book).
In fact, according to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review (4 October 2010), introverts are not only incredibly effective, but are "the best leaders for proactive employees." Moreover, HBR points out that "Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual..."
So for example, Introvert leaders (who are "more likely to listen to and process the ideas") tend to be better leaders in a situation with a extroverted team, while extroverted leaders (who "end up doing a lot of the talking") tend to excel with a more introverted one.
However, the ultimate key according to HBR is "to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation"--that is to use situational leadership to lead and manage according to the situation at hand, and not as a one personality type fits all world!
Katz is right that communication and collaboration are critical skills, but he is wrong that there is only one personality type that gets us all there.
(Source Photo: here)


1 comment:

Sir POTUS said...

I agree with your assessment. However, in the federal civil service, we are lacking leadership regardless of the “-vert” label you wish to put on the managers/supervisors/leaders. From my experience, management is not aligning their goals with that of the agency, which should be aligning their goals to those of the POTUS, and for that they are rewarded. Such a tack does not align with The Wharton School’s teachings of knowing what is the business’ goals for the overall organization, then aligning your efforts to those goals. I’m confident the HBR will agree with Wharton’s guidance. I cannot say what FEI presents to federal executives; however, it is clear that many of those who complete the FEI training are not producing as they should. So, where do adjustments need to be made? FEI curriculum? Selection process (less diversity of race/sex (things we cannot control) and more on job/leadership experience & education?)? Does it make sense that an SES is not required to have any more education than a GS-1 to attain the rank of SES?

Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We know that there are many in senior management within the federal government who are poor leaders and managers. Their ranks have swollen for some time now, and it continues. When will we see leaders who hire based on skills, experience, vision, education, knowledge, and potential, and stop hiring because the individual was in the same military service as the selecting official, or is a “good guy or gal,” or they’re the right skin color or sex (and soon to be sexual orientation if the liberal politicians have their way)?

No matter whether they’re introvert, extrovert, or whatever, what our so called leaders have been doing is not working. So I’m not confident that their “vert” status is a really that much of a key factor. When does the insanity stop? There needs to be a gross overhaul of how we select GS-14’s through SES’s. GS-14’s should be groomed for GS-15, and GS-15’s for SES. Regardless whether they make the grade or not, they should be able to work effectively with the next level up; Talking the talk, and walking the walk of their seniors. If they can’t, then they don’t ascend any further up the ladder. But that is not happening. Is it what FEI teaches? Is FEI the common denominator?

This issue has been going on for years. I see some agencies addressing the issue, eventually obtaining results, and others identifying the issue, but choosing to ignore it, and wallow in the muck. OMB has to look past the administrators, secretaries and commissioners, and look down into the rank and file to obtain feedback on how effect are the organization’s leaders. That coupled with other scorecards OMB employs will enlighten them to what action needs to be undertaken to remove, add, or enhance senior manager’s.

Like Lee Iacocca said, “Don't just stand there, make something happen.” OMB needs to make something happen. Maybe President Obama will appoint a leadership czar.