We’re getting to know ourselves better this month at Evil Genius Leadership and today we’re going to talk about personality testing, as well as personality types. There are a lot of different personality tests and a lot of opinions about personality testing in leadership development. Today we’ll look at how to use personality types to know ourselves better, as well as improve our relationships with other people.

Personality Types and Personality Tests

Learning our personality type is a great way to get to know ourselves better while developing our leadership style. There are a lot of personality tests that can help us find out more. You can go online and find Meyers-Briggs tests, Big 5 tests, Color type tests, almost anything you can think of. Most of these tests use personality archetypes from Jungian psychology. If you’re looking for a free online test, you can go to psychcentral.com. Also, the personality trait definitions below are from their site.

Personality Types and Traits

When you take a personality test, you will find that most of these tests will show you how you score on a continuum of traits. The areas vary from test to test, but they’re almost always a combination of five traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience. Some tests may organize traits differently; for example, Meyers-Briggs tests align the traits on 4 continuums, but tell you the same information.

The 5 Personality Traits

  • Extraversion reflects a person’s preference for certain kinds of social situations, and how they like to behave in such situations. People high in extraversion are energetic and seek out the company of others. People low in extraversion — what some might call introverts — tend to be more quiet and reserved.
  • Agreeableness describes how we tend to interact with others, especially in terms of our altruism and friendliness. People who score higher in agreeableness tend to be more trusting, friendly and cooperative than others. People who score lower tend to be more aggressive and less cooperative.
  • Conscientiousness is how organized and persistent a person is in pursuing their goals. People who score high on this trait tend to be more methodical, well-organized and dutiful than others. People who score lower tend to be less careful, less focused and more likely to be distracted from tasks.
  • Neuroticism shows the tendency for a person to experience negative thoughts and feelings. People who score high on this trait tend to be more prone to insecurity and emotional distress. People who score lower tend to be more relaxed, less emotional and less prone to distress.
  • Openness to Experience indicates a person’s open-mindedness, and interest in culture and art. People who score high on this trait tend to be imaginative, creative, and to seek out cultural and educational experiences. People who score lower on this trait tend to be more down-to-earth, less interested in art and more practical in nature.

Interpreting Personality Test Results

Personality tests give you a score which will tell you how extroverted you are; how agreeable, etc. Looking at these scores together will give you an idea of how your personality traits work together to make you who you are. If your results don’t seem like they describe you accurately, ask someone who knows you really well to take a look. Sometimes it’s hard for us to accept our scores when we see them in black and white, but when someone we trust reminds us how we’ve approached life in the past, we can see a little more clearly.

In leadership, there’s no personality type or combination of traits that makes someone a better leader. Some research shows a very small correlation between extraversion and leadership ability, many of the greatest leaders in history would have qualified as introverts. So if you don’t score high on extraversion, you can still be a great leader.

Personality Types: Considerations for Ourselves and Others

The first thing to remember about personality types and personality tests is that they are not a psychological evaluation. They’re just a guide to give you some more understanding of your own personality. Next, it’s important that we use these tests to give us insight into our own personality and how we can grow to become great leaders. We shouldn’t put people in a box that limits their potential based on their personality type. It’s also important that we don’t use our personality type as an excuse to keep us in our comfort zone or let others on our team hide behind their personality type. I often hear  the excuse, “I’m not extroverted, I shouldn’t have to speak in public”. We shouldn’t let anyone, including ourselves, use this information as a crutch to avoid developing our skills.

I hope this gave you a little bit more insight into the traits that make up our personalities. We should never use this knowledge as an excuse for bad behavior or inaction. This helps us understand our resistance to doing what it takes to succeed. Just like we explored who we are, who we want to be and what we want out of life, knowing our personality type is another tool in our leadership toolbox that helps us know ourselves and develop our own unique leadership style.

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