The Hazard of Leading with Your Preference

As a team leader, you have lots to do. You have goals to meet and people to manage. You have to make assignments, clarify roles, communicate, fix problems, build systems, track trends, set strategy, and put out countless large and small fires along the way. Oh, plus your own work.

There’s no way to get it all done.  So, you have to choose where to focus.

If you’re not careful, your thinking preferences will choose for you. You’ll naturally gravitate to work that aligns with your thinking preferences and avoid work that doesn’t.

A thinking preference can be a huge asset to your role as a leader. It’s like your own problem-solving superpower. It gives you extra energy for certain types of work. If you get stuck in your thinking preference, it can just as easily be a hazard. Where your energy goes, your focus follows. See if you recognize any of these behaviors in your own leadership style.
Leaders who prefer to clarify tend to focus on roles, structure, purpose, and strategy. They like to be organized, prepared, and give clear directions. When a challenge arises, they clarify to be sure they’re going to address the right problem. Then they’ll spend time thinking it through. They are reliable, realistic leaders whose predictable behavior builds trust on teams. Sometimes, they can get so caught up in the need to gather more information that progress grinds to a halt.
Leaders who prefer to ideate tend to focus on future visions, innovation, change, new products, original approaches, and grand gestures. They are fun, playful, imaginative, and full of surprises. They foster exploration, celebrate new ideas, and try new things. But eyes roll when they come back from the latest conference with a whole new business model or shiny new idea that requires everyone to shift focus. Again.
Leaders who prefer to develop tend to focus on systems, optimization, consistency, and compliance. They are meticulous and detail-oriented, sometimes causing them to be nit-picky when it comes to other’s ideas. If they commit to a particular solution, they like to pursue it to perfection, giving it all their time and attention. Sometimes, they end up dragging the whole team down a rabbit hole with diminishing returns.
Leaders who prefer to implement will tend to focus on results. They deal in deadlines, checklists, goals, and quotas. They are persistent, confident, willing to try and fail and try again, and they like to be in charge. But if their preference to implement takes over, they can steamroll over others (and steamroll right past clarify, ideate, and develop) to act before things are fully thought out.
Leaders who have equal preferences will tend to focus on building consensus. This unique FourSight profile, called the Integrator, has no strong preference pull. They focus on group harmony and plug gaps in the process that the preferences of the rest of the group might create. Sounds great, right? But the watch out here is the tendency to lose their own voice in accommodating the needs of the team. 

No thinking profile is perfect when it comes to leading a team. The question is: How does your unique set of thinking preferences work for you and against you as you lead others?

Write and tell us your story of how thinking preferences showed up on your team—whether you lead the team or someone else does. 

This article is an excerpt from the upcoming book, "Good Team, Bad Team: Lead People to Go After Big Challenges, Not Each Other," written by FourSight partners, Sarah Thurber and Blair Miller PhD.

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Sarah Thurber

Sarah is managing partner at FourSight and the author of Good Team, Bad Team, The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker, Creativity Unbound, and Facilitation: A Door to Creative Leadership. Her work helps teams and leaders think creatively, work collaboratively and achieve innovative results.