If you have ever worked with children, you know that no two children are the same. Often when you ask siblings to discuss their childhood memories, they have very different memories of the same events. You would almost think they had grown up in different families or times! Wise parents customize how they interact, discipline, and guide each child to suit each one’s unique personalities and styles. Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) tells us: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Leaders are faced with similar challenges when developing their team. One size does not fit all. Some personalities require more feedback than others. Some people will ask for what they need and communicate what they expect. Some ask for help, others push through struggling to “do it myself.” As many people as you have on your team are the number of personalities and styles you will be dealing with.

While we need to customize our leadership to get the best out of each person, we need to be sure we are consistent in our behaviors, principles, and standards. Again going back to the parental parallel, you may have observed in your own family or someone else’s that parents frequently favor one child over another. If we want to look to a Biblical example we have only to look at the story of Esau and Jacob. At odds in their mother’s womb, these two would grow to found nations in conflict with each other. Jacob was favored by his mother (and ultimately by God), while Isaac favored Esau (Genesis 25:28).

Esau and Jacob were as different as two siblings—let alone twins—could be. Esau was a hunter, rough, earthy, quick to temper, and impatient. Jacob would be referred to today as a “stay at home kind of guy” (Genesis 25:27).

These two brothers had very different personalities, and each parent chose the “favored” child based on their own personalities and preferences. This behavior is often displayed at work; a leader will prefer one person’s personality or style over another. While it is natural, it can be very disruptive and disheartening to your team if obvious preferential treatment leads to different “destinies.” Your team will come to identify or expect your behavior as a leader to be impartial, and this will color their perceptions and their interactions with you and other team members.

Leaders are expected to provide guidance and constructive feedback on the nature and actions of their subordinates. They must harness their teams into a coordinated, if not cohesive, groups able to utilize each others’ strengths and skills to maximize the benefit to the organization, team, and each individual. When a leader’s actions result in the division of a team into opposing factions, then no one wins. Setting your team members up for friendly competition to challenge them to do more, stretch their abilities, can be beneficial, but creating an environment of winning at any cost sets everyone up for failure.

Take time to read the story of Esau and Jacob and delve into the lessons that leaders can learn about addressing different personalities, providing guidance to curb inappropriate behaviors, and actions that can maximize each person’s unique talents.


Author:  Lea A. Strickland, MBA CMA CFM CBM GMC
Copyright ©2012 Lea A. Strickland
All Rights Reserved

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