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How to accept your personality traits and use them to your advantage

  • Thursday, November 24, 2022
  • Courtney Owens
  • Leadership
  • Blog
  • minute read

Many participants find it hard to accept the personality traits that are identified in a Hogan test. Dr Courtney Owens looks at how leaders can go from trait sceptics who "don't think that's me" to recognising the benefits of their unique personalities.

Why do we need to know about personality traits?

Why do your personality traits really even matter in the workplace? You could be forgiven for thinking that if you keep your work life and your home life separate, your personality isn’t relevant. As long as you get the job done, who cares what makes you tick as an individual?

And for a long time that’s how many business leaders have operated.

But in reality, your personality traits are what make you human. We are more than just a collection of cells and our every decision and action – both at home and in the workplace – are absolutely driven by our personality traits.

As a leader, or future leader, your personality traits and your personality at work play a huge role in every part of your job. The way you make decisions, the way you cope with stress, your ability to build relationships, the way you’re perceived by both your superiors and your wider team, your performance drivers, how you measure success, your reasoning, and in some owner-operated business cases, even the core values of the business can all be impacted by your personality traits.

So clearly, personality matters. And what matters just as much is your ability to understand and recognise your own personality traits.

Recognising and understanding your personality traits

What happens if the way you see yourself differs to the way you are perceived by others in the workplace? Your reputation at work, and often your ability to succeed at work, are driven by the way others perceive you, not the way you perceive yourself. Sometimes those viewpoints are the same but not always. We’ve all worked in environments with leaders who think they’re perceived as ambitious and innovative but behind closed doors are talked about as something quite different.

This is particularly true for our dark personality traits, and such misunderstanding can impact your ability to learn as a leader. So it’s important to understand yourself first, and how that impacts on leadership, before you start developing your leadership skills.

As part of our Manchester Leadership Development Programme we carry out a Hogan personality test for all delegates. The test provides a series of questions designed to unearth personality traits and describe personality tendencies in the workplace. We then go through the results of the test to work out what that means for each delegate’s leadership style, enabling them to find out about their own personality traits and what they mean for leadership at work. By the end of the day, delegates will walk away with a plan for how to get the most from their personality traits and recognise what they can do to hone their leadership skills.

Only once we recognise our own personality traits, including our dark traits, can we better understand other people’s perceptions of ourselves as leaders. This understanding is necessary to become the best leaders we can be.

Of course, it goes without saying that we get trait sceptics who can’t recognise themselves in the results of the tests. We’ll inevitably get some who don’t believe their dark trait ratings are accurate, and part of the challenge is to get those sceptics to embrace the possibility they really might have high scores on those dark traits.

We design our programme on the MLDP to overcome this scepticism. One method we use is an anonymous polling system which allows delegates to see how many other people in the room have the same dark trait. This immediately normalises the results and reduces the stigma, which in turn brings down barriers as delegates start to realise “oh it’s ok to have that trait, I’m not the only one.”

We also talk around these traits and how delegates feel when they present in other people. This discussion helps us identify damaging behaviours and how others might feel if we treat them that way. Once delegates can acknowledge how certain traits and behaviours can be demotivating and disabling, they’re better able to recognise their own dark traits and the behaviours they might change in order to better motivate and enable their own teams.  

Find out more about Dr Owens’ Leadership in Practice module on our MLDP course.

Blog posts give the views of the author, and are not necessarily those of Alliance Manchester Business School and The University of Manchester.

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