Transformative leadership: Be the inspiring leader your team wants

By understanding how personality and self-awareness impact how people lead, organisations can take the next step to transform leadership in the workplace.
By: | June 20, 2024

When employees choose to resign, some of the most common reasons cited include a lack of growth opportunities or financial considerations.

While these reasons invariably bear some truth, some employees, whether through conflict avoidance or to ensure bridges are not burnt, choose not to reveal the real reason why they are leaving – bad bosses.

With interpersonal relationships in the workplace becoming increasingly intricate, having good or bad leaders can arguably make or break an organisation’s attempts to retain their best talent. Unfortunately, the former, it would appear, is becoming increasingly hard to come by.

“While good leadership is rare and takes time and concentrated effort to develop, our research shows that leaders can easily go astray in multiple ways,” Anne-Marie Paiement, Regional Manager, Asia Pacific, Hogan Assessment, told HRM Asia.

Hogan Assessment, the international leader in personality insights, developed a personality assessment specifically to measure 11 “dark sides” of personality or more specifically, how people tend to act out in terms of stress, pressure, disengagement, or boredom.

Within these scales, and based on psychologist Karen Horney’s theories, Hogan identified three major trends to show how leaders tend to ‘derail’, with the first being “moving away from people.”

Paiement explained, “Leaders who fall into this trend tend to behave in ways that push others away or remove themselves from true connections with others. These leaders may behave in ways that include appearing emotionally unavailable; being emotionally volatile, swinging between bursts of enthusiasm and passion to intense distaste for people and projects; displaying intense distrust or skepticism for others; acting passive aggressively; and feeling insecure.

“Leaders with these characteristics have difficulty building connections and deep relationships with their team.”

Then, there are “moving against people” leaders, who dominate and manipulate others for their own gain. These leader types are arrogant, refuse to admit their mistakes or listen to advice, and often test the limits of team members through manipulation.

They also act impulsively or dramatically bring attention to themselves and are prone to throwing out strange or unusual ideas that are unachievable. “Leaders with these characteristics may have difficulty gaining credibility with their team members and lose their trust if they manipulate and dominate,” Paiement cautioned.

Lastly, there are “moving towards people” leaders who tend to “kiss up” to their bosses and “kick down” to their team members. “They are hardworking micromanagers who agree with their superiors but are demanding and perfectionistic to the people they manage. Leaders like these are often loved by their superiors but hated by their reports,” she added.

Leading with personality and self-awareness

Clearly, workplace leaders are facing an increasingly tight balancing act when it comes to achieving key organisational goals and building relationships with team members. However, when it comes to shaping leadership style and effectiveness, leaders could do worse than adopting a “who you are is how you lead” mantra.

Paiement offered, “Your personality is the biggest factor in how you will lead, or your leadership style, and self-awareness is the biggest factor in how effective you will be as a leader.”

While many traditional leadership development approaches focus on developing the leader, which helps support the leader’s own career, Hogan advocates for an approach where leaders develop skills to support their teams members to become better performers.

“Your personality is the biggest factor in how you will lead, or your leadership style, and self-awareness is the biggest factor in how effective you will be as a leader.” Anne-Marie Paiement, Regional Manager, Asia Pacific, Hogan Assessment.

Many leadership development programmes also use a one-size-fits-all approach, focusing on aligning leaders to the core competencies or core values of an organisation. “While this is not entirely a bad thing, the missing piece is considering the individual needs of each leader in development.”

Paiement continued, “Hogan recommends first understanding the development needs of each leader, and then creating individualised plans based on personalities. You can still align these plans to the competencies or values of your organisation, but the programme will be more effective if you understand the specific areas individual leaders need to work on using personality data.

“Understanding the individual development needs of each leader can help organisations create effective leadership development tailored to the specific needs of their leaders.”

Transformative leadership: Taking the next step comes from within

Before organisations can embark on the next step in their transformative leadership journey, they may wish to better understand the types of leaders within their ranks.

Hogan offers a checklist that identifies the core characteristics of effective leaders:

  1. Competence: Good leaders are experts in their field and prove competence to their team.
  2. Judgment: Good leaders make good decisions. But more importantly, when they make a wrong decision, they quickly admit their mistake and pivot to another decision.
  3. Vision: Good leaders are those who can cast a vision and convince people to put aside their own personal goals and agendas to work together for the good of the team/organisation.
  4. Integrity: Good leaders are honest and build trust among their team members and peers.

Paiement added, “Effective leadership development that focuses on supporting teams and that uses data to individualise development for each leader is good for the organisation, the leader, the teams being led, and even for supporting future leaders. Offering current and future leaders the opportunity to develop strategic self-awareness creates the largest impact for transforming your leadership.”

READ MORE: How self-awareness and reflection can help elevate leadership

Essentially, leaders need to recognise their own strengths and limitations, and understand how their behavioural tendencies impact their teams and organisations. “By doing so, leaders can adjust their style and behaviours to achieve the most effective outcomes for their teams and organisations. Conversely, leaders who lack strategic self-awareness can pose significant risks to their oganisations,” she concluded.

To gain more actionable insights on foundational people analytics, leadership alignment strategies, and how your organisation can use data to prioritise the development of self-awareness in their leaders, join Anne-Marie Paiement and Lee Zhen Yi, Senior Manager, Asia, Optimal Consulting Group, at HRM Asia’s CHRO Malaysia 2024, which is taking place at the Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara on July 10.

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