Leadership Studies Don’t Work, and I’m an INTP

I am an INTP. We are one of the smallest of the Myers Briggs groups, and that does create problems for us at work. But more importantly, it explains why studies about leadership, are (usually) irrelevant.

Someone told me that leadership and strategy are the two business related words that are entered most often in search engines. That's a shame because they are two of the things most difficult to discuss and apply. Leadership studies, for example, try to draw out traits of good leaders. The idea is that you can either hire people with these traits, or work on developing these traits, and through that you can build good leaders. But that misses a key point. It misses that I am an INTP and you aren't. What makes me a good leader isn't what makes you a good leader.

Let's take an example. What makes a good basketball player? Well, how about the ability to dribble well? That's true. Learning to dribble well will make anyone a better basketball player than they were before. But does that mean you should practice dribbling? Not if you are 7 feet tall. Sure, a center that can dribble has advantages, but it's more important that a center can rebound and score. So instead of spending time dribbling, a center should work on rebounding and post moves. What about a guard with post moves? Well, that's cool and all, but really a guard should work on dribbling and passing. Leadership is the same way. I need to work on different things than you do. Saying that trait x makes you a good leader makes as much sense as saying that skill x makes you a good basketball player.

But don't misinterpret this. I'm not saying there are 10 things that make a good leader and INTPs have 3 already and need to work on 7, but ENTJs have 5 already and only need to work on 5. I'm saying if you studied INTP leaders and any other kind of leaders, you would come to differnent conclusions about what makes a good leader. It all comes back to something a track coach once told me about making athletes run faster. He said you first analyze the athletes to determine their strenghts and weaknesses. You do a little work on correcting the weaknesses, but mostly you focus on amplifying their strengths. Taking advantage of what you are good at is more important than improving on what you are bad at. Why? Because someone else will be good at the things you are bad at. It's just the idea of comparative advantage applied to individuals.

So don't waste your time figuring out the secret to leadership. Instead, spend time figuring out what you are good at, and how you can harness your strengths. And if you want to be a good leader, figure out how you can do that for other people too.

That's the secret. Work is all screwed up because everyone tries to put everyone else in a box. I work well in a cubicle so you must too. I work better with my own office so you must too. I need long lunches, so everyone should take them. I like to work through lunch, and everyone else should do the same. No. They shouldn't. Your work style is individual, and work environments should be individual as well. Understand and apply that, and you will become a good leader.