One of my earliest leadership debacles took place when I was just a young twenty-something entrusted to manage my very first official employee. I was so excited and eager to put my leadership strengths to work. But this employee of mine was simply not doing things the way that I wanted them done. With an air of superiority and visible frustration I shared with my boss the issues I was facing with this employee. His response to my ranting and raving (or whining depending on your perspective) was, “You are working with people, not widgets, Jenni. If you want to work with widgets go work in an assembly line. If you want to work with people, you’ve got to start leading them.” Instead of running to my rescue and validating my frustration, he reprimanded me for expecting my employee to be just like me.
Great leaders understand the unique and individual talents of their team members and seek to develop those strengths and use them for the betterment of the individual and the organization.
Galatians 6:4-5 from The Message says:
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
As leaders we have a responsibility to not only do this “careful exploration” of ourselves but also to lead others through this to a better understanding of their gifts and how they impact the team and God’s Kingdom. When we understand the importance of the different personalities around us and become intentional about helping these distinct individuals work together, we can release our teams and our organizations to “do the creative best we can”.
Here are 4 types of Creatives I see in most organizations and a few ways that I’ve found to effectively lead them:
The Driven Creative
Initially you love the driven creative. They are the doers – the get-it-done types. You rarely have to push them. More often you have to redirect them because their passion and enthusiasm may cause them to drift off focus. The Driven creative is essential to your team because they inspire movement. Their purposefulness creates energy and, as is human nature, the rest of the team will feel a sense of competition to keep up with them. The challenge with this creative is that they are often unbalanced. They don’t know when to pause or take a strategic break. They live on the verge of burnout and you have to carefully guard their pace and their health.
The Insecure Creative
The insecure creative has more talent than they know what to do with but they can’t get over themselves. This isn’t arrogance. Rather it’s an inability to not take everything personally. Their insecurity holds them back from fully thriving. Often based in fear of rejection, the insecure creative has trouble fully realizing their dreams because their insecurity stops them short. The insecure creative needs you to lead them with sensitivity while also challenging them. They need loads of affirmation, but they also need you to speak truth in a kind and loving way. In order to speak that truth you’ll need to put in the time to develop strong relationships with them. The insecure creative can be one of the greatest contributors to your organization but you have to nurture their gifts to fruition.
The Dominant Creative
The Dominant Creative can also be known as ‘the bull in the china shop’. The Dominant Creative usually leaves destruction in their wake while at the same time accomplishing some pretty big goals for your organization. Dominant Creatives don’t see people, they see task, goals and projects. And they are not satisfied until they achieve – no matter what the cost. The Dominants bring an important sense of urgency to your team. Like the Driven Creative they can be essential in moving things forward especially when they get the vision and understand the purpose. As a leader you have to help soften the edges of the Dominant Creative. You have to find unique ways to help them understand the importance of others and the value of working together.
The Compliant Creative
The Compliant Creative will likely be your favorite person on the team. They are easy to get along with. That’s because they are essentially “yes” men or women. You need Compliants. They are the worker bees. They produce the things that need to be routine. They know the ‘rules’ of the organization and help maintain order in their own way. As a leader you have to be aware of your tendency to favor the compliants. They are so easy to work with that you’ll naturally take this path of least resistance. But you need to remember that compliants are maintainers.
They are rarely going to bring the creative solutions that move your organization forward. That’s okay as long as you have made space for your Driven and Dominants.
Leading a team of varied personalities is the most challenging thing you’ll do as a leader. And it’s your most important job – to bring to life the gifts of the people you lead and blend them in such a way that you accomplish the shared goal.
If someone had told me this when I was 23 and just beginning to lead others, I’m not sure I would have signed up for the job. It’s often completely overwhelming. But as you begin to develop a love for the uniquenesses of your team and work to put those gifts into action, you experience a glimpse of the beauty of all of our God-given gifts working together in the way I believe God intended when he described them in 1 Corinthians 12.
I encourage you to “make a careful exploration” of the gifts, talents and personality types of your team. Understand what motivates them and what discourages them. Then commit yourself to nurturing and developing their gifts. It’s the most rewarding part of leadership!