12 Problems with Strong Personalities
The problem with strong personalities (SP’s) is their ability for good is matched by their ability to harm.
All strong personalities, in some ways, are jerks.
12 problems with strong personalities:
- Don’t play well with others.
- Make weaker people feel bullied.
- Expect things to go their way. They love control.
- Judge quickly.
- Change their mind slowly, if at all.
- Enjoy leading teams who admire and agree with them.
- Collide with other strong personalities.
- Allow others to step back to make space for them to step in.
- Struggle to release less important issues. Everything is important.
- Don’t see themselves through the eyes of others.
- See everything as black or white.
- Exhibit impatience and intolerance.
All problems with strong personalities reflect positive potential.
The goal when leading strong personalities is maximize their passion. Pushing SP’s to fit-in dampens passion.
Conformity drains passion.
The good thing about strong personalities is they resist compliance. The challenge is helping them fit-in enough so they can do the most good.
Passion is the opposite of conformity.
Strong personalities feel frustrated when they don’t get what they want. Help them see frustration and resistance as an opportunity to fulfill their passion.
Listen to their passion. Don’t dampen it.
- Help SP’s who are passionate about excellence connect developing others as the pursuit of excellence.
- Help SP’s who are passionate about clarity view confusion as an opportunity to clarify focus.
- Help SP’s who are passionate about change view resistance as a transformation challenge.
Don’t make SP’s feel something is wrong with them. View situations through the lens of their passion and find ways for them to express, rather than suppress, themselves.
Strong personalities do the most good and the most harm in organizations.
Successful leaders maximize the potential of strong personalities.
What are some problems with strong personalities?
How might leaders create environments where strong personalities thrive?
I agree with most of your SP observations, however personality seldom stands alone. A strong ethical compass and the ability to “think team” not just me, makes a huge difference
When given the opportunity to hire a strong personality I always did. Like a German Shepherd. I’ll risk training away the bite, to get the strength and (usually) loyalty.
Thanks Ken. Your addition of the importance of a strong ethical compass is necessary. So glad you added it.
I’m not as convinced on the ability to “think team,” at least in the early going. I think SP’s tend to think of themselves. Learning about the power of teams, which includes letting go of things come slowly.
Love your German Shepherd illustration. 🙂
Strong personalities are extremely good team players, as long as the coach is clear as to the team objective and makes everyone work towards it. SPs get frustrated with incompetence and laziness in their leaders or teammates. i would argue that most of top executives actually are SPs (except in corporations so big they are really political entiities), but it is also true that many other SPs do get sidetracked if they wind up in a culture that would rather sweep issues under the rug than deal with them.
I completely agree with your comments Douglas!
Great observations about SP’s! I think you have to be strategic on what role you are hiring an SP for. They are going to challenge status quo, slow decision making processed and push their agenda as the most important. They tend to have the ability to rally people and gain influence real quick so you can’t hire an SP and put a harness on them you have to communicate what you want done and let them do it.
Thanks Dean. Great add. Finding alignment with strategy, mission, vision, and values is essential for maximizing the potential of an SP.
I like your “strategic about role placement” thoughts…
Great post. I would agree that role placement when bringing a strong personality onto your team is critical. I’ve always favored strong personalities and their passion perhaps because I am one. Do you think most in leadership roles are?
Thanks Sarah. I’ve been thinking about “strong personality.” I don’t want to limit it to someone who is bold or loud. I have an SP who is strong on compassion, for example. He’s not weak but he tends not to be loud, either.
In addition, quiet people are often strong people.
Having said that, I’d say most leaders are SP’s in some way, as long as we include things like humility or compassion in the mix.
What do you think?
SPs is very difficult to approach and communicate, they often challenge every thing, say not to every thing if he thinks things are not going what he believes. I feel hard to dealing with those people. Any ideas?
Why hire SPs?
A team of focused SP’s who pull together goes further, faster.
In addition, my observation is that it’s the SP’s who often propel organizations forward even if they also create turmoil.
What do you think?
Hi Gately Consulting. WHY is always the most profound question. I have an “opinion.”
First, It is widely known “the brightest and most knowledgeable persons in the world–with very few exceptions–work for other people.” They not only work in large corporations but in small businesses, and in universities and university-affiliated settings. The three basic reasons why
these highly intelligent persons generally choose not to work for themselves are: 1) They do not want to deal with the business-side of things; 2) Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius; and 3) They fear not to be eccentric in their thinking–for every opinion now accepted…was once eccentric, and being eccentric–choosing not to be safely mundane–allows them the courage to be creative thinkers and to launch their creations.
It is also my opinion the very best leaders will hire persons who may be brighter than they are,
even if that includes a person like ourselves with a personality strong enough to take us to the top.
Good observation. But I would like to add something. As far as I have observed, there’s no doubt that SPs are deterministic and talented. But they are also self-centered in a way. They care less about their teammates’ wishes and always try to dominate them.
So, A guide is always needed to sublimate their energy in right direction and in a right way.
Thanks Akshay. Glad you chimed in. The good and bad of being self-centered is the confidence to push for what you want. But, as you indicate, if leaders can get SP’s pushing in a direction that is good for the organization, everyone wins.
Excellent as always. I have struggled to lead this type of leader. These tips are very practical. SP’s have so much potential. Like dynamite – they will have an impact. It will be destructive or constructive but they will definitely have an impact.
One of the best things that an SP can do for themselves and those around them is to develop a high EQ. One of the best things that can happen for an SP who is on his or her leadership journey is to find a leader(s) committed to helping them grow and mature into a well-rounded, healthy leader without squashing the passion that drives them because we need SP leaders!
Dan, I’m a huge fan and don’t know what I’d do without LF everyday.
I wonder about this statement, however: “Strong personalities do the most good and the most harm in organizations.” Don’t you think that go-along, “whatever,” sycophantic conformists do the most damage?
Or (entirely likely), did I miss the point?
Hi Dan….thank you for the interesting article. No real point to my comment but I thought I’d share since I am most definitely an SP. Perhaps a little mellower with age but I still check off most of the boxes on your definition of an SP. I’m not sure how I became one…..maybe it’s just my nature. I have been successful working with others and I have had a hard time understanding others who didn’t have the same mind set or passion as I have/had. I know I can be hard on people….but I’m always hardest on myself. I am a driven to succeed kind-a-guy who expects the best (my version of it perhaps) and no other option is acceptable. I have never had to manage an SP or look in the mirror as it were so I’m not sure if I’d be able to co-exist with another SP…..would be an interesting dynamic. Thank you for the thought provoking article.
And what if the SP is the Leader, where attempts to ‘manage up’ fail? Time to move on?
Where does an individual who “makes weaker people feel bullied” cross the line into an individual who is actually a bully?
That’s tricky because there is a subjective element to bullying. Essentially if a person FEELS bullied, that makes the other a bully until the opposite is proved. Even if it is proved, the bullied person will still remember this and the effect won’t necessarily go away. It’s better to spot out those who might feel bullied beforehand and keep them away from the SP’s.
Love your stuff and an avid follower! Reading this blog I felt unusually jarred. Then something dawned on me… So what is a “strong personality”? I guess I now believe “strong” does not equal “overt or extrovert” – so what do you mean? I have seen and felt damage from so so many passive aggressive personalities that I have grown to love those who overtly state their direction. What am I missing here? Is it how much air space a person takes up?
For me SPs come in all different shapes and sizes – so what’s common to them all?
With both strong and weaker personalities, I believe the key to success is the ability to be self-reflective and self-aware. With those skills, no matter which way you lean, you will have the ability to maximize the good behaviors and protect against the more risky behaviors.
You hit the jackpot in saying that that “strong personalities do the most good and the most harm in an organization”. However, having that stated, we must consider those in between. It is the folks in the middle that search for alignment. The SP’s wanting to do the most good for an organization are always at odds with the SP’s wanting to do what they want to do which brings about the most harm. If the culture of the organization is not one that is not conducive to supporting the SP’s wanting to do the most good, the middle is left in limbo.
The middle becomes too afraid to stand for what is right for fear they will become ostracized. The SP’s who are passionate for the good of the organization will virtually risk everything to see good come to fruition even though the SP’s focused on their own agenda will do all in their power to discredit the SP’s attempting to bring about positive change. After a while, the middle sees the frustration and relentless struggle of the SP”s swimming against the current trying to change for the good and decide they would much rather just go with the flow.
I’m not sure I follow this. It seems as if it would take another kind of SP to keep the despotic SP in line. This seems like a battle of wills and a huge energy drain.
Hhmm… Probably in line with Cheryl’s comment… May I ask how you are defining SP? Must you exhibit these problems to be an SP?
whoa!!!!!!!!!!! that sounds like me to a point. wonder where my strong compassion for others come from? I must say that #s 2, 7,10, 11 are not me. So am I stuck in betwixt?
Great post! How does management/leadership best corral or “turn” an SP who is down a destructive/damaging path in a resistant, conservative group or organization that is also in desperate need of the innovation and energy of the SP? It’s disappointing seeing talent wasted/misplaced when leadership is not able to properly manage or channel it for good.
I think it’s really hard to say if a person with strong personality can be a good leader. on one hand, people with SP are highly enthusiastic and it will be easier for them to motivate others. It seems like they are never exhausted and are always dedicated to change. On the other hand, their unconformity hardly allows them to care about others and show empathy. Besides, their intolerance shows the inability to control themselves and thus, making right decision. Maybe every coin has two sides and it’s really hard form me to judge whether SP contributes or discourages a good leader.
Fantastic post, thank you! I enjoy all of your posts but this one hit particularly close to home.