What makes us human? What makes us tick? Why do we do the things that we do? What has shaped and formed us? These are just some of the existential questions that many of us have probably thought about over the course of our lives, certainly after a challenging interaction with a difficult person.
“Human personalities are rather like fractals. It is not just that what we do in the large-scale narratives of our lives—love, career, friendships—tend to be somewhat consistent over time, with us often repeating the same kinds of triumphs or mistakes. Rather, what we do in the tiny interactions like the way we shop, or dress, or talk to a stranger on a train, or decorate our houses, shows the same kind of patterns as can be observed from examining our whole life,” conveyed Daniel Nettle in his work, Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are. 
For every Myers-Briggs results, Enneagram numbers, or grocery store checkout line horoscope predictions, human beings simply boil down to five broad personality dimensions, according to Nettle. He labels these: 1) Extraversion (outgoing, enthusiastic); 2) Neuroticism (prone to stress and worry); 3) Conscientiousness (organized, self-directed); 4) Agreeableness (trusting, empathetic); 5) Openness (creative, imaginative, eccentric).
Our personality traits are based on each of our levels of these five dimensions. In fact, “A great deal of what happens in our interests, careers, relationships, romantic lives, and health follows from where we fall along these continua.” 
But it is not just our choice in the matter. According to Nettle, the determinant of where we fall in the continua is how our brains are wired up, and the determinants of how the relevant parts of our brains get wired up are firstly genetics, and secondly, various early life influences over which we have no control and which seems essentially irreversible. Thanks, mom and dad…
Each situation we face, each person we encounter, and each set of circumstances we deal with triggers a cognitive impulse on what we think and how we act. Of course, this relates directly back to Agarwal’s Systems One and Systems Two, our conscious and unconscious bias, as well as Kahneman’s System One and System Two, automatic way of thinking based on our body’s instinctive survival mechanism and our more sophisticated way of thinking deliberately and effortfully.
Nettle continues to add layers of understanding to the complexity of what it means to be human and how we relate to one another. As organizational leaders, more specifically those that see things through a theological lens, we are taking a more sophisticated look at the wonder of God’s creation. How diverse and unique are each individual we encounter. How marvelously intricate are the people we lead.
In turn, we are faced with the challenge of better understanding people so that we can position, as an influence in their lives, for success. Finally, as spiritual leaders, we are tasked with elevating our approach to spiritual formation, recognizing that people learn and experience God differently.
As I was sifting through the five dimensions of personalities, my mind wandered to various biblical figures and where they might fit into the continua. Zeroing specifically into the disciples is a fascinating case study of emotional and temperamental impulses with a wide range of characters, from Simon the Zealot to Judas son of James.
We tend to remove the unique personalities of Biblical figures, flattening them only to serve the purpose of the point we are driving to drive home through a sermon, Bible study, book, or resources. How often have we ignored the narcissistic tendencies of David’s story because the shepherd boy against the giant or the man after God’s own heart is a much easier story to tell? But each of these rich characters gives us even further insight into how different personality types relate to the Almighty. In doing so, we dilute the fullness of God’s diverse creation to serve our purpose rather than the unknowable purpose of God.
Nettle’s work in sociology, psychology, and anthropology provides accessible resources for those seeking to understand themselves and others better.
 Nettle, Daniel, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press,
 Ibid., 29.
 Ibid., 234.