Self-Awareness of a Leader and good Understanding of Personality Sets A Leader for Success.
Daniel Nettle is a Behavioral scientist, biologist and social scientist whose research work is notable for integrating Psychology with evolutionary and comparative biology who is a professor with Newcastle University. In his book, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are,” Nettle does a great job at linking human behavior to evolutionary development, and at backing his findings with evidence and studies. He borrows from the latest findings from genetics and brain science and considers the evolutionary origins and consequences of different personalities. Nettle states that our personalities stem from our biological makeup which he defines as a group of traits, that remain stable throughout one’s life. He draws from his own research and others’ to explore what he sees as the “Big five” dimensions of personality: extroversion, neurotism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience. Openness to experience is the most elusive; while it involves creativity, it may also include “restress unconventionality, supernatural beliefs and psychosis-like experiences” as exemplified by Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” Daniel uses a blend of real life stories and scientific research to explain why we all have something deep and consistent in us that determines our choices and the situations that we bring about. Why do members of the same family differ so markedly in their natures? What is the best personality to have? Are you stuck with your personality, or can you change it? These are questions that Nettle addresses in his book and he concludes that life is the business of identifying a niche where your personality works for you. “it is a question of choosing the right pond,” he notes, “and being mindful of the dangers.” He also concludes that there is no ideal personality that you can have, every disposition has advantages and disadvantages.
Nettle has put together knowledge that helps us to understand our personality traits and helps to be self-aware. The information does not necessarily call or elicit specific measurable action but self-awareness guides your future action. As he concludes, it is not about a better personality type or whether you can change your personality, it finding a niche for your personality so that you can be an effective and productive as a leader. Given that your personality which is measured by the Big Five traits remains fairy constant over the lifespan, your focus should not be changing your personality or trying to be like others but rather to identify the right “pond” for your personality. Over your lifespan, there are only marginal shifts where, “As adulthood progresses, people become slightly higher in agreeableness and conscientiousness, and slightly lower in extroversion, openness, and neuroticism,” reflecting a shift from agency (the drive towards achieving things and expressing yourself) to communion (relating with others).
With self-awareness and understanding of personality is crucial in determining where you will thrive but this also equips you with the ability to understand the personality of your followers. With this knowledge and understanding, it become easier to place the people within the organization where their personality fits. This ensure that people operate in their areas of strength which will increase productivity. In a church or faith-based organization, we are obligated as church leaders to empower the followers and ensuring that people operate in their areas of strength. A good understanding of the personality of the followers equips the leader to assist the followers to find their niche and become more productive.
 Daniel Nettle. Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are. Illustrated Edition. (Oxford, England. Oxford University Presss, 2009).
 Allen Ginsberg. Anne Waldman and Bill Belmont. Howl and Other Poems. (United States): Author’s Republic, 2020.
 Daniel Nettle. Personality.
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Mary, thank you for your insightful post. You mention the value of Christ followers finding their niche and working within their personality, is there ever a time or place that one would participate in activities outside that gifting? When and under what circumstances?