Social Styles for Personal Credibility

In Chapter 2, you learned about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tool, which is useful for identifying behavioral preferences. MBTI helps you understand your own psychological tendencies for extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuition, thinking and feeling, and judging and perceiving. The social styles model is also a very useful tool for your IT geek leadership toolbox. Your awareness, adaptability, and versatility with personal styles can enable you to increase your interpersonal effectiveness and improve your personal credibility with team members, peers, senior leaders, customers, and other project stakeholders.

Psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid published their social styles model in Personal Styles and Effective Performance in 1981 (Merrill and Reid, 1981). They defined four behavioral profiles: Driver, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytical:

  • Driver. Behavior characterized by “telling.” Driver types “control” their feelings and are considered assertive and serious. They tell people what they think and require, and they usually do not display their feelings.
  • Expressive. Behavior characterized by “telling.” Expressive types “emote,” showing their feelings, and are considered assertive.
  • Amiable. Behavior characterized by “asking.” Amiable types “emote,” openly displaying their feelings, and are considered agreeable and cooperative.

Analytical. Behavior characterized by “asking.” Analytical types “control” their feelings. They are inquisitive. Their nature is to gather data and study information.

These social style profiles, and their associated Myers Briggs Type Indicators, are shown in Figure 6-1.

All social style profiles are equal; one is not better or worse than another. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and each can be effective.

Like MBTI, we all have a dominant, preferred style. We have parts of each style within us, and we are capable of demonstrating those styles when necessary. However, our preferred style requires the least energy and stress and is therefore dominant.

The basic difference between MBTI and social styles is that social styles are based on the perception of others while MBTI is based on self-perception. Together, those two tools provide a more detailed and complete view of a person (Mulqueen, n.d.). As a leader, if you understand both, you can better adapt your behavior to make the person you are engaging with more comfortable around you, a concept Merrill and Reid refer to as versatility. The more versatile you are, the larger the audience of people who feel comfortable interacting with you, the better equipped you can be to handle conflict, the more people trust you, and the stronger is your personal credibility.

Four personal styles

Figure 6-1 Four personal styles.

Our style does not define who we are, only our behavior patterns as perceived by others. Our styles do not define how we think or how we feel.

As we work together to achieve our shared vision, we still have different individual needs and goals. We communicate differently. We use time differently. Our style impacts how we make decisions and how we deal with conflict.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the social styles.

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