Thursday, February 3, 2011

Leadership: Can Inspiration and Manipulation Play Well Together?

I was recently asked to take one of those personality tests at the office. You know the kind – read a set of statements and choose the one that fits you best. At the end of the test you will find out what kind of person you are. This particular test was about communication style. It divides communication types into dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness. I was the last person on my “team” to take the test, and everyone was making bets on my results. Just about everyone was certain that I would be labeled a “D” – for dominance. That certainly isn’t surprising, as I would assume the same thing. After all, at the end of my service as Alumni Board Chair, alumnus Gene Barton presented me with a gift from the entire alumni board: a sledgehammer. Hmmmm…….

Not surprisingly, I scored a high “D” on the test. However, my scores were almost completely equal in the D (dominance) and I (influence) category. Interesting. Taken together, at least according to this survey, my communication type was categorized as “inspirational”.

Well, I really liked that description. Inspirational just sounds nicer than dominance. Imagine my discomfort when reading the description of the inspirational “type” in the profile description and learning that it really wasn’t what I had expected. While words like

·        charming
·        clear
·        results
·        persuasive

were listed, other words like

·        manipulating
·        predetermined end
·        controls environment

were equally present.

 I laughed it off but found myself wondering – is this really what I think of myself? And how do manipulation and inspiration really fit together?

According to Merriam-Webster, inspiration means “the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions” and “the act of influencing or suggesting opinions.” I know that I appreciate a leader who inspires. Don’t we all? We want to feel as though our efforts have greater meaning, and an inspirational leader can tap into our emotions and intellect so that we feel empowered and even compelled to act.

I was upset that the word “manipulating” was in my descriptor, but upon further thought, I’ll take that back  We generally think of that word with a derogatory meaning – “to control or to use to one’s own advantage by unfair means”. But I learned that it is also defined as “to manage or utilize skillfully”. Wait a minute. That’s not such a bad descriptor. Don’t we want our leaders to manage our resources skillfully? Don’t we want our leaders to utilize the skill sets of their team members to their best efforts? I set forth that the word manipulate may have gotten a bad rap. Manipulating, particularly in a leader with vision and ethics, can be incredibly important to an organization.

Taken together in the best senses of the words, manipulating and inspirational leaders may actually be those who have both the charm and the skill to get their organizations to the next level. I think that’s what we’re all craving in our leaders right now: those with the vision to inspire us to great work, and those with the skill to manage our human and other resources to actually get that great work done.

Do you know any leaders with these qualifications? Who inspires you???

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