Personality is Irrelevant! Why Your Assumptions About Leadership May Be Wrong

By Kevin Liebe, AuD

Jim Collins
Jim Collins

Last fall, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a really fantastic audiology conference that included nationally renowned experts on business and leadership. One of those experts, Jim Collins, challenged some of our core assumptions on why certain businesses flourish while others perish and why some leaders are highly effective.

According to Collins, the formula for an effective leader is simple:  Humility + Will = Great Leader.

Great Personality is Not a Requirement For Great Leadership

When we often think of great leaders, we imagine someone who is an amazing speaker—able to inspire throngs of people to follow them and their grandiose ideas. Not so, says Collins. Contrary to this widely held belief, Collins claims that personality is completely immaterial to the question of great leadership. Rather, great leaders are simply more disciplined in their approach.

“The best leaders were not more risk taking, more visionary, or more creative than the comparisons; they were more disciplined, more empirical, more paranoid{{1}}[[1]]“Productive” Paranoia, read more about what this means here [[1]].” Great By Choice -Collins & Hansen (2011)

Major data-driven companies like Google seem to agree with Collins’s contrarian view. Using an evidence-based approach, Google has determined the most important character trait of a leader is: Predictability.

Disciplined action is consistent action. When leaders are predictable and consistent, employees often feel more at ease, and this provides them with a greater sense of autonomy.

According to a study by Deci & Ryan (2004), employees with the highest job satisfaction rating were those with managers that offered autonomy support.{{2}}[[2]]autonomy support defined as: acknowledgment and encouragement support structure used to get work done as the employee determines, not the manager[[2]]

Leading in the Audiology Clinic

You might be wondering how this whole discussion is relevant to audiology and hearing healthcare. For starters, it should give us pause to reflect on how our daily actions are impacting those around us: Are we being consistent in what we say and what we do?

No one can deny the importance of consistency in patient care. Patients will, justifiably, lose trust in the clinician and an office that seems to give out inconsistent messages.

leaderEach of us is leading in some capacity in our lives, be it at home or at work. Even if you’re not a private practice owner, for example, many audiologists today provide some sort of supervisory role to other staff members. Overseeing the work of an assistant, providing guidance to a student or training new front office staff, just to name a few.

Being a good leader is remembering that it isn’t about you. It’s about supporting those around you—even if sometimes that makes you look “boring and predictable.”

We’re all leaders.

The question then remains: How do you choose to lead?


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HHTM's mission is to bridge the knowledge gaps in treating hearing loss by providing timely information and lively insights to anyone who cares about hearing loss. Our contributors and readers are drawn from many sectors of the hearing field, including practitioners, researchers, manufacturers, educators, and, importantly, consumers with hearing loss and those who love them.