Why Temperament Counts in Leadership Selection

Temperament Matters

Temperament has become a familiar topic in the 2016 Presidential Election.  What does it really mean?  Why should we care?  It matters a lot!  We are all born with a core temperament.  It is the internal wiring of our personality. While personality develops over time, temperament is a constant. Since temperament is a combination of values, words and actions which determine behavior, it can provide a unique lens for a taking deeper look at leadership selection.

There are four temperaments according to Dr. David Keirsey:  the Artisan, the Guardian, the Rational and the Idealist.  One  way to understand the temperaments is to use animal imagery:  Fox-Artisan;  Beaver-Guardian;  Owl-Rational and Dolphin-Idealist

The Four Temperaments

Fox-Artisan:  A fox quickly scans the environment for survival.   Each day is a quest for opportunities. Foxes are known for their intelligence and speed.  Artisans, like the fox, move quickly by adjusting their plans to the needs of the moment. They communicate directly and informally.  As leaders, they are efficient, direct, informal, flexible and adventurous. Their deepest need is autonomy.  When constrained, they will retaliate.

Beaver-Guardian: Beavers work hard at building their dams all day long.  They will protect their homes unceasingly. Likewise, Guardians are highly responsible, protecting what is theirs.  They respect rules, procedures and protocols.  Guardians will bring the best of the past into the present moment.  As leaders, Guardians are factual, reliable and fair. If stressed by insubordination, they will complain.

Owl-Rational: Visualize the owl in the forest, perched high on a tree. Owls strategically observe and swoop down at the right moment.  Similarly, the Rationals use strategic analysis to deal with all situations.  They prefer theories, models and possibilities.  Trusting their logic, they are often skeptical until proven otherwise. As leaders, they are visionaries.  Rationals will obsess if they are stressed by lack of power or competence.

Dolphin-Idealist:  Dolphins are gregarious and great communicators.  Playful and yet caring, as many stories of dolphins rescuing humans report.  In a similar way, the Idealists strive to be cooperative, working toward the greater good.  As leaders, Dolphins are people focused, inspiring and open-minded.  Idealists will withdraw if  stressed by insincerity or betrayal.

Ask these temperament questions when selecting leaders

Certainly, temperament does not tell the whole story about selecting a President of the United States, or evaluating a current leader.  But it may provide insights into your selection process.  Keep in mind the requirements of the position and answer the following questions:

  • What does this person say or do?
  • What temperament does this person demonstrate?
  • What temperament is needed for the current situation?
  • Is this person’s temperament appropriate for the role and responsibilities?