Building Your Aptitudes

In my immature days of leadership, I used to think there was only one way to lead. Then I read a classic book by Florence Littauer called Personality Plus, and it opened my eyes to the way different temperaments and different personalities create different leadership aptitudes.

Over the years, I've identified four basic aptitudes of leadership - the directional leader, the strategic leader, the team-building leader and the operational leader. Each consists of identifiable strengths and weakness.

So the goal, it might seem, is to master all four aptitudes of leadership. In reality, however, no one person scores high on all four aptitudes. Most people are dominant in one and have a secondary strength in another. That's because the four aptitudes don't fit the same type of temperament and personality.

And since no leader possesses all four leadership aptitudes, the ultimate leadership environment consists of a leadership team. Unfortunately, the tendency among leaders is to surround themselves with others who share similar aptitudes.

This happens for three reasons:

1. Magnetism.

The Law of Magnetism says we attract who we are, not who we want. The first staff member I ever hired was Stan Toler, a long-time friend of mine. We were friends even before I hired him as the only other staff person at the small church I pastored. Stan is a very successful leader in his own right, but he's just like me. Thus, we always wanted the same things.

2. Insecurity.

People who are insecure typically do not like diversity. They wish everybody were like them. They want everybody to think alike, and when somebody is way out there and different, it makes them nervous.

3. Humanness.

It is part of human nature that people who are just like us make us feel more comfortable. When you say, "Here's what I think" and everybody else says, "Yeah, I think that, too," you can't help but feel good. People who are different from us in their leadership aptitudes have a tendency to make us feel uncomfortable.

At INJOY, our leadership team includes directing leaders, team-building leaders, strategic leaders and operational leaders. I am in tune with and enjoy the ones who are just like me the most. But the ones who help me the most are the ones who are not like me.

Those who are unlike you in leadership aptitudes are going to make you uncomfortable, not because they're wrong and you're right and not because you're wrong and they're right, but because you're different.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at