Grow Your Range for When Preferences become Differences

By Tom Davidson

Are you right handed or left? Right-eye dominant or left? How do you cross your legs, left over right or right over left? Would you rather avoid confrontation or meet it head on? Do you prefer to take charge or let others do so?

We all have preferences, some from our natural wiring as individuals and some that we adopt from our environment, the classic dichotomy of nature versus nurture. These preferences start taking shape the minute we’re born, and through reinforcement and practice, we perfect our various modus operandi or MO as adults.

Our MO becomes so natural for us that we go through life hardly noticing our own preferences. They come so easily that they become the norm – for us. Then we scratch our heads when we see someone using another one that is at odds with ours, often thinking, “What’s the matter with them?”

In some cases, our preferences (i.e., data analysis, creativity, detail-orientation) become our strengths, and if we’re lucky, we get to put them to work in how we earn a living, what some might call having a good fit with our jobs.

All this is fine and good, but when you become a life partner with another person, a parent or a leader of others, these preferences become differences that can cause problems unless we are aware of them and care enough to adapt to the situation. When they become so ingrained and overused, they’re called blind spots and potential leadership derailers.

For example, you probably know someone who tends to give the downside of any idea. They poke holes in other people’s ideas, say why they think a plan won’t work, and predict failure for any number of reasons. These “naysayers” get a reputation for being pessimists, difficult to work with, and stuck in the past. That’s unfortunate, because very often their warnings are valid and need to be taken into consideration. But if they overuse their preference, these people’s valuable opinions can be overlooked.

Therefore, as a leader, it’s vital that you know your MO, are able to recognize the MO’s in others, and are willing and able to adapt yours to fit the need. To do that, you have to grow your range so that you don’t always use your natural preferences and can draw on other mindsets and skill sets that would be more likely to help the situation.

To do this, you need to know and grow your range by taking as many personality assessments as possible. Here are three of the hundreds you might consider:

But remember, it’s not enough to know your own range; you also have to be able to adapt your style to fit the situation. As a leader, it’s your job, and it’s the nature of leadership.

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