It’s fair to say that Advocate (INFJ) personality types can be pretty good leaders. Take a look at some of history’s most influential Advocate leaders: Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Plato.
But if you were to tell an Advocate that they would make a good leader, they might disagree. According to our polls, 38% of Advocates said they do not think they have excellent leadership skills. This was one of the highest rates among the 16 personality types.
So, why is it that Advocates don’t have as much confidence as other personality types when it comes to leadership?
It could be:
- their Introversion. Studies have shown that, historically, Introverted personalities have been less likely than Extraverted personalities to become leaders, both in formal situations (like work) and informal situations (like a group of friends). Reasons for this disparity could range from feeling as though leadership would be a negative experience to anxiety over being responsible for others.
- their Feeling personality trait. Advocates often use logic and rationality to make decisions, but it’s always through the lens of compassion. They ask themselves questions like, “How can I better help my students?” or “What can I do to make sure everyone crosses the finish line?”
- Because of this compassion, it can be difficult for Advocates to interact with the harsh, widespread belief that leadership involves showing force, firing employees, critiquing people, punishing people, and more. (Note: contrary to popular belief, not all leadership styles involve these harsher aspects.)
Of course, there can be countless reasons why an individual may not feel comfortable in a leadership role. But no matter what the reasons may be, there are four things that every Advocate should know about leadership.
1. It’s Not You, It’s the System
As a society, we’ve built a system that rewards Extraverts over Introverts.
A good example of this is when an Introverted employee finds themselves passed over for a promotion because their quietness translates to being “not outgoing enough” or “unable to communicate” or just plain “too quiet.”
Additionally, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland found that people associate the following words with “leader”: self-confidence, charisma, drive, and motivation.
So, of course, Extraverted personality types – who have an easier time making themselves known in a crowded room, who easily influence others, who dominate conversations, and who feel positively about networking – fit well into our perception of what a leader should be.
Now, none of this means that Introverted personalities make bad leaders. All this means is that Introverts make a different sort of leader. So, instead of feigning Extraverted behaviors, an Advocate can bring the following skills to leadership positions:
- the skill of listening before speaking
- the skill of seeking out deeply intentional conversations
- the skill of being naturally conscientious
2. Don’t Pull Back at the First Sign of Dissent
Sometimes, the people who Advocates lead won’t like them.
And that’s okay.
We say this because Advocates, of all personality types, want people to like them – especially the people they’re leading. The alternative is that they feel deeply discouraged if they hear dissent within the ranks – even if there are a thousand people praising them, Advocate personalities can home in on a few critical voices.
There are a few ways to deal with this. The first is to understand that there is no moral duel to win. Dissent doesn’t mean that those who disagree with their Advocate leader are bad, and the Advocate is good, or vice versa. All it means is that their style of leadership clashes with those individuals’ expectations. Their opinion has no effect on an Advocate leader’s intrinsic value as a person.
If Advocates encounter tension, they should take a step back. They can allow themselves to feel their emotions and, once they’re ready, step back into the conversation and do what they do best: listen.
Then, if possible, they can find the most humane solution to the issue.
3. You’re Likely to Prefer a Democratic Style of Leadership
There are three main styles of leadership. They include:
- Authoritarian: This style is characterized by individual control over all decisions, with little input from group members.
- Democratic: This style of leadership emphasizes collaboration, where group members are encouraged to give ideas.
- Laissez-faire: Literally meaning “let do,” laissez-faire leadership is when leaders hand off decision-making to group members, with leaders providing tools and resources as needed.
According to our data, Advocates are among the most likely personality types to (1) feel disinclined to be leaders, and (2) prefer a democratic style of leadership when they are in leadership roles.
The pros of a democratic style of leadership include increased productivity, diversity of ideas, and strong teams. Some disadvantages are that it slows down the decision-making process and democratic leaders can be ineffective in a crisis.
4. Know When to Embrace the Authoritarian or Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles
Although Advocates are likely to employ a democratic style of leadership, they may find that there are times and places that call for authoritarian and laissez-faire leadership styles. Here are a few examples of when a traditionally democratic leader can implement a different leadership style.
Advocates can use this leadership style when:
- control is imperative,
- there is little margin for error, or
- the surrounding situation is dangerous and rigid rules are necessary to keep people safe.
The authoritarian leadership style is best used during times of emergency, especially if taking time to discuss things could land everyone in great danger. It can also be appropriate to adopt this leadership style if there are specific regulations (like a federal mandate) that must be followed.
Advocates like to be hands-on and involved. Sometimes, though, it is useful to take a step back and let their team take care of themselves. The laissez-faire style of leadership can be deeply rewarding to Advocate personalities, as they enjoy seeing others grow and realize their full potential.
Advocates can use this leadership style when:
- each member of their team is highly skilled in their designated field,
- team members are highly motivated without additional persuasion, or
- they wish to observe how the team works together when they’re not there.
Advocate personality types often don’t make for traditional leaders, and that can be a very good thing.
As leaders, these personalities always take the well-being of their team into consideration. They are deeply concerned about making sure that everyone is heard and that ideas are never stifled. Teams led by Advocates are likely to be ultraproductive, tight-knit, and creative.
When it comes to personality traits, Advocates who take a balanced approach to leadership listen to critiques. However, the greatest Advocate leaders don’t allow dissent to cow them. Instead, they consider such feedback and use it to propel them – and their team – forward.
And they do all of this in a system that wasn’t built for them. Advocate leaders can be a force to be reckoned with, indeed.