Taking the Social Lead

Being bold in social situations is not easy for everyone. Some people just don’t want to step up and get the ball rolling. They feel awkward and indecisive, preferring to observe more than participate. If called upon to take charge, they have to muster the energy for the challenge.

Other people are much more outgoing. Quick to insert themselves into the lead role in social activities, they will plan the office parties, set the agenda for outings with friends, and even strike up conversations with strangers. What makes these people bolder?

To learn more about which personality types feel most comfortable in leadership roles, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Taking the lead in social situations comes naturally to you.” Slightly less than half (49%) agreed overall, but the responses of different types varied dramatically.

The results confirm a basic precept of personality theory relating to the Mind aspect – Extraversion and Introversion – but we’ll look at that in a moment. First, let’s consider the other, subtler trait influences that may be at play by examining the responses of each Role.

Roles

Analysts (54% agreeing)

Thinking personality types were 5% more likely than Feeling types to agree that taking the social lead comes naturally to them, and Intuitive types were 4% more likely than Observant types to agree. Thus, we see Analyst personalities with the highest agreement rate among the Roles. Analysts have excellent strategic planning abilities, and they may feel compelled to share creative ideas and suggestions in social situations – not just because they desire attention. Whereas some personality types might feel rewarded by the act of leadership itself, many Analysts feel fulfilled simply by seeing their plans appreciated and executed. In other words, Analysts’ big ideas tend to push them into social leadership positions organically.

Diplomats (50%)

Diplomats, although also Intuitive personality types, are motivated differently than Analysts, due to their Feeling trait. Rather than seeking a leadership role to advance their own plans and creative ideas, many Diplomats are attracted to the emotional fulfillment that leadership can bring. Even if it doesn’t come quite as naturally to them, they recognize that taking the lead can better enable them to extend empathy to others, to foster harmony, and to do good in their communities.

Sentinels and Explorers (48% and 46%)

Sentinels and Explorers, by contrast, share the Observant personality trait, which might have lowered their overall likelihood to agree that they are natural social leaders. Practical and pragmatic, Observant types have strong habits and tend to avoid juggling multiple activities. These personalities simply don’t feel as compelled as Intuitive types to pursue fanciful or novel ideas and lead others along with them on the journey.

Strategies

People Mastery (81% agreeing)

Examining the responses by Strategy, we arrive at the real story: the Mind aspect is the major determinant in social leadership. Extraverts indicated that they are significantly (60%) more likely to take the lead in social situations. This confirms and demonstrates a classic behavior and core tenet of personality theory. Extraverts crave excitement and stimulation, and they often enjoy interacting with other people. For the People Mastery Strategy in particular, social leadership is the most natural thing in the world; it provides an outlet for People Masters to create and experience a highly rewarding social environment.

The Assertive Identity of People Masters only makes them more likely to volunteer suggestions and offer direction. They may even push to get their way or achieve a goal. Assertive Commanders (ENTJ-A) (88%) certainly would, and they were the personality type most likely to agree with our statement. Just as their name implies, Commanders take confident command of the groups they’re in, and leadership is something they’re both motivated to do and effective at doing. Adept at reading other people and making sure-footed decisions, these personalities provide the group with a strong sense of security and trust.

Social Engagement (76%)

The Extraverted members of the Social Engagement Strategy reported a slightly lower rate of agreement. Their Turbulent Identity makes them prone to second-guessing and self-doubt, making it harder for them to step up and try to persuade or instruct others. In fact, Turbulent personality types were 18% less likely than Assertive types to agree that taking the lead comes naturally to them. Because Social Engagers are sensitive to stress and concerned with how they’re perceived by others, they’re not as prepared for dissent if someone doesn’t agree with them.

Confident Individualism (23%)

The drastically lower agreement rates of the two Introverted Strategies, Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement, further underscore the powerful influence of the Mind aspect in social scenarios. Never mind positions of leadership – any kind of socializing takes real effort for Introverted personalities. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be great leaders, just that they have to step outside of their comfort zone and really work at it over time.

Confident Individualists may avoid stepping up in social situations not only because they don’t crave intense social interaction, but also because they may find trying to lead a group toward a common goal or experience to be annoying. These personality types are secure in their own perspectives and preferences – a function of their Assertive Identity – and have little patience for disagreement.

Constant Improvement (17%)

For Turbulent Constant Improvers, the challenge of bringing differing views into harmony and moving people to action is stressful and unappealing. Less confident in their own abilities and more interested in improving themselves, they’d much rather take a passive role in social situations, simply absorbing whatever elements they can enjoy.

Two Constant Improver types tied for being the least likely personality types to take the social lead: Turbulent Defenders (ISFJ-T) and Turbulent Adventurers (ISFP-T), both of whom agreed with our statement at a rate of just 12%. Defenders live to help others, but they prefer to offer guidance and assistance as mentors and supporters, rather than as leaders. Adventurer personalities, although their name suggests an eagerness to dive into new situations, tend to be more interested in personal exploration than in directing others. Their need to experiment with new ideas and test theories makes them less suitable to be leaders, since they work best without rules, protocols, and limitations.

Conclusions

Subtle personality trait associations aside, the primary factor that determined how naturally respondents take the social lead was the Mind aspect. Extraverts simply find it easy and rewarding to move into the spotlight in social situations, whereas Introverted personalities may find taking the lead to be stressful. Assertive Extraverts, motivated by their easygoing confidence, are all the more likely to step up socially, while Turbulent personality types may have to work through some anxiety and doubt before they’re ready to so.

Still, many people find themselves, wittingly or otherwise, in positions of leadership, not by virtue of their personal charisma or assertiveness, but because of the strength of their beliefs and the respect they’ve earned from their peers. Even those who are less comfortable in leadership roles should remember that they can become great leaders if they so desire.

What about you? Does taking the lead in social situations come naturally to you? Let us know in the comments!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

8 months ago
I fully agree with your findings, me as the mediator, I find it hard to take lead in social situations, although I have learned this over years.. but I still feel doubts when doing so.. great article :)
8 months ago
I guess 16Ps theory really is accurate through hard work and studies... You gotta appreciate them for that.
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