The modern business world is one of constant change and challenges. Rapid technological evolution and a major shift in generations and the way they act in the workplace has made the need for a new type of leadership more apparent than ever before. If traditionally, the leader was supposed to be a figure of (more or less absolute) power, confidence and a strong charisma, today’s Millennial employees don’t respond well to this type of stands.

They were raised to challenge the status quo and want to feel a real connection to their leaders. This requires a high level of authenticity on the part of those who are in charge and it turns out it’s a pretty tall order since it implies a good power of introspection and self-assessment.


Read more: On leadership development for Millennials


Leaders need to know themselves

The key to being able to inspire and ignite growth in others is having not only a very good idea of where they are at but also of where the leader himself is situated. People are complex creatures that have the ability to change over time so it is important to avoid simply sticking labels, checking boxes and assume that they will be relevant forever.

There is one personality model that has been successfully used by NASA for decades in order to recruit the most suited astronauts and land crew. I say ‘suited’ not ‘best” because the selection didn’t assess the quality of the individual but the relevance of his or her traits for the task that was at hand.

The Process Communication Model

Developed by Dr. Taibi Kahler, the Process Communication Model — or PCM — conceptualizes personality as comprising of six types, all of which exist within each of us and are arranged like the floors of a building, with our core or “base” type at the bottom, moving up through each floor to the least-accessed trait at the top, or attic.

Each of these floors has unique traits, including a perceptual frame of reference, character strengths, communication and environmental preferences, motivational needs and highly predictable behaviors when under pressure. These layers can change position and where we are at a certain point is called the ‘phase’. There is always a reason why people are in a certain phase and the needs that have generated have to be met in order to achieve progress.

These are the six personality types, as described in the PCM:

  • Thinkers experience the world mainly through thoughts, preferring to take in and process information in a logical manner. They are rational, responsible, well-organized and adopt a democratic communication style with exchange of information. They enjoy being on their own and as far as interaction goes they prefer one on one. Thinkers are internally motivated by recognition of their good work and time management skills. In stressing situations they have a tendency to overthink, take complete control and be overly critical of others.
  • Persisters experience the world through opinions, preferring to take in and process information through their own belief system. They are conscientious, dedicated and have a keen sense of observation and adopt a communication style that involves exchange of values. Persisters are internally motivated by recognition of their dedication to their work and strong convictions. In distress, they tend to become unrealistic in what they expect of others and can push their beliefs in a rather self-righteous and condescending manner.
  • Harmonizers experience the world through emotions, preferring to receive and process information through their feelings. They are compassionate, warm and sensitive individuals who favor a benevolent communication style with exchange of personal affirmation and compassion. They prefer to be with others. Harmonizers are internally motivated by recognition of their person and pleasant sensory experiences. In distress they lose assertiveness, do their best to please others and can inadvertently make mistakes on account of their lost self-confidence.
  • Rebels experience the world through reactions. They are spontaneous, creative and playful. Their communication style of choice is one filled with humor and spontaneity. Rebels prefer small group interactions. They are externally motivated by contact with the world around them. In distress, Rebels lose the ability to think clearly, become negative and tend to complain a lot while blaming others for everything negative that happens.
  • Imaginers experience the world through reflections, preferring to simply soak in everything around them. They are imaginative, calm and reflective and prefer communication to be directive and explicit. Imaginers favor solitary environments where they can be alone with their reflections. They are externally motivated by autonomy. In distress, Imaginers withdraw and isolate, trying to avoid initiative and implication at all costs.
  • Promoters experience the world through actions. They are adaptable, persuasive and charismatic, and prefer communication that is both directive and action-oriented. Promoters prefer enticing environments where they can move from group to group and are motivated by intense activity. Excitement and competitive challenges motivate them. In distress, Promoters will withdraw their support, leave the team and try to manipulate and create negative situations.

Being a leader in today’s workplace

The key to becoming an efficient and agile leader, one fit for the complex and dynamic workplace of today, is developing the ability to understand oneself and others by employing such a relevant personality chart. It’s not one that puts individuals into little boxes but one that properly acknowledges the complexity of each individual and offers practical solutions for improved communication and progress.

It’s important that leaders recognize the above described types as phases in which people are at a certain point instead of sticking a label. Furthermore, true leadership is about meeting the needs of these phases in a positive way and dealing with all the distress behaviors constructively.

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