Getting Along: Leadership Insights for Thinkers and Feelers

The Power of Insight

A few years ago, we worked with a woman who leads a department of a few hundred people at a Fortune 500 company. She was a no-nonsense go-getter who just knew how to deliver results. The only problem was her key relationships. When we asked her to plot herself on our Support-Challenge Matrix, she placed herself firmly in the Liberator quadrant. However, when she agreed to send out a survey to her department asking them to anonymously place her on the same Matrix, she scored solidly in the Dominator realm. Needless to say, she was shocked. A whole flurry of emotions kicked in, but her ultimate driving goal focused on investing in knowing herself better. If she could understand what it was like to be on the other side of her in terms of leadership and relationship, then she could learn to lead herself better.

With that goal in mind, she dove into her Best Fit experience and discovered her ESTJ personality profile. While learning more about her type, she found the greatest source of her relational struggles to be rooted in the immature use of her Thinking personality preference. As a self-described “steam roller” at work and home, this brave leader devoted herself to learning how to better wield her Thinker strengths while addressing the weaknesses. By the end of her time in one of our programs she wrote a heartwarming letter describing how “knowing herself to lead herself” better (especially through personality type) had completely revolutionized and saved her relationship with her son. She even said she cried while writing the letter, but that they were tears of joy as she surveyed a new environment she had crafted for herself – one in which her employees finally felt empowered rather than fearful. Not to mention the fact that she and her son were now exploring greater depths of intimacy in their once contentious relationship.

Word Association

The story above perfectly illustrates how powerful self-awareness can be for life, business, and relational transformation. When we know what we’re dealing with in ourselves, we can better figure out ways to address the issues and stumbling blocks that hinder our growth. Hopefully this Thinker vs. Feeler series has prompted the same powerful insights for you as for as the woman in our story above. But in order to drive the learning home, let’s play a word association game to help you pinpoint aspects of your Thinker and Feeler tendencies, or even confirm one or the other as your dominant preference for the first time. The following descriptors should help round out your understanding of Thinker and Feeler types while also giving you a greater vocabulary to lean on when reflecting on your learning or walking others through it. After our game of word association, we’ll dive into some crucial leadership insights that you as a Thinker or Feeler can take away from this series for immediate, powerful application in your everyday life.

Start by reviewing the word pairs listed below. Read each pair, consider the contrasts, and decide which word in each pair best applies to you. The goal here is to determine which words describe your most natural tendency; not whether you do one or the other at all, but which one you tend to default to most naturally.

Thinkers                               Feelers

Head                                      Heart

Objective                             Subjective

Justice                                  Harmony

Cool                                       Caring

Impersonal                         Personal

Critique                                Appreciate

Analyze                                Empathize

Precise                                 Persuasive

Keep in mind that if you are a Thinker who works in a field focused on caring for others – such as ministry, teaching, etc – your first reaction may be to choose words that fit descriptions of your daily role at work, and vice-versa for the Feelers. So, be sure to question yourself honestly and perhaps you might find your natural inclination lies in the opposite direction, but that the nurture of your work environment has conditioned you to go against that nature.

Interestingly, Thinker vs. Feeler is the only preference set with a naturally occurring male-female split where 70% of men are Thinkers and 70% of women are Feelers. This difference can cause societal pressures to creep in, particularly for men who are Feelers and women who are Thinkers. When determining your natural preference, try to think back to the types of people you feel most drawn to and whether you feel like you have a natural tendency that has been covered up or redirected by expectations in your career, upbringing, or society.

What do these words mean?

Once those with a natural tendency toward the “Thinking” preference acquire their information, they generally prioritize making a logical, rational, analytical, objective, truth-based decision. Every Thinker’s decision-making process focuses on, “How do I gain logical clarity, and how do I make a decision that is objectively just, fair, and effective, despite any relational or emotional consequences?”

Feelers, on the other hand, could not be more different. Feelers will look at the information and say, “How does this decision sit with my core personal values about what’s important to me, and how is it going to affect the relational harmony of all the people who are going to be impacted by this decision?” If the Thinker is looking for logical clarity first, then the Feeler looks first for emotional clarity. If the Thinker wants to make a just and fair decision as their primary criteria, the Feeler always prioritizes wanting to make the most compassionate decision possible, one that takes into account all the relational dynamics of the situation at hand. Their decisions rarely come down to the “bottom-line” or “hard facts,” but rather hinge on whether the impact on those around them is optimal, or at least acceptable in relational terms.

When Thinkers present their decisions they will often say something along the lines of: “Having analyzed all the information, this is my decision, and this is why,” then they go on to present the bullet points of their logic. Their decisions can be tough and, to Feelers, will oftentimes come off as callous or hard due to their seemingly myopic focus on the cold, hard facts or the “heartless” conclusions of a strictly cost-benefit analysis.

So, while someone may not like the Thinker’s decision, if the Thinker feels they’ve done a good job of analyzing the scenario and making a fair decision through carefully considered, thoroughly-supported reasoning, then they can deal with the resulting reality, including relational fallout.

Leadership Insights: Thinkers

Whether you are a Thinker or a Feeler, the following list of seven leadership insights will highlight some valuable areas of growth that even Feelers will do well to keep in mind for their own interactions with Thinker friends and colleagues. If you are a Thinker, read through these insights and choose two that you can immediately begin working on as learning opportunities for growth in your everyday life.

Leadership Insights for Thinkers

  1. Watch your “tone” and “tact” in all communication.
  2. Be careful when critiquing a Feeler’s ideas or performance – they tend to experience it as personal criticism rather than objective, constructive criticism.
  3. Learn to speak the truth in love; “telling it like it is” will not be your growth area!
  4. Learn to start each engagement with a positive affirmation and then critique.
  5. When a Feeler shares their challenges don’t always assume they want you to solve the problem!
  6. Learn to be empathetic – what is the experience for the person on the other side of you?
  7. Beware the “Inquisition!” Feelers don’t like to feel interrogated by a barrage of blunt questions one after another
  8. Use your body language to soften the delivery of critique and challenge.

For example, Thinkers, if you know you tend to struggle with insight #2 above, you may need to be more conscientious of the way you deliver feedback. What you might think of as objective and helpful, may come across as a personal attack on the Feeler’s quality of work or identity. Try taking a collaborative approach to feedback accompanied by reassuring words about the Feeler’s integrity, work, and effort, rather than a direct, bullet point list of what they did wrong or need to fix. Sometimes the Feelers just need a little bit of encouragement and “teamwork” when it comes to feedback and personal growth.

If you’re a Feeler, please don’t skip over this section thinking it doesn’t apply to you. This is a great opportunity to review the list of Thinker insights in an effort to better understand those who view the world and make decisions differently than you do. Feelers, you would do well to choose two Thinker insights of your own, then begin to look for those tendencies in the lives of your Thinker co-workers or friends in order to better understand, relate to, and collaborate with them.

Leadership Insights: Feelers

As in the previous section, whether you are a Thinker or a Feeler, the following list of seven leadership insights will pinpoint valuable areas of growth that even Thinkers will do well do keep in mind for their interactions with Feeler friends and colleagues. If you are a Feeler, review the insights below and choose two that you can immediately begin applying as learning opportunities for growth in your own life.

Leadership Insights for Feelers

  1. When a Thinker challenges your idea, it’s not always personal.
  2. Fight for the highest possible good of those you lead, learning to bring effective challenge as you speak the truth in love.
  3. Even when you think you’ve brought massive challenge, you probably haven’t!
  4. Don’t assume you’ve offended a Thinker; they will tell you when you have.
  5. When you need to bring challenge to someone, tell them, don’t just hint at it!
  6. Learn to embrace the insights and challenges of Thinkers, and don’t forget your Kevlar body armor!
  7. Own your leadership role; you are more valuable to the organization than you think!
  8. Be yourself; don’t try to lead out of someone else’s identity.

One of the most common learning opportunities for Feelers tends to revolve around self-confidence and conflict avoidance. Feelers often view themselves more negatively than others, thinking they have less to offer than they actually do. As a result, they are more likely to stay quiet rather than give their opinion, stand up for themselves, or deliver feedback, even when it’s necessary. This not only hinders their own personal growth, but robs the team of valuable skills and input. If you are a Feeler, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to speak up more often, own your skills, and try to distance your identity or self-esteem from your work when it is being critiqued. Constructive criticism will only make your idea and capabilities better, but if you are constantly taking yourself out of the game before you can even play or make adjustments, then you’ll never make it off the sidelines.

Now, Thinkers, just as we cautioned Feelers not to skip over the section about your leadership insights, be sure to not skip over this section on Feelers. Take this opportunity to gain greater clarity on the struggles that your Feeler counterparts may deal with in relation to your own way of doing things. If you can better understand where Feelers have trouble connecting with your way of looking at the world, then you can be more proactive in those relationships – whether at work, at home, or with friends – making them healthier, stronger, and more understanding than ever before.

Wrapping Up

It’s hard to believe, but we are now finished with the Thinker vs. Feeler mini-series and almost done with our broader series on Jungian Personality Type and GiANT Best Fit! We hope this mini-series on Thinkers and Feelers has been informative, engaging, and most all, helpful in guiding you to a better understanding of yourself and others with regard to how you make decisions and approach the world.

If you take nothing else away from this series, always remember: even though Thinkers may tend to prefer bluntness and the bottom line, while Feelers prioritize relationships and the people side of decisions, we all have an ability to engage both hands. And it’s precisely your ability to understand, value, and speak to the contributions of each type that will determine the health of your team.

Join us next time as we dive into the beginning of a brand new mini-series on the Judging vs. Perceiving type preferences!

This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your personality type affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!