July 2009 - Life Roles in the Workplace
LIFE ROLES IN THE WORKPLACE
by Liz Puttick
My new book, 7 Personality Types, presents the Personality Roles in great detail, including sections on the Roles in the workplace. I call them theLife Roles. Knowing your Life Role is not only interesting and illuminating in itself but has tremendous practical advantages in the workplace in terms of career development and teambuilding, as well as generally getting on better with colleagues through understanding them better.
Each Role has particular strengths and talents, as indicated by its name - but in the broadest rather than narrowest sense.
For example, Artisans are naturally drawn to the arts and crafts, where they usually feel comfortable and happy, but their creativity can manifest in any profession including science, marketing and therapy (which they tend to see as a craft). Of course, your abilities and preferences are also affected by other factors within the personality system (secondary Role, centering etc) as well as outside it. However, your Role also influences your work choices in more subtle ways. For example, Servers are highly versatile and often happy to play a supporting Role, but they do need to know their work is genuinely serving a person or cause in order to feel fulfilled.
Below are condensed and adapted extracts from the book, which I hope you’ll find useful and interesting.
Artisans are very versatile in their creativity, so have a lot of career options open to them. Arts and crafts are their natural activity, and most painters, sculptors, potters, weavers, hairdressers, tailors and graphic designers are Artisans, though other Roles are also found here.
They excel because of their ability to easily integrate their creative genius with impeccable technical prowess, and an innate understanding of structure. They are at the cutting edge of multimedia, which they understand instinctively, inventing new technology to support it if they need to. They also love working with larger, more complex and challenging structures and many architects and engineers are Artisans.
There is an anonymous quote which sums up their search for the unique new thing (as well as the difference between Artisans and Scholars): "A scientist studies what is, an engineer studies what never was."
Artisans also predominate in the skilled trades as car mechanics, repairmen, decorators, plumbers and electricians – anything with a craft element, where their manual dexterity gives them an edge. Such skills are always in high demand, and they can easily develop or fall back on them if deprived of other career opportunities. As makers and users of tools — displaying great mechanical aptitude and meticulous craftsmanship — they can be very focused when working on projects in contrast to their dreamy image.
Competing Artisans love working in fashion as designers and models. Moving-centered Artisans enjoy working in the performing arts as dancers, jugglers, mime and trapeze artists, as well as athletes and sportspeople.
One of the greatest baseball players Joe DiMaggio was an Artisan, renowned for the grace and elegance of his style, on and off the pitch. They can also flourish in medicine and the healing arts as dentists, surgeons, body workers, physiotherapists and aroma therapists.
Artisans prefer working with materials to words, which are the realm of Sages and Scholars. Being so attuned to subtle energies, they find words clumsy in comparison. They can turn their craftsmanship talents to word-smithing, but may put more energy into the design of the book cover than the contents.
Having such fertile imaginations, they do well with imaginative writing such as fairy tales, fantasy and children’s fiction. They can be excellent songwriters as well as singers, having a talent for expressing all the nuances of the human heart. They also do well in public relations, advertising and marketing, working well with Sage copywriters since they are so skilled at getting under the skin of another person.
Artisans are sometimes uncomfortable in the Warrior-dominated corporate world. Competing Artisans can be attracted to the power of big business, but will be happier in a design, publicity or marketing department.
Relationship-oriented Artisans usually function better in a smaller, less ruthlessly commercial company with more emphasis on relationships and the quality of the product or service. They are a great asset to a business, so long as their creativity is valued. Their innovative vision can produce a never-ending stream of ideas, though it needs balancing with a more entrepreneurial Role to sort the commercial goers from the hare-brained schemes. Artisans are better at spending than making money, and can easily get themselves or their business into debt.
Routine stifles their spontaneity, and they hate mindless, repetitive tasks like data entry. If they feel too bored and oppressed, they are likely to leave a job quite suddenly, whatever the consequences.
ARTISAN LEADERSHIP STYLE
Artisans, like Scholars, tend to prefer working independently to being team workers or bosses, but they don’t mind being employees or part of a team so long as they have some freedom to innovate.
Of all the Roles, they are the least interested in leadership, and can make problematic bosses if their talent gets them over-promoted. While generally having good social skills, they can be quirky and unpredictable, so colleagues can get confused not knowing where they stand or what is expected of them. Artisans reserve the right to change their mind suddenly, which is tricky in a large corporation where the wheels grind slowly.
They are easily distracted, especially if the task in hand is a balance sheet or 5-year-plan, and will do anything to avoid it. On the other hand, they can make inspired leaders of creative enterprises such as an art studio, dance theatre, restaurant or fashion house, which can tolerate chaos so long as the end product works.
At the Philosophical Perspective, Artisans can be as practical, organized and focused as anyone, well able to handle the challenges of management and leadership in an area outside their normal comfort zone. One Artisan I interviewed said:
Whatever their choice of profession, it is vital for Sages to find work that is fun and gives them lots of space to communicate and express themselves. Acting is the archetypal Sage profession, but they excel in any occupation based on communication.
They love working in film and television as screenwriters, directors and presenters. Sages are excellent storytellers and writers, and are among the world’s best novelists and journalists. They are natural self-promoters, sometimes enjoying the publicity circuit and parties more than the hard grind of writing a book. They enjoy the challenge of making something entertaining out of unpromising material, for example as political correspondents who can expose hidden agendas, put an amusing spin or twist on the dullest government proceedings. Will Rogers quipped: "I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."
Sages enjoy the cut and thrust of public life on a real-world stage. They bring showbiz talents to the platform and the courtroom, using their skill at rhetoric and acting to sway voters and juries, and spin a case for the media. They enjoy pressing the flesh more than most other Roles, and excel at the communication and PR aspects as press secretaries and spin-doctors.
They make great entrepreneurs and salespeople, and do well in any business that requires wheeling and dealing, a combination of charm and ruthlessness, including agents and managers in the entertainment and sport industries. Moving-centered Sages can become clowns, acrobats, dancers, sometimes sporting champions.
Sages are excellent teachers, able to impart knowledge pleasurably, entertainingly and keep a whole class riveted without needing to resort to more brutal disciplinary measures. This ability makes them the most popular teachers. One Sage remembers how he handled a music class as a substitute teacher in a tough school:
SAGE LEADERSHIP STYLE
Sages find it hard to work alone, preferring the companionship and drama of a busy office. They are fine as team workers, so long as they have opportunities to stand out and make a splash.
Despite their cardinality, unlike Kings and Priests, they don’t need to be the boss or leader – and may even prefer not to if the job comes with grindingly long hours, heavy responsibilities, and not enough perks and playtime built in. [Editor's note: cardinal roles are expansive roles - Sage, Priest and King.]
As bosses, they tend to be brilliant but unreliable, blowing hot and cold, panicking or disappearing in a crisis. Their favorite position is a starring role with lots of opportunity for self-expression, fun and interaction, non-routinized and with good pay. Public relations, publicity, sales and marketing fulfill these requirements well.
One Sage who has found fulfillment in the business world describes his work, which in some ways bucks the stereotype of this Role:
Capacity for hard work, administrative and interpersonal skills and general helpfulness make Servers invaluable employees in any organization. They can do well in any field, but will feel most fulfilled in jobs than enable them to combine these qualities and provide a good service for a cause they approve of.
Servers are the mainstay of charities and voluntary organizations, happy to work long hours unpaid or underpaid for a good cause. They may be the secretary, the manager or anyone in-between, but will always see themselves as the vital support for the organization’s front-line workers. They generally don’t want to be in the limelight themselves, but do like being appreciated.
Servers also like to support one particular person, who they see as being especially important in advancing the common good. In the workplace, the classic example of this is the secretary-boss relationship, where as often as not the secretary holds together the reputation and effectiveness of the boss.
Since Servers are fulfilled by playing a supporting role in a good cause, they are often drawn to the helping professions including teaching, medicine and the social services. Here they team up well with Priests, the Role with whom they share the greatest compatibility. Hospitals and social work departments have a strong Server ethos and atmosphere. They make the most sympathetic family doctors and healers, with an excellent bedside manner and a healing presence.
Their interpersonal skills make them good diplomats, mediators and facilitators. They are popular as family lawyers and accountants, good at reassuring and calming people in stressful situations. Servers are modest, gentle and unassuming, but this never stops them from being highly effective and getting results.
Servers have no objection to starting at the bottom of the company, however low-paid the position. They are the fabled tortoises who proceed slowly and methodically, unnoticed at first. Sooner or later, their general helpfulness, efficiency and willingness to take on extra tasks will be noted and rewarded. One result is that they will be the last employees to be laid off. However, their usefulness may either make it hard for them to rise through the ranks, since managers want to hang on to a good assistant or they get promoted out of their depth.
If they are working for somebody as an executive assistant or deputy — or reporting to them — they will discreetly take on much of that person’s workload without making a big point of it or claiming credit. In business, they often do well as personnel officers, where they enjoy the opportunities to know everything that’s going on in a company and pull strings behind the scenes. They particularly excel at customer service, good at dealing with irate customers face-to-face or on the phone, attending to any problems and leaving people feeling soothed and satisfied.
SERVER LEADERSHIP STYLE
Servers are rarely happy working alone, preferring to collaborate as team-workers. Generally, they are happy as employees even at the bottom of the pecking order, and would rather work behind the scenes than be exposed in a leadership position. More ambitious Servers aim to become assistant or deputy to the boss.
As employers, they are apt to impose their idea of the common good on their employees, which may include working late, overtime, taking on other people’s work if they are sick or on holiday. Unless you can persuade a Server that your dedication is equal to theirs — even if expressed in a different way — and validate their own vision by assuring them of how inspired you are by it, then you will probably be pressurized into doing a lot more than you want to. However, in their positive pole they make popular bosses, who can put a human face on a soulless corporation. They nurture their staff, and are likely to remember their birthdays and the names of their children.
Priests are found in all jobs and professions, but are happiest in a job where they can use their inspiration to be of service.
Servers and Priests share this motivation and so work well together. Both Roles predominate in the helping and healing professions including teaching, the social services and medicine, often working in teams led by a Priest. Their natural healing talent helps them excel in any work concerned with health and wellbeing, often more drawn to the spiritual than physical aspects. They respond well to crisis, being unfazed by suffering, which brings out the best in them. They therefore prefer to work in something like bereavement counseling or with the critically ill rather than the worried well.
Priests are at home in a religious setting, but nowadays are often more drawn to become therapists, psychiatrists or healers, since most people are more open to spiritual healing from these sources. Generally, they prefer working with groups of people, but can work one-to-one within the formality of the counseling relationship.
Many Priests flourish in business. They are excellent motivational coaches and corporate trainers, who can galvanize a workforce and transform a whole organization with their vision, enthusiasm, positive thinking and "can-do" attitude. The jobs a Priest will feel most comfortable with are ones that involve interfacing with as many people as possible.
Sales and marketing offer excellent opportunities for this, and most Priests enjoy the process of going out, meeting with strangers, and persuading them to buy a service or product. Personnel Management can be a good choice, and better still corporate training.
They can also be found as financial advisors, with a mission to help their clients against the corporate world or preaching ‘prosperity consciousness.’
One says, "My ministry is the business world." She continues:
PRIEST LEADERSHIP STYLE
Priests are natural leaders, whose political instincts and skills will get themselves into the top job if they believe that is where they are meant to be.
Once they achieve power, their cardinality enables them to see the bigger picture and ways through difficulties that other people have missed. They often feel confidence and success from a conviction they are can make a difference or turn the company round. Unlike Kings, attention to detail is not one of their strengths, so their projects tend to work better if they can delegate to an efficient Warrior or Server.
It can be hard for Priests to recognize and accept their leadership skills if they do not receive encouragement and opportunities, particularly women.
Here is a case study of a woman in Finland who achieved success once she had validated her Priest Role, which enabled her to take on a leadership function with confidence. Her story is equally relevant to men lacking confidence.
Warriors enjoy the workplace and are naturally productive workers, working extremely hard and being the backbone of any organization. They are often the first to arrive and last to leave the office, and can get quite competitive about it, going in for power breakfasts and after-work drinking sessions. Anyone lacking the stamina for this regime can be excluded from the inner circle of power.
The business world has a strong Warrior flavor and they generally do well in it, being rapidly promoted. While they are good at administration, being practical and efficient, they will get bored of anything too routine, needing some challenge and adventure in their working lives. Their motto is "‘Let’s not talk about it, let’s just do it!"
Warriors are the best role in a crisis and do well in the police, emergency services, as firefighters, ambulance drivers, security guards and bouncers. Any physical occupation suits them will, including sport, sports coaching, forestry and gardening, laboring, physiotherapy and massage.
They are also attracted to occupations where their talents for maintaining boundaries and order are needed such as school teaching, management, hospital administration and raising children.
One woman works with her husband: "I have become a manager of these offices which really amounts to becoming a "guard" making sure none of his employees are stealing from him and being in control of the accounts." (Jenna, manager, USA)
Warriors are the most entrepreneurial role, the most likely to succeed at running their own business, especially in practical areas like construction and transport.
WARRIOR LEADERSHIP STYLE
Warriors can be the driving force of any organization, pushing the work and mission of the group forwards. The marketplace becomes their battleground and they do well in business, particularly as salespeople – the shock troops of capitalism.
Other Roles also have selling skills, but Warriors have the energy and personality to persuade you to buy – and to close a deal. However, while excellent at strategy and tactics, they are often not as good at negotiating as they like to believe, tending to apply relentless pressure or offer inducements. This can be a handicap in sales and marketing situations where the product or service being sold is a sophisticated one. The Warrior salesperson needs to understand that they are not there simply to "get a result" for their own side, but to meet the genuine needs and expectations of the customer – in other words, to build a stable, long-term relationship.
Tact, diplomacy and finesse are not typical Warrior qualities, but they are quick to learn if given proper training.
Warriors are very versatile, able to work independently but equally happy as employee or boss. They are the best of all the Roles as team-workers, being able to give and take orders, collaborate well and help forge a close-knit team, be enterprising yet loyal. Warriors like the company of other Warriors, and will spend much of their time together in like-minded groups. To push the Warrior analogy, they could be called "regiments."
Warriors also understand that action is very specific, and other Warriors are needed in order to carry out "missions." Cooperation is essential. They make good leaders, though prefer to be given clear instructions, aims and objectives and to report to a cardinal Role.
Kings can be found in all trades and professions, but will be happiest as the one in charge, whether of a team, department, company or country. They are more interested in power than status (though ideally both), so if they can’t have both would rather work behind the scenes, perhaps as a mentor, than just to be a figurehead.
Surprisingly to some people, in order to achieve excellence, Kings are happy to start at the bottom, learn the ropes and master all aspects of a business. They prefer to begin with the top company on the principle that to learn how to win and be the best, you have to work with the best. Their progress is usually speedy and may look effortless, but is supported by hard work, discipline, vision, the capacity to come up with improved strategies and processes, and perhaps luck – luck for Kings being mainly the ability to make and seize opportunities. They may come in as a secretary and become CEO within three years.
Kings like to work in large organizations and can be found heading up many global business empires. They are not always innovators but they are visionaries who think big and are excellent at spotting the long-term commercial potential of a new idea or invention, including long-shot winners. It may seem to others like a big risk, even a foolhardy gamble, but their self-belief is based on sound instincts and excellent judgment.
As the (King) financier James Goldsmith quipped, "If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late." They are capable of holding their nerve over a long period, sustaining losses and setbacks, finally emerging in the dominant position.
They love start-ups and are willing to take big risks, extend themselves personally and financially, for long-term gain.
Their preference for problem fixing over routine management (which bores them) makes them not only successful entrepreneurs but also excellent consultants and trouble-shooters. They enjoy the buzz and challenge of walking into a new company, quickly spotting the problems and coming up with solutions, motivating managers and workforces, setting up structures to implement the changes, then leaving others to run it and moving on to the next challenge.
One entrepreneur describes the process, having set up two successful companies and transformed business practice in her industry:
KING LEADERSHIP STYLE
Most Kings prefer being the boss to being an employee. As employees, they work best with some general guidance and a boss who’s there to help and support but not to micromanage. They need people around them, so most would rather work in a team than alone.
While not generally cooperative, they may use consultation as a reconnaissance exercise "useful to ‘help’ others come up with ideas the King had first, to create trust and loyalty, to persuade and modify your plans." (Helena, USA)
Kings are the most demanding of employers, requiring as much loyalty from an employee as from a subject (i.e., total loyalty). However, they will reward loyalty, capability and good service richly with high salaries, unlimited expense accounts and lots of perks.
They like to delegate and — being supremely confident and aware of the importance of good support — are unafraid to appoint the strongest people to complement their own abilities. Their subordinates are required to be on the same wavelength and share their vision, but will be given a lot of independence. Most Kings prefer to be challenged by brilliant innovators than surrounded by yes-men.
While Warriors tend to throw their weight around (needing to prove themselves), Kings can be quite gentle and relaxed, but everyone will sense their inner authority and respect them as bosses. Those who have attained an inner integration will find a more compassionate, service-oriented leadership style.
One King — who is now ready to move into a more public position and set up her own business — says:
The white-coated scientist is the iconic Scholar. Academia is their natural home, and any kind of teaching, training and research appeals to them. Being good at absorbing knowledge and passing exams, they dominate the traditional professions particularly medicine and the law.
Other occupations using a broad knowledge base such as publishing and the media will also appeal. Scholars are useful if not essential in most professions and as the neutral role can fit in well almost anywhere. Their main requirement is mental stimulation, though they can enjoy basic technical work if it includes a problem-solving element. [Editor's note: the Scholar is a neutral role.]
Scholars are the world’s great record keepers and can be happy as historians, librarians, curators, registrars, accountants and book-keepers.
Like Sages, they are natural writers and do well in journalism, particularly in the more serious investigative areas, comment and opinion pieces. They particularly flourish in creating online resources — Wikipedia being one of the great contemporary Scholarly achievements.
Paradoxically, Scholars are oriented to the future as much as the past, and excel as futurologists, climatologists, financial analysts and trend-spotters, and perhaps best of all running think tanks. Since we live in exciting but uncertain times, good forecasting skills are much in demand.
Scholars team up well at work with most Roles, particularly Warriors. Scholars understand that their knowledge is of limited value without action, while Warriors know that action without underpinning knowledge can be harmful. These two Roles run most schools, as well as collaborating in the army, the police, business and politics. They enjoy combining action and knowledge out in the field as archaeologists, geologists, anthropologists and explorers.
Being in nature is healing to Scholars’ busy minds, and of course, an interesting field of study. Many ‘ornithologists, botanists, gardeners, guides and trackers are Scholars. They are good with animals — who find their calm neutrality non-threatening — and make excellent veterinarians, zookeepers and animal trainers.
SCHOLAR LEADERSHIP STYLE
In the modern workplace, the Scholar is a key figure. Their neutrality and knowledge base make them indispensable all-round players in the team. Few teams will stay functioning for long unless there is at least one Scholar playing a significant part as mediators bridging the gaps between the various Roles.
The leadership position is not something that Scholars normally seek, but they are often chosen to be the team leaders in situations where rivalry is intense. Their neutrality and mediation skills help defuse interpersonal tensions and bring the team together. Once in a responsible supervisory or managerial job, they can often come out of their determined detachment and blossom into a formidable champion for their organization.
Perhaps the hardest thing for Scholars is to assert themselves, speak out when needed and fight their corner against the plots and schemes of colleagues. They believe intelligence and capability are enough, not appreciating the need for social and political skills to advance their career. Sometimes they may know the answer to a problem, or the best way out of a tight spot, but remain quiet, perhaps preferring to mull over the pros and cons of the situation. The way out of this detachment is either mentoring by an older hand (ideally a Warrior) or management training, such as assertiveness courses. Alternatively, a person can become aware that they are a Scholar, be alert to the impartiality of their role and consciously counteract it when the time comes for decision and action.
© Copyright 2008, Elizabeth Puttick. Article used with permission of the author
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Page updated: October 16, 2023
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