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TCFP204: Leading a Dominant Personality in the Workplace

Almost every team has at least one dominant personality who is motivated by winning and reaching results but has less empathy for others. For the leader, this can be both a blessing and a curse. If you find it challenging to work with dominant personalities, you're not alone! Today on The Champion Forum Podcast, we will discuss how to get the most out of the dominant personality on your team while protecting your team's culture.


Passive leaders see this person as obnoxious and maybe even disrespectful.

Assertive leaders see this employee as misunderstood and needing boundaries and guidance.

Aggressive leaders see this person as a threat and believe they are stealing the spotlight and trying to outdo them.


Characteristics of Dominant Personalities:

Self-confidence: their strong self-belief can come across as arrogance or bravado.

Directness: dominant people usually get to the point and can be blunt in their communication. (This doesn't always mean that they are disrespectful.)

Assertiveness: They take the lead in situations and often dominate discussions and meetings. They may even seem aggressive at times.

Impatience: Dominant people like to make progress. They tend to avoid getting bogged down in details and can give little time to contributions from colleagues.


Q: What other characteristics would you add to this list? Do these characteristics sound positive or negative? Why?


Benefits of Dominant Personalities:

  • They make strong leaders, especially during a crisis.

  • They typically thrive at handling stressful situations and heavy workloads.

  • Their energy can encourage others to stay focused on tasks and goals.

  • They are willing to take on new challenges and aren't afraid to take risks.


Drawbacks of Dominant Personalities:

  • People can feel intimidated by them. Their blunt approach can agitate people and create conflicts that leaders must mediate.

  • They are often perceived as arrogant. Left unchecked, this will alienate them from the team.

  • A consequence of having one personality dominating the group is that some team members may feel uncomfortable sharing their opinions, and good ideas may be lost.


Q: Describe a time when you worked with a dominant personality. What positives and negatives did they bring to the workplace? How did you navigate your relationship with them?


The leader's mission never changes, regardless of the personality type. Our mission is to help others reach their fullest potential. Dominant personalities may not realize how their behavior is affecting the team. To maintain unity within your team, you'll want to build on their strengths.


How to Bring out the Best in a Dominant Personality:

Assign them challenging work. Many people with dominant personalities enjoy being challenged at work, so try to find projects that will test their skills and abilities. This will keep them engaged and help them find meaningful purpose.


Recognize their work. Dominant personalities will ask for recognition if they are not getting it.


Let them chart their own course. Focus on the "what," and let them figure out the "how." Use your discretion to determine how much freedom you can give, but remember that autonomy is a great way to drive creativity.


Don't constrain their big ideas. Dominant people often come up with bold solutions. They are typically innovators and can see things before everyone else. Rather than stifle their enthusiasm, suggest ways their ideas may become even more effective. This will allow you to create healthy boundaries while engaging them in a productive way.


How to Address Dominant Personalities:

Approach them on their level. Keep conversations targeted and brief. Speak confidently. Avoid generalizations and support your assertions with evidence. Strong supporting evidence will help your team member recognize the behavior and lead them to modify their approach.


Always discuss the impact of their behavior. Dominant people often need to be made aware of how their behavior affects the rest of the team. Talk privately with them to explain your concerns, using specific examples. Find a way to create boundaries while giving them a soft landing.


Q: Have you ever corrected a dominant personality? What did they respond negatively to? Positively? What ultimately caused them to change their behavior?


Application Activities

  1. Have your team take a personality quiz. Understanding the different personalities on the team will help avoid misunderstandings and give team members insight into what to do when they face conflict with each other. It will also help you identify potential weaknesses in your own leadership and give you the ability to proactively work on how you approach different personalities.

  2. Evaluate your own leadership tendencies. Do you prefer one personality over another? Is your team made up of diverse personalities? Why do you feel less comfortable with some personalities? How can you overcome your bias toward your own personality?

  3. How clear are your expectations for your team? Clear expectations allow you to draw firm boundaries with a dominant personality. For example, do your team members know what to do when they have a new idea? How does your team resolve conflict? At what point should they involve you in interpersonal conflict? How can they give constructive criticism? If your team knows the answer to these questions, you have a clear path toward holding dominant personalities accountable.

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