One of the most important aspects of thought leadership—indeed, of any kind of leadership—is authenticity. It is, therefore, odd that many subject matter experts do not consider their own personality in mapping out their thought leadership development path. 

Checking your basics are in place

There are some areas that all thought leaders need to develop. First and foremost, you need to be clear about your area of expertise. Where do you stand out from the crowd? This is essential to developing thought leadership.

Second, we believe that learning to use stories is crucial. It is much easier to get your message across with a story. Third, you need to consider your audience, and their needs.This is the common ‘what’ of thought leadership. However, the ‘how’ can—and should—vary.

Understanding and using Myers-Briggs Type Indicators in thought leadership

It may be helpful at this stage to have a quick look at Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, or MBTI. This system uses four areas of personality, each of which is divided into two types. This gives a total of 16 possible personality types. 

The Judging–Perceiving (J/P) dimension describes how you like to live your life.

P-types are interested in everything. They value flexibility and change, work close to deadlines, and make spur-of-the-moment decisions. J-types, by contrast, like things in order. They prefer to finish one job before moving onto the next, and like to plan ahead.

How can you tell? People who like to plan are often J-types. People who decide what they are doing on the spur of the moment are more likely to be P-types. 

Effect on thought leadership. J-types will want to plan ahead, and decide what they are going to do over a long period. P-types are more likely to want to respond to what’s been in news or on social media. Try to find a balance between the two, because both are valuable—but err on the side of your preference.  

The Thinking–Feeling (T/F) dimension describes how you process information

T-types tend to use thinking and logic, and respond to ideas, not emotions. F-types, on the other hand, are far more likely to respond to emotion, and worry about how people will feel.

How can you tell? The language that you use is a giveaway. If you tend to talk about ideas, you are more likely to be a Thinker. If feelings, you are more likely to be an F-type.

Effect on thought leadership. Less of an issue than some of the other dimensions—but worth being aware that varying your approach will resonate with more people.

The Sensing–Intuition (S/N) dimension describes what information you use when you are making decisions

S-types draw their data from outside themselves. They build ideas step-by-step, adding to them as they obtain more data. They also like detail. N-types, by contrast, often make big leaps to conclusions. They draw on their experience and their imaginations, and tend to be ‘big picture’ thinkers.

How can you tell? The detail/big picture aspect is the most obvious.

Effect on thought leadership. S-types will want to build up their solution or ideas over time—make sure you don’t lose your audience by too much detail. N-types are more likely to leap straight to a solution and will need to be aware that not everyone will follow their thinking.

The Introvert–Extrovert dimension describes where you get your energy

Introverts (I-types) tend to draw their energy from themselves, or from a very small group of people. When they need to ‘recharge’, they withdraw from the world. Extroverts (E-types), by contrast, get their energy from others. They recharge by going out to meet others, and they do their thinking best in groups. 

How can you tell? This is usually fairly obvious by how people behave in groups. 

Effect on thought leadership. Extroverts are unlikely to need any encouragement to dip into any type of social media or interact with others! Introverts may need to be encouraged to realise that there is value in sharing their ideas and engaging with others. They may be happier sharing written content rather than video. 

“To thine own self be true”

Your personality type affects how you like to work, and how you interact with people. It is worth thinking about your preferences, because these will influence the ways you want to share content, and the type of content you create. As Shakespeare advised us, it is essential to be true to yourself if you are to be true to others. 

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