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When you lead people based on the assumption that your crew members have the same basic personality style, you will assume they all embrace some of the same values and they are all driven by the same thing. That would be an inaccurate assumption.
Different social styles are driven by different things. Some people are driven by achievement. Some are driven by relationship. Some are driven by challenge and some by security. Not all firefighters are the same and they are not made from the same mold. While the culture of the fire service is unique, the people who comprise it are a cross section of society that represents different social styles. Starting with this understanding will help you to adapt to each crew member.
There are four main social styles of people – and four main social styles in your department. If I am conducting training sessions for fire departments that have 15 or more people in the session, all four social styles will be represented in the room. I have had hundreds of fire service groups assess their social style, and I will see all four social styles in different departments in different demographic regions.
As a leader, it is important to know and understand each of these social styles because it will give you some insight into how they think, what they value, what motivates them to achieve and how to predict their behavior. In this series of columns on knowing your crew, I will show you the four different social styles. I will talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each of the four social styles and how to lead each one.
The best way to start is by understanding your own social style. Begin by categorizing yourself as an “asker” or a “teller.” Characteristics of askers include: patient, introverted, reserves opinions, less aggressive, thoughtful decisions, good listener, lower quantity of talk, dislikes confrontations. Characteristics of tellers include: impatient, extroverted, shares opinions easily, more aggressive, quick decisions, good talker, higher quantity of talk, doesn’t mind confrontations. You may have some characteristics in both categories, but one category will have more characteristics that apply to you than the other. Write down the one that applies the most.
Next, categorize yourself as “task oriented” or “relationship oriented.” Characteristics of task-oriented people include: disciplined about time, hard to get to know, focused on projects, more reserved, strict about rules, controlled and guarded emotions, not interested in small talk, more to the serious side. Characteristics of relationship-oriented people include: often late, easy to get to know, focused on people, less reserved, more lenient about rules, more free to share emotions, more interested in small talk, more to the playful side.
Which category applies to you more? Again, you may have some characteristics in both categories, but one category will have more characteristics that apply to you than the other. Write down the one that applies the most.
If you selected asker and task oriented, you are an “Analytical” social style. If you selected teller and task oriented, you are a “Driver” social style. If you selected asker and relationship oriented, you are an “Amiable” social style. If you selected teller and relationship oriented, you are an “Expressive” social style. Write down the social style that applies to you. Your social style will determine how you lead and follow others. The social style of your crew members will determine how they respond to your leadership and what they appreciate in a leader.
How to lead each social style
While everyone has a little bit of all four of the social styles, you are predominately one style with a strong secondary. You will only show small amounts of the traits from the other two styles. To keep the concept of social styles as they relate to your crew simple, I will be focusing on just the primary social style that you have and your crew members have.