We’ve all got to deal with other people. It’s a fact of life… that is unless you plan on squirreling yourself away in a hovel.

Workplaces are full of a diverse selection of individuals with different character traits, backgrounds, and personalities. While we’ve all got our own way of expressing ourselves that we see as unique, there are four “main” types of personalities that most of us fall into. And knowing these can benefit you greatly as a workplace leader.


How We Classify Personalities

Personalities are usually classified through personality tests, which themselves are a relatively controversial topic. While you might turn your nose up at the idea of categorizing personalities and be totally against using this information in your recruitment and employee development processes, it’s hard to argue with science—and there’s plenty of it available.

It’s generally accepted that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a somewhat accurate method of categorizing peoples’ personalities. The four scales used in the MBTI have a correlation with many of the “Big Five” personality traits, which is a more commonly accepted framework for personality type categorization.

Even simpler systems and frameworks exist, such as the Type A and Type B personality theory split, which splits individuals based on whether they are more focused and organized (Type A) or more laid-back and patient (Type B).

Then we’ve got frameworks like Business Chemistry® by Deloitte. This was developed to help provide insights about individuals and teams based on observable traits and preferences. It’s based on extensive research and analytics, and it’s the framework that we’re going to focus on here.


The Four Main Workplace Personality Types

Designed for use in a business context, Deloitte’s framework breaks down the psychology behind personalities into four basic workplace personalities.


1. The Pioneer

Pioneers value possibilities and tend to be outgoing, spontaneous, and imaginative. They are the creatives that set things in motion and naturally enjoy taking risks with novel ideas. They thrive most when they’re asked to come up with new ideas or when they’re exploring new avenues of opportunity.

Business Chemistry describes Pioneers as:

  • Spontaneous
  • Risk-seeking
  • Adaptable
  • Outgoing


2. The Guardian

Where Pioneers take risks and set things in motion, Guardians keep everything stable and on track. In a chaotic environment, you’ll find a Guardian focusing on the finer details to ensure that even the craziest set of circumstances are brought under control and don’t get too out of hand.

Business Chemistry describes Guardians as:

  • Reserved
  • Structured
  • Methodical
  • Practical


3. The Driver

Drivers are natural leaders that like to step up and take control. They don’t like to see something that needs to be done and nobody doing it. Drivers help to maintain pace when others start running out of steam, and they love rising to meet challenges even when the odds are stacked against them.

With the need to keep busy, it’s easy for the Driver to come across as uncaring and short-fused, something which can make more sensitive workplace personalities feel uneasy. The best way to approach Drivers is to be direct and raring to get work done straight away.

Business Chemistry describes Drivers as:

  • Quantitative
  • Logical
  • Focused
  • Competitive


4. The Integrator

Integrators are a great balancing force to their teams. They tend to avoid confrontation and value relationship building. This makes them great mediators and diplomats, especially when teams start to do battle internally and communication begins to break down.

 Business Chemistry describes Integrators as:

  • Diplomatic
  • Empathetic
  • Non-confrontational
  • Traditional


Benefits of Understanding Personality Types

Understanding the various personality types offers many benefits that are not only useful in the workplace but outside of work, too.


Improve Decision-Making

Knowing your own and your team members’ personality types helps to hone your decision-making skills.

Not only will you be in a better position to make decisions regarding your team but knowing your own and others’ personality type allows you to recognize when you or others might be making a decision based on a whim rather than one that’s based on logic and careful thought.


Appreciate Diversity

By understanding different personality types, you start to see that the reasoning behind why your team members approach or respond to things in different ways is because of the way they perceive them.

This makes you more in tune with what personality traits those around you are working with, and this allows you to see things from a different perspective and appreciate diversity a whole lot more. It also exposes you to how approaching things with a different mindset can bring its own advantages.


Avoid Conflict

Understanding personality types can help you to avoid conflicts and diffuse them when they arise. If you know that certain members of your team are Pioneers or Drivers and as a result have a greater tendency to have knee-jerk reactions, you can put plans in place for what to do when things start to flare up.

On the flip side, if you know that certain team members are Integrators and are quick to accept responsibility for a problem, even if it’s not their fault, you can put processes in place that help them become more analytical and evaluate situations before accepting fault or responsibility.


How Can Leaders Use This Information?

Leaders who understand how their team members’ personalities differ can use this information to improve their leadership effectiveness and, by extension, their team’s performance. If leaders know their team members’ strengths, weaknesses, and habits, they can also leverage this information to help them develop and stay motivated.

What’s more, leaders that understand their own personality and which “box” they fall into can assess their own behaviors and set a better example to their team—how to maximize their strengths, learn from their weaknesses, and drive the organization to succeed as a result