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The Third Commandment Of Highly Effective Leadership: Know Thyself And Others

Jacob M. Engel

Author and CEO of The Prosperous Leader. I help CEOs and their organizations prosper.

It's an age-old argument: Are we who we are because of nature or nurture? Are we born with inborn tendencies, or are we born “tabula rasa” (with a clean slate)? Is our IQ fixed, or can our brain learn new things (a.k.a. neuroplasticity)? Do our habits make us, or do we make our habits? Is emotional intelligence as it’s known a learned behavior? Does this all make a difference in our personal and professional life?

These questions are hugely important in order to understand ourselves and others.

I believe leaders need to know themselves in at least three different dimensions: aptitude, attitude and altitude (a.k.a. emotional intelligence).


For understanding your aptitude, I highly recommend a personality test. It's a must for career choices and for so many other things in life. I first discovered personality types when I landed on Please Understand Me, a bestselling book by Dr. David Keirsey, a noted psychologist. He based his theory on Carl Jung’s book, Psychological Types.

Kiersey had a great understanding of how types influenced our schools and academic choices, our mates and our leadership preferences. I, for one, was very enlightened, as it gave me a great amount of clarity as to why I enjoy leadership and why school bored me.

In 1943, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, also interpreted Jung’s theory into an assessment now famously known as the Myers-Briggs Types Indicator (MBTI). As a Myers-Briggs certified evaluator myself, I come across many people who were either put into the wrong position (see the Peter Principle) or made bad career choices and have become miserable. When I clarified for them what their "nature" or inborn personality was, they were able to understand why they weren't successful in their position or why they weren't happy with their choices and look at their careers with new insight.

While many will tell you that leaders are "made," Dr. Keirsey and Myers-Briggs will tell you that leadership is an inborn trait, and that some personalities are naturally meant for leadership. It doesn't mean others can't learn how to lead, but they are just as comfortable following, while inborn leaders can't not lead!

Most psychologists, however, will tell you that our inborn nature/aptitude or our DNA make up at best 50% of who we are. The question is, what's the other 50%?