Reviews of MBTI, Enneagram, Fascination Advantage & StrengthsFinder
“Know thyself”. It’s said that the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates considered this the best advice anybody could follow. I think it’s particularly true if you are a business leader.
“Know thyself” is the starting point for effective communication, management, conflict resolution, and so much more. Above all else, leaders who truly know themselves can operate from a place of strength. They know what they can accomplish with relatively little struggle—and what, on the other hand, represents a massive waste of their precious energy.
So how do you begin to “know thyself” a little better?
A well-designed personality test can be a great start.
Currently, there are four that are particularly popular for professionals and business leaders:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
In this post, I’ll review all four, weighing out their pros and cons specifically as leadership assessment tools.
Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs based this self-assessment personality test on psychotherapist Carl Jung’s theory of personality types.
Informed by Jung’s ideas about how personalities “function”, they created a system with 16 different personality types, each of which combines Jung’s functions in different ways.
The basic idea is that each personality type is “dominant” in a particular kind of “function”. For example, someone dominant in “introverted sensing” would rather focus on gathering concrete data about the world around them than contemplate their own feelings.
The MBTI questionnaire was first published in 1943. Nowadays it is one of the most widely used personality tests in the world.
The Enneagram, which some say has its roots in ancient ideas, proposes that there are 9 distinct but interconnected personality types. These types and how they connect with each other are represented by points on a geometric figure called an enneagram.
Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo (as influenced by George Gurdjief) are responsible for most of the contemporary thinking around this particular system.
This popular system is used in business contexts as well as in more spiritually-minded circles as a tool for self-knowledge and self-actualization.
Former advertising executive Sally Hoghead created the Fascination Advantage based on research she once commissioned to discover what makes brands captivating.
This 2007 research revealed 7 “triggers” that cause consumers to pay close attention to a brand. Applying this concept to people, Hogshead created the F-Score, a personality test that determines one’s personality “archetype” out of a possible 49 archetypes.
The rebranded F-Score, the Fascination Advantage, has taken the business world in particular by storm.
Its promise—to show how people perceive you, and how to leverage that for better success in communication—is an understandably compelling one.
StrengthsFinder is a personal assessment test created by psychologist Donald Clifton.
It outlines your strengths or areas of special competence that tend to recur throughout your life. The idea is that these strengths are fixed parts of your personality and that by actively building a life and a career that harnesses them, you’ll be a more successful person.
Based on a 40-year study of strengths by a team of psychologists, the StrengthsFinder has been widely used since its introduction in 2001.
The pros and cons of each as a leadership assessment tool
Its massive popularity means that you’re likely to be able to connect with many others about personality and communication style using the language of the MBTI
It isn’t based on actual scientific research, although Carl Jung’s ideas are undoubtedly respected and influential
It may force people into false dichotomies that don’t really fit their true selves (e.g., you’re “either a thinker or a feeler”)
As with the MBTI, the popularity of the Enneagram means that it will probably give you a useful vocabulary for connecting with others about personality and communication style
It encourages you to become a more balanced person by learning about other personality styles and exploring how developing their traits could make you healthier
As with the MBTI, the Enneagram isn’t based on scientific research, and its claims can’t be validated by testing
It is specially developed to be useful for professionals and leaders, with actionable advice for using its findings to further your career (e.g., it gives you adjectives for your LinkedIn profile)
Its emphasis on how other people see you, rather than simply how you see yourself, maybe ultimately more useful for leaders who want to be more effective
Arguably, brands are not exactly the same thing as people; even though the FA is based on research, that research was not conducted on human beings
It is based on 40 years of research by psychologists
It strongly encourages you to understand and embrace your strengths as a starting point for becoming more focused on what will give you success and satisfaction
Some find its descriptions of strengths as vague or “horoscope-like”, in that they can easily apply to many different people
So…what’s my recommendation?
In weighing the pros and cons of each of these personality systems, I would recommend either Fascination Advantage or StrengthsFinder as good leadership assessment tools. In fact, because I find the body of research undergirding it to have more depth and substance, I’d say StrengthsFinder has an edge.
But ultimately, I think any of these tests have value, especially if they give you a language for understanding what makes you tick.
In particular, anything that shines a light on your strengths can be tremendously useful if you’re a leader who needs to stay positive and focused on what fuels you.
If you’re bogged down by what’s not going well or how you feel you’re not being effective, it can lead to toxic outcomes like burnout.
In fact, it’s worth taking one (or all) of these tests, reflecting on what fills your cup and makes you you, and then analyzing whether the way you’re spending your time honors that. I’ve got just the tool for doing that. It’s time you truly loved being a leader.
Know Thyself. And then, leaders, honor thyself by setting up a business that allows you to scale up while living more authentically.