6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Team Balance

Team Balance

In organizations, having human beings of all different stripes working together can be quite a complex undertaking.

With all the personalities, pre-wired dispositions, and learned behaviors, managing and leading a team of people toward unified goals can almost seem impossible.

Fortunately, we have instruments and tools to help us!

Leadership Toolbox

I have learned a lot from instruments designed to help me understand my own personality types. Some of these personality-type tools give results that are expressed as letter combinations such as ENTJ or ESTJ.

Once these letter combination results are generated, books and other resources are required to help us remember what our letters mean, how to interact with people based on their letter combinations, etc.

Other personality type tools are very simple and are based on labels like Lion, Warrior, Nurturer, or Teacher.

I have learned a great deal from both of these different tools and recommend them for different purposes.

Team Development

Some are Easier to Remember

For the process of team development, I have found that label-based personality type tools tend to be easy to remember, and this is critical in the process of building trust and safety.

For example, I am an “ENTJ” according to Myers-Briggs, and a Warrior or Lion according other simpler tools.

It is easier for my team members to remember that I am a Warrior than it is for them to remember that I am an ENTJ. And it is a lot easier to remember the positive and negative traits of a Warrior than it is to remember the personality traits that an ENTJ typically displays.

The Medicine Wheel

Medicine WheelOf all these tools, my favorite is the Medicine Wheel. C Clinton Sidle offers a very good variation on the Medicine Wheel in his book, The Leadership Wheel.

I highly recommend this book as it provides supervisors with a good description of the various Leadership Wheel types and how to work with them to develop healthy relationships, teams, and organizations.

The basics of the Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel divides all personality types into 4 main categories.
These types are listed below with short summaries of the positive and negative or “shadow” areas of each type:
  • Warrior/North – Positive: courageous, takes charge and willing to take risks.  Shadow: may bulldoze others and can be very hurtful.
  • Nurturer/South – Positive: wise, patient and understanding.  Shadow: may hesitate to move forward if there is any disagreement.
  • Critical Thinker/West – Positive: detailed oriented, can analyze lots of information.  Shadow: may hesitate to move forward without all the necessary information, can suffer from analysis/paralysis.
  • Visionary/East – Positive: Creative and innovative.  Shadow: may not be detailed oriented and things may “fall through the cracks.”

Team Cultures

Incorporating personality types into the team culture

So how do you do this? How does a supervisor identify the personality types of the team and begin the balancing process?  Unlike identifying strengths, I cannot find an online survey that gives us our Medicine Wheel personality type.

I feel this is actually a benefit because it forces us to think carefully and self-identify.

Many people struggle selecting one type that defines them.

  • Some people feel that they are in between two types.
  • Others feel that they can identify with aspects from all areas of the Wheel.

When people struggle, I explain that there is no correct answer. I tell them that the point is to pick the one type that most closely describes them. Sometimes the shadow areas are the ones that tells us where we fit.

Recalibrate Your Team

The team retreat and applying strengths

A good way to start the process of team building is to schedule a 2-3 hour retreat to cover team strengths and team make-up.   Based on the results of the retreat, the supervisor can work with all team members to apply their strengths to minimize the tendencies of the shadow areas.

Information on the retreat and how to balance shadow areas by leveraging  strengths, can be found here.

Documenting and sharing the team’s personality mix

By documenting the strengths as well as the personality-mix of the team with an easy-to-access reference tool, all team members, including the supervisor, will develop an understanding of how to maximize every member’s positive traits while minimizing their negative tendencies.

Combining strengths with positive personality traits will start reducing conflict and growing a sense of confidence in the team.

This is key to better performance.

Through the years of working with my strength themes and those of my staff members, I have learned that while identifying strength themes and personality traits are important and critical steps, the process of sharing this information requires a lot of trust.

The subject of trust is the focus of my next article, “6 Steps to Sustainable Teams, Step 3: Foundational Safety & Trust.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Al Gonzalez is Founding Partner at GIVE Leadership
He helps clients develop trust and leverage the strengths of all team members
Email | LinkedIn |  Twitter | Web 

Image Sources:  nomadicneill.com

13 responses to “6 Steps to Sustainable Leadership: Team Balance

    • Thanks Anne! I really enjoyed your article Invent Your Future Job: Be Unique, Be Social, Be Global developing trust is hard enough with folks from our same culture, I find it even more daunting when working with people from other cultures/countries. Looking forward to your content!



  1. When I was re-introduced to personality type theory in late 1987, I was amazed at what Dr. Carl Jung had created. As an INTJ, which at that time was less than 1% of the U.S. population, I rarely ran into anyone that thought and felt like I did. Finally, I understood why. I decided to roll up my sleeves and learn everything I could about personality type because I felt it answered so many problems I’d encountered in my personal and professional relationships.

    It really isn’t difficult to understand type theory as created by Dr. Jung and expanded by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. There are four behavior dimensions – Energy, Information, Decision and Action. And, within each behavior dimension, there are two opposing preferences. Once you thoroughly understand the behavior dimensions and opposing preferences, it’s easy to decide what someone type is and respond to them within their “comfort zone.”

    I highly recommend type theory that is based on the work of Dr. Carl Jung. He is the Grandfather of type theory and did all of us a wonderful favor by writing a book about type that started this wonderful teaching.


    • Thank for you thoughtful reply Pam. Have you read a book called The Leadership Wheel by Clint Sidle? After reading this book I had a similar experience to yours in that I felt the Medicine Wheel answered many problems I encountered in my personal/professional career. After reviewing your posts and your websites, there appears to be many similarities in the universal message of both models. For example, 4 dimensions, opposing preferences and comfort zones appear in both models. It is wonderful that different resources can help different people.

      I appreciate your recommendation of Dr. Jung’s type theory. I need to dive into that as well. Thanks again.


  2. This heavy reliance on simple categories of personality types to initiate and nurture positive relationships of substance and trust is fundamentally wrong-headed. It replaces the authentic nature of each person with simplistic stereotypes that do more to narrow and distort interpersonal interactions than to inform and enrich them. Moreover, the behavioral science research behind such trait theories clearly shows that these predictive models of behavior are just broad tendencies and inclinations and do not capture the actual elasticity and diversity of people’s situational responses under varied conditions in our work and personal lives. While our human complexities and dynamic nature may present more challenging issues than feels convenient or “easy to remember”, pretending that the trait models capture the unchanging reality of each other is not a valid or productive alternative. We can do better.


      • To clarify, the points I shared are not my “feelings” on the topic. They represent the best insights available to us from decades of behavioral science field research.


        • Thanks Neil. I apologize for my poor choice of words. Do you have any best practices that can help managers of large teams motivate their staff members to study behavioral science and apply the correct insights in their daily interactions with others?

          You are certainly an expert in this topic and I would like to learn from you. In my limited experience, I have only been successful in motivating staff members to read books like the leadership wheel or leadership and self-deception. Even this has been met with considerable resistance. Any advice is appreciated in this area or if you have any good resources I could learn from myself would be great.

          Thanks for your any assistance you can provide.



      • Hi Al,
        To respond to your request about alternative approaches, I would suggest (as one of several possibilities) making use of self-discovery instruments that have a strong research validity and the potential for rich application in leadership development efforts. A few of these are: the Peter Honey Learning Styles Questionnaire, the SHL OPQ and MQ tools and the Belbin Team Styles instrument.

        Hope these tools prove useful for you.


  3. I’m a big fan of assessments as well. One of the challenges we’ve found in our work with the FEBI assessment (which measures 4 factors – like The Medicine Wheel – but linked to both mind and body) is distinguishing personality traits from stages of development. It is true we have personality preferences AND we have access to all 4 of these qualities, often emphasized at different stages of life (e.g., teenage rebellion is more Warrior, parenting brings out more Nurturing). I agree with the theme of The Medicine Wheel that the sage – a mature stage of development – can draw upon any quality as the situation requires.


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