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How to adapt your leadership style to motivate your team

Do you focus more on tasks or people? Are you assertive or responsive? Do you wear your emotions on your sleeve or maintain a poker face to hide your feelings from all but your closest loved ones? Answers to these questions reveal important things about your personality, how you interact with others and what it will take to motivate and create balance among team members.

For more than half a century, personal social styles have been used in the business world. Knowing when to use each style can help leaders better connect with people and maximize positive outcomes. Church leaders can also benefit from understanding the four primary social styles. Think of these behavioral styles as patterns.


Drivers like to get to the bottom line and prioritize results. They often speak forcefully, hold strong positions and need to be in charge. Assertive and task-oriented, drivers often move at a fast pace and may be less responsive to others. These people act quickly and decisively and don't abide inaction in their energetic pursuit of results. Drivers aren't always the best collaborators but often are good at delegating details. They typically appear cool, independent and competitive and want to be recognized for accomplishments. You might notice a driver's tendency to engage in arguments and conflict.


Like drivers, an expressive person often moves fast but will often be more responsive as they are oriented more toward people than tasks. Expressives tend to be persuasive as well as good storytellers who focus on the big picture and know how to motivate a room. Enthusiastic and lively, the typical expressive likes change and dynamic environments, often presenting a big-picture vision for others to work out the details. They are excitable dreamers and spontaneous decision makers who value recognition. They think emotionally, yet dislike conflict and usually try to hold onto an optimistic view of the world.


An amiable person probably makes the best counselor. They are great listeners, intuitive and oriented toward relationships and connecting with others. Less spontaneous than expressive people, they decide and move slowly, often contemplating risks, challenges and each step necessary for getting something done. Amiables simultaneously build trust and teams. They care about belonging in a group and want others to feel that same security. They want peace and try to avoid interpersonal conflict as much as they can.


If Sergeant Joe Friday of "Dragnet" were real, he'd probably be an analytical. "Just the facts" is what these people prefer. Less assertive and slower paced than many other types, an analytical person likes to take time, think logically and present well-organized details. They are precise and great organizers, always trying to nail down specific details. Accuracy is everything. Analyticals tend to be cautious decision makers but will likely provide accurate reports. They also have good problem-solving skills, even if they're not likely to rush into contentious conversations to sort out conflicts.

What is your style?

As you review the basic definitions of the four styles, you may immediately know which one is most like you. Which style would you choose more often than the rest? If you're unsure how to classify yourself or would like a more structured approach (especially you analyticals), here is a simple test you can take.

How can these categories make you a more effective leader?

Leading is never a one-size-fits-all job or process. Versatility is key. Here are some examples of how to adapt your social style based on specific situations:

  • If you are a driver, be cautious of your tendency to control other team members and conditions. Instead, demonstrate supportive skills and actions like listening, questioning and reinforcing the positive.
  • If you an expressive, be cautious of your tendency to require approval from other team members. Demonstrate directive skills and actions such as assertiveness, focus and attention to detail. 
  • If you are an amiable, be cautious of your tendency to resist new or different opportunities. Try demonstrating directive skills such as negotiation and divergent thinking and assertiveness and executing decisions quickly. 
  • If you are an analytical, be cautious of your tendency to focus on perfection or weaknesses. Instead, demonstrate supportive skills and actions like listening empathetically, offering positive reinforcement of others and developing relationships.

How to motivate people

Who do you interact with? Who do you need to motivate? Think of a specific person. Which of the four styles sounds most like that individual? Consider the following when trying to motivate specific types.

  • When talking to drivers, get to the point sooner rather than later. Talk about results and the clear options needed to get them.
  • When talking to expressives, show how interested you are in their ideas. Embrace their enthusiasm and agree with them where you share common ground.
  • When talking to amiables, listen intently. Soften your language and assume they will take things personally. Influencing people can easily go awry if you're not careful. 
  • When talking to analyticals, be thorough and well-prepared. Ask questions and be specific.

"Know thyself." The ancient Latin proverb is as true today as it ever has been. Learning about why we think and operate the way we do is enlightening and can even be enjoyable.

Of course, you might discover some work you'll need to do. Good leaders demonstrate flexibility and the humility to adapt. The reward will be better relationships and more productivity among your team.

Clay Morgan

Clay Morgan is an author from Dallas, Texas who spent a decade teaching college courses in the social sciences before becoming a consultant in communications and organizational strategy. Clay enjoys writing at the intersection of culture and spirituality. He has done ministry with college students for years and loves finding creative ways to engage millennials.

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