The Opportunist, The Diplomat And The Expert

Welcome back.

The Seven Ways [“Action Logics”]

  • The Opportunist
  • The Diplomat
  • The Expert
  • The Achiever
  • The Individualist
  • The Strategist
  • The Alchemist

Today we continue the third part of our conversation on transforming our leadership “action logics.” According to the Harvard Business Review, corporate and individual performance are related to one’s “action logic” (see Monday, April 4 post for a definition). The three types of leaders the perform least effectively in corporate settings are the Opportunist, Diplomat and the Expert. These three types accounted for 55% of the sample researched.

The Opportunist is characterized by winning any way possible. They are self-oriented and manipulative. This type of leadership may be described as “might makes right”. The strength of the Opportunist is that they are good in emergencies and in sales opportunities. The % of the sample that profiled at this action logic is 5%. Control is an issue because they believe that everyone is out for themselves. How they react to to circumstances depends on whether or not they think they can direct the outcome. Few remain in management long unless they address their action logic unless they evolve into a more effective action logic.

The Diplomat is characterized by avoiding overt conflict. They want to belong and obeys group norms. They rarely rock the boat. The strength of the Diplomat is that they will be the supportive glue within an office. They help bring people together. 12 % profile at this action logic. Control is also an issue here but the focus is on inner control versus control of the external world. In a high level leadership post the Diplomat may seek to please higher status coworkers. Their action logic tells them they will gain acceptance and influence by cooperating with group norms and performing well. They may be overly polite and unable to provide constructive input into the lives of others. Research into 497 managers indicated that 80% of diplomats end up at junior levels [compare to 80% of strategists who end up at senior levels].

The Expert is characterized by ruling via logic and expertise. They want rational efficiency. The strength of the Expert is that they are good as an individual contributor. 38 % profile at this logic. This is the largest category of leader (38%). Experts try to exercise control by perfecting their knowledge. Water tight thinking is their goal. They are great individual contributors but problematic as managers because they are so sure they are right. [And maybe they are?]. For them collaboration is a waste of time. They will treat people who lack their expertise with “contempt”. Emotional intelligence is not desired or appreciated.

What do you think?

Well these three action logics describe half of us (55%). Scary is it not? No worries. Leaders can grow. It may hurt to open up to self evaluation but do it because your leadership matters. Jim from Orlando asked an interesting leadership question with a theological slant in his comment yesterday. Which of these action logics would describe the leadership of the Old testament leader, Saul? Here are some other questions for reflection and interaction.

  • What other historical or biblical characters/behaviors fit these action logics?
  • As you reflect on your own life, are there examples of these action logics in your own behavior and thinking?

Into the Mystic…

Alex McManus
Los Angeles, Ca
© 2005

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