The term “fearless dominance” arose from the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI), a personality test for traits associated with psychopathy in adults. The PPI was developed by psychologists Scott Lilienfeld and Brian Andrews to comprehensively index the personality traits of anti-social behaviors.
Many political leaders, top business executives, and even psychopaths, share the “fearless dominance” trait. Those that share this trait are typically great crisis managers, because they remain calm under pressure and are confident, taking bold action in the face of considerable risks. They can also be influential and charismatic, and effective in getting the job done.
However, the downside appears when their assertiveness crosses the line into intimidation or bullying. Those with this trait tend to monopolize discussions and disregard social norms, which can discourage team members and lower morale.
Recognizing Dominant Personalities
These individuals typically attain influence by demonstrating their competence and value to their teams. Studies have found that dominant team members “may ascend group hierarchies by appearing helpful to the group’s overall success, as opposed to by aggressively grabbing power.”
They may exhibit several of the following behaviors and traits:
• Self-confidence: their strong self-belief can come across as arrogance or bravado.
• Directness: dominant people usually get right to the point and can be quite blunt in their communication.
• Decisiveness: they can make quick decisions, often with little input from others.
• Assertiveness: they tend to take the lead in situations and commonly monopolize discussions and meetings. They may even seem aggressive at times.
• Impatience: dominant people like to make progress. They tend to avoid getting bogged down in details and can give little time to contributions from colleagues.
Advantages as Team Members
They make strong leaders, particularly in times of crisis, and they may also excel at handling stressful situations and heavy workloads. Their energy can encourage fellow team members to stay focused on their tasks and targets. If they have the enthusiasm to match their force of character, they may be happy to take on new challenges. And, they aren’t afraid to take risks. Unfortunately, the negative aspects of dominant personalities can sometimes outweigh the benefits they bring to the workplace. Some people can feel intimidated by a colleague’s strength of character. Dominant people may ride roughshod over others’ feelings. Their blunt approach can “rub people the wrong way,” and their lack of empathy can create personal conflicts. A consequence of having one forceful character “hog-up center stage” is that some team members may not feel comfortable sharing their opinions, and good ideas may be lost.
How to Manage Dominant Personalities
A dominant team member may not realize how their behavior affects colleagues. They may mean well but simply do not understand that hire actions are causing problems. To maintain morale and unity within your team, you’ll need to encourage them to downplay their negative traits and maximize their strengths.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Approach dominant people on their level. Always keep your conversations targeted and brief to keep their attention. Make eye contact, skip the small talk, and don’t ramble. Speak confidently and don’t back down. To prevent arguments, avoid making generalizations and support your assertions with evidence. If the dominant person tries to interrupt or talk over you, put a stop to it immediately.
2. Discuss the impact of their behavior. A dominant person may not actually realize how this behavior is affecting the rest of the team. Talk privately with the person to explain your concerns, using specific examples. Use role playing to encourage them to take more constructive, positive approaches with their co-workers.
3. Treat them with respect. Dominant people want others to hear and appreciate their opinions. Show respect for them and their viewpoints. Remain calm, and address them with empathy. What motivates their behavior? Do they want to feel important? Do they feel insecure and crave more respect? Showing compassion can tone down the more aggressive side of their personality.
4. Encourage teamwork. Your dominant team member may spend little time socializing and building relationships with their colleagues, who in turn may find it difficult to collaborate with them. Consider ways of improving your team dynamics. Coach them on how to be a good team player. Your entire team will benefit from team-building exercises, especially in building trust.
5. Assign them challenging work. Many people with dominant personalities enjoy being challenged at work, so try to find projects that will test their skills and abilities.
6. Recognize their work. Like all team members, dominant people enjoy being praised for their ideas and work. Uncovering what motivates them will help you design constructive feedback and rewards that will boost their engagement.
7. Let them chart their own course. If they work well independently, assign them individual projects that only require them to have limited contact with the rest of the team. When assigning work, focus on the “what,” and let them figure out the “how.”
8. Don’t constrain their big ideas. Dominant people often come up with bold, creative solutions. And even if their ideas are impractical or risky, it may be difficult to change their view.
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