Personality (Part 1)

People inside the business world love personality tests. Whether it's Meyers & Briggs, DiSC, the Color Code, or another system, I believe corporations love these things because the task of human management becomes much less daunting if you can categorize all of your employees into four buckets. I believe that these systems have varying levels of merit and practicality to them. My intent in this post, however, is not to compare and contrast them, but to comment on a separate, simpler, and more ubiquitous personality profiling system.

In my working career, and ever since I have entered business school, I keep running across the phrase "Type A". When I first heard this in high school, I had no idea what it meant. Although I didn't formally learn about what "Type A" was until much later, I was able to take from context that it was used to refer to someone who was very driven, impatient, and outspoken. A natural leader. I eventually learned that there was another kind of person, "Type B", but no one ever really talked about them, and I didn't really know what they like.

In the mean time, I kept hearing people refer to themselves as Type A, as if it were some sort of badge of honor or medal that proved that they were cut out for business leadership. I started to get worried because I didn't feel like I had these "amazing" Type A qualities. I must be a Type B, whatever that was. At any rate, B was surely not as good as A, right? Just think of a report card.

Then just two months ago, I was reading Daniel Pink's insightful book, Drive. In it, he explains that the origin of Type A/Type B was not even meant to describe business leadership attributes. Rather, it was invented by a couple of physicians (Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman) in the late 1950s to identify patients who were prone to heart disease. Type A's were found to have a set of complex personality traits, including "excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency".

Type B's, on the other hand, were found to be "just as intelligent, and frequently just as ambitious, as Type A's". They just expressed their ambition differently. I found this to be great news, because it validated that as a Type B, I was just as good as all of the Type A's out there.

But there was still the conflict of perception. In Part 2 of this post, I'll explain my conundrum of being a Type B in a Type A world, my inquiry to Dan Pink for his take, and the advice he gave me in return.