Saturday, January 27, 2007

Managing the Alpha Male

On the plane from Phoenix to Ontario, CA, today I listened to the Harvard Business Review Ideacast 2 from last May 17th.  I'm trying to get caught up on these older casts and this one was a winner.  From the description:

How to Manage the Alpha Male:  Whether he's your boss, your subordinate, your colleague, or your client, learn how to get the best of what the Alpha Male has to offer.

I thought this was a particularly good podcast as it relates to missionaries and missionary life.  Some missionaries are driven, Type-A, Alpha male types.  Others, of course, are as varied as any other population group.  Since we tend to spiritualize everything in Christian circles, however, the Alpha type tends to be either wildly praised as visionary and prophetic, or roundly criticized as sinful, selfish, self-absorbed, control-freaks, etc.

Some leaders are Alpha-males, though not all.  As with any personality type these folks come with their attendant strengths and weaknesses.

The authors in the podcast, who have written a book entitled, The Alpha-Male Syndrome, from the Harvard Business School Press.  In the book they detail the results of their study indicating, unsurprisingly, that  the range of Alpha-Male traits goes from extremely strong and positive to dysfunctional.  They also discovered that the greater the strength the greater the complimentary weakness and that age positively correlates to the strengths.

They gave the following examples:

  1. Alpha-males tend to have an assertiveness, sometimes an assertive anger that they use  to influence people.  While this can be effective, people also feel run over.
  2. Alpha-males tend to be impatient.  They tend to move the ball down the field, but in the long term this impatience burns out the people around them.

If you work with Alpha-males the podcast is worth a listen.  Their comments, and the book they've written, have some solid advice for both dealing with one's alpha-maleness and that of others one might work with.

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