Chris Christie’s Temperament

Fending off a scandal that could threaten his career, the question hanging over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is not “what do traffic jams in Fort Lee, NJ have to do with the 2016 Presidential race?”, but rather, “what does this political crisis tell voters about Christie’s ability to effectively lead NJ, and perhaps someday, the U.S.?”

Being in the business of assessing leadership effectiveness, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at Christie’s behavior in response to the current political crisis, and with the help of Dr. Robert Patraw, one of WJM’s resident personality experts, review the talents and challenges that a leader with Christie’s (hypothetical) personality might exhibit.

Dr. Patraw has made the following observations of Christie through the lens of The Five Temperament Model, as adapted by Dr. Patraw based on his 27 years of coaching corporate leaders.

A reasonable starting point for hypothesizing the Temperament of anyone demonstrating a personal ambition for power and prestige in the public eye would be Choleric in Inclusion (surface level interpersonal interactions)

There are reasons that each of the other four Temperaments might seek a similar office or position, but they will demonstrate a very different way of conducting themselves - ranging from a desire to please people and be liked to a reluctance to appear publicly.  

So what elements suggest that Governor Christie may be Choleric in Inclusion?

  • He demonstrates a strong personal presence/charisma and self confidence whenever dealing with the public.
  • He can be charming and warm when he chooses but can also shift quickly to showing frustration and being blunt in his responses. 
  • He seems quite comfortable shifting topics as needed. 
  • He can respond to unexpected input from the audience directly and on topic.
  • He can be direct and aggressive when he chooses/needs to be.
  • He can redirect an interview or question to the message that he wants to deliver.
  • He seems to be independent of others approval of him. 
  • He seems to have clear end points/goals in mind and is proud of tangible/measurable results.

 

Here are the general strengths and weakness of a Choleric in Inclusion.

Strengths:

  • Focus on results that can be seen and measured
  • Fast, agile mind – can deal with almost any topic and quickly suggest effective next steps
  • Courage and flexibility -  loves a challenge and constantly seeks bigger and tougher goals or problems to solve
  • Visionary and conqueror – often looks to make things bigger, better, faster etc.  Regards any challenge as an opportunity to conquer and overcome. 
  • Strong work ethic – will do whatever it takes to achieve desired end results.  Can often work longer and harder than those around him/her.  “Work is life, life is work” is often what they demonstrate. 
  • On the job learning – learns best from experience and tend to get better at what they do the longer they are doing it. 
  • Conflict has value – loves a good fight and fights to win
  • Radar-screen thinking – they can quickly jump from one topic to another based on what is currently on their “screen”.  When one item is dealt with to their satisfaction they move on to the next whether others are ready or not.

Weaknesses:

  • May lash out unexpectedly.  Are prone to flashes of anger when blocked or prevented from achieving their goals.   Anyone who appears to be blocking the Choleric’s success becomes a personal enemy and the Choleric can play clever games to make the other person look bad or potentially self-destruct. 
  • Can be adept manipulators of others and will do what seems needed to achieve their ends.  Cholerics in their weaknesses can be charming one minute and frightening the next.  They are considered bullies who must be pleased or placated. 
  • When in their weaknesses there is often a large gap between public and private persona with the clever Choleric maintaining a good public image while battering people privately. 

 

Christie as Leader

If we assume that Christie’s leadership style reflects this same Choleric Temperament, we might expect to observe the following leadership strengths and weaknesses.

Choleric leader in their strengths:

  • Leader as charismatic captain/visionary
  • Decisions based on what is needed to address opportunities and threats now
  • Can change direction whenever needed to better achieve goals
  • Develops expertise from experience
  • Loyal to those who produce
  • Can rally people behind their vision and is very clear about expectations
  • Hands on controlling style
  • Fiercely independent
  • Will defend their turf even against superiors

Choleric leader in their weaknesses:

  • Can sacrifice others to achieve their goals
  • Tends to assign blame to others in times of great stress
  • Can terminate their loyalty to someone in an instant
  • Can use “the end justifies the means” as a part of their decision making process
  • Can have a convenient memory  as a tool to support their position
  • Can appear to violate their own values as those values are always secondary to their goals

Cholerics will fall into their weaknesses primarily when they have not been able to achieve to their own satisfaction in areas that matter to them.  These weaknesses are built into the Choleric, but with increased self-awareness, and perhaps the support of a coach, the Choleric leader can learn to recognize them and develop strategies to reduce their frequency.

For all leaders, Governors or otherwise, the learning that comes from an assessment process can be invaluable towards leveraging innate strengths and mitigating weaknesses.   Awareness of our Temperament provides us with control over our behavior and can greatly impact our response to events and how we are perceived by others. 

 

Caveats

Some caveats are in order.   This general diagnosis of Governor Christie’s personality is based purely on Christie’s interactions with the press.  It is important to keep in mind that an individual’s public persona may not line up with the private person (especially for a politician!)

Furthermore, in the above, Dr. Patraw only considers the “Inclusion” area of the Five Temperament model which explores the component of our personality that is most “readable” by others.  Comments regarding his leadership style are based on inferring that his “Control” Temperament is the same as his “Inclusion”.  It is important to recognize that most people bring additional talents and abilities to their leadership outside of their Inclusion Temperament.  To truly assess leadership style and effectiveness, it is necessary to be present when the individual is functioning as a leader (i.e. leading his/her team or working through a decision making process with others.)  Those behaviors are seldom revealed in a media event so any judgment about Governor Christie’s leadership must ultimately be left to those closest to him. 

For more details on the Five Temperament Model, please reach out to us at wjm@wjmassoc.com

 

WJM Faculty Member Dr. Robert Patraw has 27 years experience assisting organizations and individuals to enhance their success by applying his skills and background to significant leadership and organizational challenges. He is renowned in the areas of executive coaching, assessment, leading change, mission/vision statements, business strategy development and evaluation, team building, communications effectiveness, and organizational design.

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