How to Thrive As a Type-B Leader in a Type-A World

By Brian Baulch | Blog

Feb 01

By Chris Huff

Throughout the last 30 years of my career, I’ve consistently found myself working in the orbit of high capacity leaders. At NCR, I joined the computer division that pioneered multi-user computing and their people were highly sought for leadership roles throughout the company. It was a fast paced, high intensity season and they loved fast paced high intensity leaders. By the age of 30 I was leading the Global Support Center for Retail Systems and was constantly in the middle of the cutting edge projects.

Later, when God called me into vocational ministry, I joined 12Stone Church (yet another fast paced organization). The leadership team here is a full-throttle, sacrifice and risk, high intensity group of individuals. We share great vision. There is a high demand for excellence. It’s a “Type A” rich environment.

In spite of my love of “Type-A” environments, I am a “Type-B”

What does Type-B mean? It means that I am wired to cooperate rather than compete. I don’t carry the same level of intensity as the leaders above me. When working with them, I have to “power-up”. I prefer to be alone rather than in a crowd. My capacity (or energy level) to interact with people is much less than the other leaders around me. I have to manage my calendar carefully, or I will implode after too many appointments.

Earlier in my career, that truth was hard for me to accept. I tried to be high energy and fast paced like the other leaders around me, and nearly burned myself out trying to pretend to be “Type-A” and keep up the pace. Fortunately, I heard a leadership lesson by John Maxwell called “Second and Satisfied” and it changed my life.

Leaders do not need to be “Type-A” to be successful. In fact, “Type-B” leaders are invaluable for any organization. Take a look at my self-description above where I shared that I am “wired to cooperate rather than compete.” Just imagine how dysfunctional a team could become if everyone were “Type A” and competitive. I help bring the team together to accomplish its goals.

Consider this: I recently read that Walt Disney was a “Type-B” and it shocked me. Really? Are they referring to the animator/director/screenwriter who single-handedly built the entertainment empire? The guy who won more Academy Awards and nominations than any other human being? Wow…maybe I’ll be okay after all…

We can thrive as “Type-B” leaders

Here are a few tips that I have found helpful in my journey.

Come out of the Closet

This is the single most important step to take. Far too many leaders are pretending to be someone (or something) they are not…and that consumes too much energy!

It also takes a large amount of courage to admit that we don’t fit into the leadership mold that the world has developed for us. But, it is only when we stop pretending and embrace our God-given design that we can begin to flourish! Only then can we become the person that we were designed to be.

Are you a “Type-B” Leader? (Test yourself here) If you are, be proud of your natural personality and begin to lead out of that strength.

Give yourself permission to lead

Our “Type B” personality does not imply that we have less drive…or less desire to make a difference. We have plenty of ideas, gifts, talents, and strong preferences. The difference is that we aren’t driven by an inner need to rule the world. If God has called you to leadership…then step forward and lead. Refuse to allow the enemy to tell you that you aren’t wired with the right stuff!

Choose Carefully

We need to remember that we have choices. No one is asking us to sacrifice our soul for the ministry (or organization). Pastor Kevin Myers (our senior pastor) tells the staff “I don’t expect you to sacrifice your family for this church…just don’t expect me to sacrifice this church for your family.” If the mission is costing you too much, then act with integrity and step aside. Don’t reduce the mission to match your capacity.

I choose to be here at 12Stone. I chose to live on the edge and sacrifice for the mission. It is Jesus’ call upon my life and He sustains me. If I am starting to burn out, it is because I am tackling projects or responsibilities that he never asked of me.

Protect and Refuel

There are plenty of warning signs when I’ve exceeded my capacity for people and meetings. I become extremely tired. I begin expressing irritable behaviors. I have trouble focusing on my task list. The list goes on (no need to bore you there!)

My wife knows the signs and she escorts me away when I hit my empty tank and helps me retreat. Even though she prefers having company (or going out with friends), she is gracious to protect at least two uncommitted evenings during the week.

I have also learned how to plan mini-vacations that recharge my batteries. I have my best “think time” when escaping to my sailboat or motorcycle for a few hours.

If I watch the warning signs and continuously refuel my tank, then I can lead bigger and better when the organization needs me to pour on the juice!

Conquer Conflict Avoidance

In general, Type-B leaders tend to protect the harmony of the team and are tempted to avoid confronting others when it is needed. We find ways to get along without actually resolving the underlying tensions. This is damaging to the team.

More often than our Type-A counterparts, we need to conquer this behavior and learn how to engage in productive conflict resolution. I would like to suggest the book “Crucial Conversations (Tools for talking when the stakes are high)” as a resource to help you overcome this behavior.

I would like to end with this related thought. Do not confuse personality with submission. Each of us must submit to our leader…regardless of our personality type. Type-B leaders are not submitting when we say “yes” on the outside and then resist on the inside. We must give our whole hearts to embracing the leaders above us. And, we must deal directly with any insubordination of type A’s beneath us.

Thanks for listening!

“This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland’s free monthly e-newsletter, “The Pastor’s Coach,” available at”

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