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Leadership Assessment Tools

All of us can be effective leaders or team members… somewhere. We only need to understand the kinds of places and situations where God has called us to serve. To know that we need to know ourselves.

On this page I have reviewed a number of personal assessment tools. Some focus on our basic personality, others on our gifts and talents, and still others on our passions and inclinations. Many of these are “off the shelf” items that can be taken and used without the help of a professional. I would encourage you to use any of these either with a group of peers or a coach that can help you understand how to apply them. We often deny the unlovely and weak sides of our persons. Only by understanding both our strengths and our weaknesses can we seek those places where God has best equipped us to serve Him.

I have personally used all of these tools and find value in all of them, though they reflect back to me very different aspects of my person. At the base level most of these can be relatively inexpensive to purchase and use – less than %20 at this writing (2010)

Conflict Style Assessment

DiSC

Discovering Your Ministry Identity

The Enneagram

The Grip-Birkman Blueprint

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The New Personality Self-Portrait

Strengths Finder 2.0
Strengths Based Leadership

The Three Colors of Love/The Three Colors of Ministry

Your Leadership Grip Assessment Process

Conflict Style Assesment
Jim Van Yperen
ChurchSmart Resources, 2002 – 8 pages, paperback
Rating: 4 stars

This is a simple, quick, easy to use tool to begin discussions regarding styles of conflict in a ministry team. We all have different ways that we handle stress and disagreement. If we don't understand the differences we may find ourselves increasing the conflict simply because of our styles. The tool includes basic biblical directions regarding what to do if you are in the wrong in the midst of a conflict. Use it.

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Discovering Your Ministry Identity
Paul R. Ford
ChurchSmart Resources, 1998 – 56 pages, paperback
Rating: 3 stars

Your Leadership Grip
Paul R. Ford
ChurchSmart Resources, 2000 – 35 pages, paperback
Rating: 3 stars

These two assessment tools overlap. Your Leadership Grip is actually an edited and reduced version of Discover Your Ministry Identity. The main difference is that the new edition drops the "Vital Values" (discerning what you passion in ministry and life) and "Team Shredding Attitudes" (self-explanatory and optional in the earlier version). Strangely enough, I also like the graphics better in the older, larger edition.

The point of both of these tools is to provide an easy assessment tool for individuals and teams wishing to understand how they can best work together. There's nothing revolutionary in that, nor in the methods Ford uses to accomplish that goal. Still, this is a usable tool that deserves consideration.

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DiSC
This very common personality profile can be purchased both as a paper test and online. I find that the online versions generally offer more and more helpful commentary on the results of the test. Two sources are Inscape and Motivational Living.

This test divides your personality into four areas&58;

  • Dominance
  • influence
  • Steadiness
  • Compliance
In addition it determines three different ways we express personalities:

  • Your Public Self (the Mask we put on for others)
  • Your Private Self (the Core of who we really are under pressure)
  • Your Perceived Self (the Reality of who we know ourselves to be
Obviously these three selves can come into conflict. It can be valuable for others, as well as ourselves to recognize the changes we undergo as we get under stress. This will allow a team to recognize stress in our lives and reflect back to us to recognize how this may hinder our desired goals.

All forms of the DiSC make suggestions as to where in a team we might work best, those behaviors we might overuse and changes in attitude and behavior that might improve our ability to work with a team.

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The Enneagram
The Enneagram has been utilized by Christian Spiritual Directors for at least 1500 years. Though it has become popular with New Age practitioners, it is based on “nine deadly sins“ (discounted to 7 by Pope Gregory), and describes personalities in 3 states :

  • Core State
  • Integration (ascending to our better selves)
  • Disintegration (Descending to our lesser selves)

Disintegration most often comes in response to stress. However, as we grow in Christ we can find ways to ascend to our Integration point so that we treat those around us better.

In addition, the Enneagram notes where in our person (thinking, sensing or will) we primarily operate under each state and whether we over-function, under-function or dysfunction in that area. Finally all authors talk about each of the 9 personality types in terms of the degree of health we exhibit. Thus the various aggressive personality types can be benevolent powers to be reckoned with or forces of destruction to be feared. Add to this the fact that there are “wings” to each of these states of being which qualify these. For example, an “8 with a 7 wing” “8” describes someone who values power and seeks strength while “7” indicates someone who likes variety and takes risks. in contrast, an “8 with a 9 wing” would value power and seek strength and while being more focused on connecting people together in a community. You can see how the small variation just in this example would indicate a different sort of ministry for each person.

Finally, each of these personality types find the most comfort with various levels of social interaction:

  • alone (the solitary type)
  • one-on-one (the unfortunately-named “sexual” type)
  • in groups (the social type)
This does not meant that solitary or sexual types do not interact with others; only that they find themselves most at ease alone or with only one other person.

You can see that this system contains immense complexity. I find it quite insightful and I recommend the following books for understanding the Enneagram.

The Enneagram:
A Christian Perspective
Richar Rohr and Andreas Ebert
Crossroad, 2009 (originally in German, 1999) – 295 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

Rohr is a Christian Spiritual Director (Franciscan) and Ebert is his translator and collaborator. This volume focuses intensely on the Christian roots of the Enneagram and digs into our sinful habit of self-deception. Highly readable and honest (with both authors admitting their own Enneagrams and struggles with them). They insightfully elaborate the needs and dilemmas of each personality type. This book does not contain a self-test and depends on your personal and group self-reflection to discern your Enneagram. The book does contain a couple of helpful charts in the back.

Understanding the Enneagram:
the practical guide to personality type
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Houghton Mifflin, 2000 – 400 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

One of two books by this duo I am recommending. This one contains a simple self-test and a number of helpful (if complex) charts describing in detail the natural attractions and reactions of the various types. There is also a very good section discussing the tendency for people to misidentify themselves and others.

Personality Types:
using the Enneagram for self-discovery
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Houghton Mifflin, 1996 – 500 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

This is, by far, the most comprehensive explanation of the Enneagram, giving detailed descriptions of every personality type in every state of health. I recommend this book for digging deeper once you have come to understand this complex personality typing system.

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The Grip-Birkman Blueprint
Rating: 5 stars

This test can only be administered and interpreted by a Grip-Birkman coach. This, of course, makes the tool much more expensive. If you are serious about considering a change of career or type of pastoral ministry this could powerfully assist you. The Blueprint displays such complexity that it will be hard to encapsulate it in this review.

The “Grip” section comes from Paul Ford’s Leadership Grip and can be purchased separately. The real value lies in the Birkman Blueprint.

This is a scaled-down version of the much more expensive commercial-grade test used and improved for businesses over the last 40 years. As a version of this professional assessment tool, this one compares well. It will detail your relational and work inclinations in four areas:

  • Your Life Style Grid which places you in a 2-by-2 grid of preference for task-oriented/People-oriented work and whether you prefer direct or indirect communications. It does this in 3 areas of your life:
    • Your Interests

    • Your Usual Styles

    • Your Needs (for motivation)

  • Your Organizational Focus which details the main types of work that attract you. This refers to what you like to do and also the ways this influences your style of work:
    • Administration/Fiscal (cautious, consistent managing)

    • Design/Strategy (Sensitive, creative innovation)

    • Operations/Technology (practical, hands on production)

    • Salesy/Marketing (outgoing, enthusiastic influencing)

  • Areas of Interest which details your preferred areas of activity in
    • Artistic

    • Clerical

    • Literary

    • Mechanical

    • Musical

    • Numerical

    • Outdoor

    • Persuasive

    • Scientific

    • Social Service

  • Intellectual Styles which show your preferred ways of working with ideas
    • Public Contact vs. Detail

    • Global (holistic relational process) vs Linear (logical sequence)

    • Conceptual (abstract) vs. Concrete

All of this comes in a detailed and somewhat repetitive report which, for me, was 75 pages long. You and your coach will spend a long time working through this document. Again, I recommend this one for anyone considering a transition from one career to another or one type of pastoral ministry to another (for instance Congregational to Chaplaincy).

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The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Rating: 5 stars

This classic personality test grew out of the work of the psychologist Carl Jung. It measures your personality along 4 axes:

  • Extroversion/Introversion. Whether you focus outwardly and are energized by contact with people, places and things, or inwardly to and by information, ideas and concepts.
  • Sensing/Intuition. Whether you notice and trust facts and present realities or theories, interrelationships and future possibilities.
  • Thinking/Feeling. Whether you make decisions on logical, objective analysis, or prefer person-centered decisions
  • Judging/Perceiving. Do you tend to be neat, orderly and decide things quickly or more flexible, keeping options open as long as possible.
These four axes produce a number of insights into your ways of behaving, leading and serving. I find these most productive in the more complex and complete reports which necessitate a employing coach to administer, interpret and guide you through reflection.

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The New Personality Self-Portrait:
Why You Think, Work, Love and Act the Way You Do
John M Oldham, MD,and Lois B Morris
Bantam Books, 1995 – 449 pages, paperback
Rating: 5 stars

Based on the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) this handy self-evaluation charts your personality tendencies across 14 comprehensive personality types. Rather than peg you into one slot, Oldham and Morris show you the relative strength of each of these personality types which you express. This allows for the complexity of human personality which can often have contradictory elements. This recommends it highly in my mind.

Each personality type is sectioned out into 6 life domains (Emotions, Relationships, Work, Self, Self-Control and the Real World). Each of these is weighted according to the importance of that domain in the particular personality type. This gives an incredible richness and complexity.

As noted above, this tool is based on the standard mental disorders modern psychiatry has documented. This allows the New Personality Self-Portrait [NPSP]to allow us to glimpse our “shadow side”, that part of us more influenced by our sinful and broken nature than by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, each personality section ends with the description of the mental disorder which reflects the extreme of that personality.

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Strengths Finder 2.0
Tom Rath
Gallup Press, 2007 – 174 pages, hardcover
(plus online assessment)
Strengths Based Leadership
Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
Gallup Press, 2008 – 256 pages, hardcover
(plus online assessment)
Rating: both 5 stars

If you want to know what makes you tick, this can be a very good place to start. Based on a 40-year study of human strengths, these books and their online assessment tools apply the “the 34 most common talents” to your personality. Actually I would not call them talents so much as habitual abilities. The strengths of the Strength Finder series include such categories as “Input”, which is the ability and drive to collect volumes of information and “Woo” [ Winning Others Over] which describes those who enjoy meeting new people and getting them to like you.

Strength Finder 2.0 encourages us not to beat our heads against the walls of our weaknesses. Strengths Based Leadership then groups these 34 “talents” into four leadership roles – Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. These help you understand how your Strengths will play within a team setting. I consider these two volumes a very handy and informative tool for self-knowledge. There is a “Christian version” built upon the original Strength Finder book, called “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham which I have not reviewed.

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The Three Colors of Love
The Three Colors of Ministry
The Three Colors of Spirituality
Christian A. Schwarz
ChurchSmart Resources, (no publication date) paperback
Rating: 4 stars

If you want a practical yet sophisticated tool to help a person grow deeper in their service to God, you can do much worse than these two workbooks. Schwarz, one of the founders of Natural Church Development, would humbly beg you to remember that he sees his work as "a" tool to church health, not "the" tool or even "the best" tool.

With that as the caveat, this represents the next level. In an attempt to integrate the Trinity in with Gift-Oriented Ministry/Spiritual Gifts (3 colors of ministry), Loving Relationships/The Fruit of the Spirit (3 colors of love) and Passionate Spirituality/Personal Experience of God (3 colors of Spirituality) Schwarz gives us an imaginative approach to these subjects. (There are 5 more on the way reflecting the 5 other NCD Quality Characteristics) Even if you find his approach speculative and maybe a bit contrived the workbooks are an excellent way to help Christians integrate more fully the meaning of who God made them and how they, therefore, can serve Him best.

Using his usual German-analytical approach to the subject (including survey analysis and norming the results) Schwarz asks us to distinguish the members of the Trinity as Creator, Redeemer, Empowerer. And he associates each member with different sets of attributes (such as: Justice, Obedience, Grace or Wisdom, Commitment Power). By doing this they allow each of us to see if in our Christian life we are maintaining a balance. Are we too oriented to the Spirit and so lose our moorings in God's wisdom and Christ's obedience? Perhaps we are too focused on fairness and truth (Father and Son) to be much bothered with politeness (the Spirit).

Use these books judiciously. And the price tag will keep them from being used otherwise. Still, they stand head and shoulders above other more subjective tests and treatments of these subjects.

For a stand-alone explanation the the NCD “Three-Colors” approach, see The Three-fold Art of Experiencing God on the NCD book review page