Thoughts On Teams And The “Essential Four Types”

Considering that VMware is, perhaps, one of the best known and respected names in the information technology field, I think it should come as little surprise that VMware’s CEO, Paul Maritz, knows how to run a successful business. The New York Times interviewed him in 2010, and it’s worth a read.

Strong leadership, no matter what size of business is involved, is key to any successful one. It can become more difficult as you become responsible for a larger team. I think eventually you should come to the realization – and accept it – that a larger team means your share of influence of the team slowly decreases. A well planned team shouldn’t need that much oversight from a leader, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say a leader is not needed.

In fact, Maritz suggests a team should have people exhibiting four different types of leadership personalities. In the interview with the New York Times, he doesn’t appear to recommend the team have four leaders (personally, I think that would be overkill), but a great team will have people who have the four kinds of leadership personalities: The Strategist, The Classic Manager, The Customer Champion, and The Enforcer (the capitalizations are my own). He also points out that very rarely will one person exhibit more that one of those personality types.

From the experiences I’ve had so far, I would agree. I’ve seen people who are brilliant at coming up with ideas and goals for an organization, but are lacking when it comes to making sure those goals are actually met. Likewise, you have people who are fantastic at making sure a team sets out to reach its goal, but the goal is probably not one they came up with. A strong customer champion is critical. You need someone who is a “people person” because you don’t know your users until you actually get to know your users. And finally, you need the enforcer too. You can stare at a problem all you want, but I guarantee you it will not go away until you act upon it.

And like Maritz, I too have yet to see someone with one that one of those personalities. I’ve seen teams where they were enough people to have all four personalities present. I’ve seen huge teams, but they didn’t cover the four personality types. While the latter wasn’t outright unsuccessful, they certainly had many more issues (to be fair, I wouldn’t rule out the size of the team as one of said issues).

Ideally, you should have a carefully selected team. Establish the Sudo Leader (aka a manager), but make sure to have a team where others exhibit leadership skills too, preferably one that covers all four kinds of leadership personalities.

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