Are Introverts Strong Leaders?

A Tribute to George H. W. Bush’s Personality Strengths

I watched the celebrations of the life of George H. W. Bush during last week’s funeral proceedings and listened to the tributes lauding his leadership. He was described by many as the consummate public servant and a statesman.

When I heard statements of his leadership style, my mind worked overtime to identify his personality profile. In my opinion, his leadership strengths in the DISC model are a combination of the introverted C (Conscientious Planner) and even more introverted S (Steady Peacekeeper).

I categorized him as a C/S in spite of being a fighter pilot at 18 and flying 58 dangerous missions. Normally I would classify a fighter pilot as a D (Dominant Producer). Cs and Ds have similar natures when it comes to achievement. The Ds, however, compete in an aggressive manner. For instance,I saw a bumper sticker that speaks to their competitiveness. It said, “There can only be one winner. Do you still want to play?” The C individual will not say that, but they think it and they compete with a fierceness to match the Ds aggressive nature.

One other point. From studying the TTI Talent Insights Assessment that includes the DISC and the Driving Forces, I deduced that one of Bush’s Primary Driving Forces is Command.  

This chart shows the division of personalities into four basic types. Learn more about the characteristics of each personality type. 

It is evident that his tribute were given for the way he lived his personal life, versus his achievements since no president before him had such deep public service experience. Not only was he a decorated Navy pilot, but he was a successful oil executive, congressman, United Nations delegate, Republican Party chairman, envoy to Beijing, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Gerald F. Seib, of the Capitol Journal said Bush was known for his decency and grace.

C – Conscientious Planner Qualities

The phrases I heard that show Conscientious Planner qualities are:

  • Competitive nature and substantial ambition
  • Capable of running hard-hitting political campaigns
  • Known as a policy wonk
  • Displayed high levels of honesty and integrity
  • Tried to do the right thing
  • Was responsible and duty bound

When communicating, he did not have the succinctness of the D (Dominant Producer) nor the flashy verbal skills of the I (Influential Promoter) but often struggled for the right words. This is a characteristic of a C (Conscientious Planner). Their brain generates so many options and words to express a thought that they often stumble as they look for the right ones to express their ideas.

S – Steady Peacekeeper Qualities

S (Steady Peacekeeper) qualities are reflected in these words:

  • Had major wins at the negotiating table
  • Firm, restrained diplomatic sense
  • Called for a kinder and gentler nation in 1988 when nominated
  • Saw the nation as “1,000 points of light” symbolizing America’s diversity
  • Had common sense
  • Was generous and compassionate
  • Displayed humility
  • Offered strangers kindness and respect
  • Nurtured deep and enduring relationships
  • Harbored no resentments or grievances
  • Gave selfless service

The Introverted C/S Combination

Two speakers at the funeral spoke of his honor and integrity. Former Senator Alan Simpson said, “He never hated anyone. He was honorable and decent.”

Brian Mulroney, prime minister of Canada during Bush’s presidency, praised his foreign-policy achievements and said, “We knew were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader – one who was distinguished, resolute and brave.”

We have not spoken of his missteps of which all humans have many, but we can seek to emulate his personal code of living and his unflappable style of introverted, C/S leadership.

With this C/S combination, he proved that the introverted leader can still be strong as well as compassionate. A style worth emulating.

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