By Debbie Gin
I begin this blog with the question: What have you seen that makes a good leader?
Let me offer my own couple thoughts. A church friend and I have been in an extended conversation about the Myers-Briggs (or Keirsey-Bates) Temperament Indicator and how this is related to good leadership. While I enjoy reflecting on most temperament/character/personality instruments (including the MBTI) because it helps me in my self-awareness journey and in my interactions with others, I have a deep reservation about using such instruments to predict good leadership. Please hear me: I’m the one who convinced my husband, who was absolutely suspicious about being type-cast, to take the test because I knew it would help us in our relationship. So my hesitation is not with the instrument.
My hesitation is with the socialization that surrounds instruments such as the MBTI. I refer to two things here. First, good leaders today are often thought to be those who are “visionary”, who don’t get mired in the details, who are good networkers, and who can easily adapt to changing times. The MBTI-type that corresponds to this profile is ENFP or ENTP. Those who are more “local” in their outlook, who pay attention to human intricacies, who create space to reflect, and who like structure, then, would make good followers because they “get the work done”, the ISFJs or ISTJs. To me, though, someone whose philosophy or sphere of influence is here-and-now and who tends to the needs of the person at-hand demonstrates a Jesus kind of leadership, being wholly present and intimately responsible. In our contexts, these are typically women.
This brings me to my second point: I would venture that most Asian/Asian North American (A/ANA) women are brought up (socialized) to be these ever-present, tend-to-your-needs people both in the family setting as well as the church. I don’t need to convince our readers that the women are the ones washing and making the rice in the hot kitchens or changing the diapers in the “crying rooms” (or you fill in the mundane “blank”) and are seldom part of the elder boards who make decisions for the entire community. (Apologies for the gentle rant here; there are some, albeit rare, A/ANA churches that celebrate women leadership and a growing number of feminist A/ANA men doing this work of care.) So if women are socialized to be the ISFJ/ISTJs, and the ENFP/ENTPs are the “true” leaders, then when do Asian/Asian North American women ever get to lead? It’s a self-reinforcing truth, a tautology.
What do I suggest? A couple alternatives to start: 1) let more ISFJ/ISTJs, or the supposed “detail individuals” lead and teach them how to think beyond the local (yes, this Asian American believes in balance — local as well as global — and that anything can be learned!) and 2) let us begin to reconsider what makes a good leader (many “visionaries” I’ve seen are sorely irresponsible and are the source of much heartache in the organization). So…what do YOU think makes a good leader?
Dr. Debbie Gin is Director of AAWOL (Asian American Women On Leadership). She is a Senior Faculty Fellow in Faculty Development at Azusa Pacific University and an Associate Professor in Biblical Studies and Ministry at Haggard Graduate School of Theology. Beginning in late August 2014, Debbie will become Director of Faculty Development and Research of The Association of Theological Schools. She and her husband currently live in southern California.