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Leading With Style: How Your Unique Personality Drives Success and Creates Conflict
Interview with Rick Chromey
Rick’s message for this interview:
First, if I can lead (a nonprofit) then anyone can! I’m the reluctant leader who has, surprisingly, found nonprofit leadership to be a perfect fit for my aptitudes, skills, and personality. Second, nonprofit work is like being a lion on the Serengeti. Every day is about finding a gazelle to eat. Sometimes the prey comes to you, sometimes you have to go get it. Regardless, nonprofit leadership is about creating new opportunities, securing new financial resources, and leading your team to embrace “the dream” for which you labor.
It’s why leadership style matters. You’re either a “chef” (active/cognitive), “game show host (active/emotive), “stage manager” (passive/cognitive) or “counselor” (passive/emotive) type of leader. Understanding your natural strengths, and knowing how to use them, is what creates productivity and progress.
Dr. Rick Chromey is a best-selling author, international speaker, cultural historian, professor, and pastor. His mission is to help people interpret history, navigate culture and explore faith to create trusted and transformative change. In 2017 he founded MANNA! Educational Services International, is a faith-based nonprofit that empowers leaders, teachers, pastors, and parents. He’s authored over a dozen books, including his most recent work titled GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change, and Who We Really Are (2020). Rick lives in a small town outside Boise, ID with his wife Linda.
“GenTech: An American Story of Technology, Change and Who We Really Are” (2020 Morgan James)
“Sermons Reimagined” (2015 Group Publishing)
“Thriving Youth Ministry in Small Churches” (2010 Group Publishing)
“Energizing Children’s Ministry in the Smaller Church” (2008 Standard Publishing)
I’ve also penned several self-published works, including “Leading With Style,” “Motivate Me: Inspiring Productivity Without Guilt, Gimmicks or Games,” and “Why Kids Misbehave.”
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Hello, again. This is Hugh Ballou, founder, and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation. In this series The Nonprofit Exchange, we interview guests each week. We’re going on eight years with almost 300 episodes. Never has there been one like this. This has been a great six months. We’ve had unique presenters on topics we’ve sort of covered in the past, but they have been qualified to speak differently about topics that are valuable to leaders anywhere, but most especially valuable for leaders in the nonprofit sector.
Today’s episode has a really cool title: “Leading with Style: How Your Unique Personality Drives Success and Creates Conflict.” My guest today is Rick Chromey. Rick, tell people about yourself and why you are doing the work that you do.
Rick Chromey: Thank you, Hugh, for the opportunity to be on your wonderful podcast. It’s good to be journeying with everyone listening. My name is Rick Chromey. I am a nonprofit guy. I run a faith-based nonprofit called Manna Educational Services International. We service primarily churches, schools, businesses, organizations with leadership training, parent training, pastoral training, and teacher training, depending on the particular audience. We focus primarily on doing things through what we call edutrainment. We are not just about delivering a workshop; we want it to be something different. We do a lot of inspirational edutrainment through our resources.
What I do on a personal level is I am a cultural historian, professor, author, pastor. Essentially, I help people to interpret history, navigate culture, and explore faith in order to experience transformative changes in their lives and the lives of others.
Hugh: That is awesome. We found each other by luck, but we resonated in our pre-interview session. I am excited about what you’re talking about today. How did you come up with this title? Say a little about that please.
Rick: It came out of my classroom. I was teaching teachers how to teach, and I talked about teaching with style. As I looked at these quadrants and the ways we define leadership in our teaching, I realized it had a lot of applications toward leaders. I did some conversions. Teaching with style is different than leading with style, but in the end, it became a powerful way to look at who you are, how you operate, how you lead, and ultimately why there are those who are naturally attracted to you, naturally engaged with you in that style, and how there are those who come into conflict. It explains a lot of the conflicts we have, what we call personality conflicts. They tend to be driven by our leadership style.
Hugh: How is personality the same as style, or are they different things?
Rick: Great question. A lot of people ask me, “Am I born a leader?” I go, “I don’t know if there is any other way to become a leader.” Are they hatched? Everybody is born. I think leadership is something that emerges- The most simplest definition for it is leadership is influence. It’s the ability to influence others.
Style and personality, we all have a personality that is groomed by the environment we grow up in and some of the influences we have. I think style is more natural. We are born with a particular bent toward a particular style. We are either active or passive in our personalities, our styles. We are either cognitive or more emotive. It’s interesting to watch how that plays out when we look at leadership and the applications of it.
Hugh: There is a lot of instruments for us to discern our preferences, like the DISC or Myers Briggs. I discovered I am an extrovert. Duh! But you’re taking it to different characteristics. You have given some unique names to them. You have identified four types of leadership personalities. Can you talk about those?
Rick: When it comes to leadership inventories that are out there, there are so many. Socrates or Plato, one of those old Greek guys, had the original divisions if you will: pragmatic, sanguine, penguin, no. We don’t even remember them. That was part of the problem. As a professor, I was thinking of a way to make something very difficult easy.
I think about Myers Briggs, INTJ and ESTP and ESPN and LMAO. There are all these different things. What do they mean? It makes it more difficult. Yes, they are very helpful. Once you do an inventory like that, you can do a deep dive into who you are.
But I think there is a simple way to look at leadership. You’re either active or passive; you’re either emotive or cognitive. Active/passive. If you’re an extrovert, you tend to be more active in how you approach life. If you’re introverted, you tend to be more passive.
On a cognitive/emotive level, some of us think with lists in our head. I have a Post-It note brain. I have all these Post-It notes in my head. To me, my day is not satisfactory until I have my lists marked off. That’s the way I roll. Other people I know have a more emotive approach. None of these styles are better or more successful. You can be successful in each one of these quadrants. The bottom line is that each one is very different.
Hugh: Let’s talk about some of the qualities. The Game Show Host.
Rick: The Game Show Host is my fun person. These are leaders who are emotive in their wiring, but they are also active. We have ADHD in our culture, but they can also be ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. They are very emotive. They love people. That is probably the biggest part of their personality. They are very attractive. They are a spark in the room. They light up the room when they walk in. People are naturally attracted to them. Initially, you are attracted to their vision.
The problem with the Game Show Host is because they are more emotive than cognitive, they haven’t thought through their vision often. They haven’t thought about the steps, so they don’t know how to accomplish it necessarily. They have this big idea. Consequently, people can start to drop off. That’s the negative side of that particular style. But they are inspirational types of leaders. They are wonderful and fun to be around. People enjoy them.
Hugh: I’m relating to that one. People call me a mushroom because I am a fun guy. Part of it is the work of Walter Tomlin later expanded on by Murray Bowen, the sibling position. I am hopelessly the oldest brother of brothers. You make the rules. I don’t like this rule, not that rule. The youngest one is like, there are rules? We are born into that. There is an impact of our family of origin, multi-generational. Claiming who we are, I want to highlight what you said. There is not a bad or good to this. We are different. That makes life interesting.
I want to go through the rest of these four. Then we will talk about points of conflict, the fictitious topic of conflict in the church or nonprofit. We will come back to that because that will be lively.
The characteristics of a Chef.
Rick: The Chef is also an active leader, but they are cognitive, not emotive. When we look at the highest levels of leadership—CEOs, academic deans, presidents, those high-level positions—75-80% of these positions are filled with people from the Chef style. That is intriguing to me. Any one of these styles can be highly successful, but there is a certain style that does tend to gravitate toward the highest levels. The reason is fairly simple. Chefs are active leaders. They have the ability to capture a vision and know the steps to get there. They can outline each part of where you need to go, to do what you need to do to get where you’re going.
As a nonprofit guy, I am a Chef. That’s part of why I was so drawn naturally to this. I am passionate about the work that I do because I feel there is a great need within churches and schools and organizations for training. Fun training, clever training, inspirational training. I started with $500 of support and nothing else. The steps, I knew those. I knew I needed to get a 501(c)3 status for those who will be giving. I am still seeing these steps. I am five years into this, and I know what the next step is to take us to the next level. That’s called visionary leadership. Chefs have that innate ability. We have the Post-It note in the head with the steps to show how to get there. Game Show Hosts, if they are smart, will work with a Chef to grow their vision because there is nothing better than having a Chef there to help you.
On the passive side are two distinct personalities. Their passivity often produces- We can see they are on our teams, but we often don’t see them on our teams. Let me start with the passive/cognitive, the Stage Manager. The Game Show Host likes to be on stage, out front, in the spotlight. Stage Managers do not. They prefer to be backstage or side stage. They have something in their hands that is the law to them called the script. As a leader, they want you to stay on script.
I find a lot of academic deans in the area of education are Stage Manager types. They struggle with their Game Show Host professors. Those professors go off to do their curriculum, and sometimes they follow it, but sometimes they don’t. These scripted, passive personalities are very effective. If they have a tendency to do anything that’s on the negative side, it might be micromanagement. They struggle with paralysis by analysis. That is their personality.
On the other side of the passive is the Counselor. They are one of my favorites. The Counselor is passive and emotive. They are connected to people, but they do not like risk, competition, or conflict. They are great at moderating. They are 1:1 people. This is the problem when it comes to conflict. You will see how the Counselors and the Chefs will have a lot of problems. The Stage Managers and Game Show Hosts have issues.
Hugh: That’s because of their preferred style of how they operate.
Rick: Yes. It’s very simple. Think about it. You and I relate on the active side. We are both active leaders. Where we have an issue is you don’t have that plan in place. I always have a plan. I have something cooking there. The menu is what’s important.
By the way, let me say this, too. This question always comes up when I do this workshop. Some people feel like they are in the middle. First of all, if you feel like you’re both, that is evidence you are probably a feeler, probably more emotive than cognitive. Cognitives know they are cognitive, but Emotives struggle with this.
The other thing is to recognize you may not be very deep into your quadrant in particular areas. I am an extroverted leader, but I have a lot of introversion in my life. When I am on the road speaking, people basically drain me. Introverts experience that all the time. People drain them. After I am done with a day, I am not fired up by all the people. I tend to be more drained by it. I have to get away and find solitude. I am mildly an extrovert, but I have a lot of introversion.
On the other hand, my strength as far as cognitive is I am deeply cognitive. I tend to struggle with the emotives, the people side. I remember one time I was walking down the hallway at a church where I was working. It was a Sunday morning, and I had that list in my head of about 10 things I had to accomplish in the next 10 minutes. Someone came up to me. They didn’t say much to me. They just waved and smiled at me and said hello. I found out later I didn’t recognize them smiling, saying hello, or waving at me. I was on my mission. I got a critique on that, that I needed to be more cognizant of people around me. That’s my style. Because I am very cognitive, I can get easily connected to the list, to the program that I forget the people. The cognitives can do that so often.
Stage Managers can get so caught up in what they are trying to get done that they forget there is actually people on stage.
Hugh: There is a strength in your profile. There is also a liability with that in excess. Our gifts are sometimes our problems. When you talk about these, it occurs to me that is our preferred style, but it doesn’t necessarily play out in every situation.
Rick: This is also very interesting. I look at it like a car. I have a car that when I take my hands off the wheel, it naturally goes one way or the other. It doesn’t matter how many times I try to get it calibrated and fixed. The same thing happens with our style. If we are in a free moment, we naturally are either active or passive, and we are either cognitive or emotive. That is our natural bent if you will.
However, you have noted, if you are in a situation where you are a Stage Manager leader, but you have to go on stage and be a Game Show Host, you have to pump people up, you have to be the person at the front of the vision, that is very uncomfortable. You can do it, but you can’t do it for long.
When I help teams with this, you need to have people on your team with all four quadrants represented. I love my Counselors because as a Chef, I get so gung-ho about getting something done that I miss the people. Chefs will burn up the kitchen to create the best recipe. They don’t mind fire. They love fire. A Counselor, absolutely not. The less fire, the better. We don’t want to hurt anyone or create conflict. They live by that mantra. They would really fight up against each other. But I have learned to love my Counselors because they can bring me back. I can lose the people focus in my program.
Hugh: You identified that fundamentally leadership is influence, and I agree with you. Underneath leadership is relationship. What you just hit on is we tend to be so into something we forget about the relationship part. Talk about relationship. Also talk about how these are preferred styles we might fit into, but we don’t have to. We try to be something we’re not. That can be a problem for leaders.
Rick: I want to argue they are preferred. If you’re married, chances are you’ve married your exact opposite. Why did you do that? They fill in the weaknesses for you, and you fill in the weaknesses for them. Their strengths are not yours, and vice versa. There is a blending there. Chefs and Counselors are direct opposites. Stage Managers and Game Show Hosts are direct opposites. But if you look in the marital culture, many of us married the opposite. A Game Show Host will often marry a Stage Manager.
A Chef will also marry a Counselor. In fact, I did. My wife Linda is a Counselor. She is very passive and emotive. She doesn’t say much, but there are times when I basically settle down and stop and ask her, “What should I be doing here? Who am I causing a problem with that you see?” She will lay it out. I go, “I never thought of that.” She brings me back. She keeps me dialed in to make me a better leader.
Same thing with Game Show Hosts. You need those Stage Managers on your team. You can get out ahead on the vision and miss the opportunity to move the organization forward, but your Stage Managers are going, “Come on!” They will be the first to quit, by the way. Your passives always drop off first. They don’t feel like you’re listening to them. Chefs will hang on long enough because they like the vision. Once they realize you don’t have a real plan for it, they knock off. It’s the way it works.
Hugh: The differences are useful. I studied the art of facilitation. Most people think they can run meetings, but we suck at running meetings. Suck is halfway to success. Bad meetings are like bad rehearsals. You will have bad results. You are building a low-performing culture because we haven’t thought through the system. Like you, I’m a teacher. We think about objectives. We have outcomes we are focused on. Engaging people in the act of learning is important.
When I studied facilitation many years ago, building the project team was important. Like you just described, you want to have people with different backgrounds. It slices different ways. You want to have somebody who doesn’t know about what you’re doing but is an outsider. For instance, if I have a planning team for a music concert, and they are all musicians, we will have lots of blind spots. If we have someone who has music as a hobby, for 2/10, and 1/10 doesn’t know anything about music, but they will be in the audience, they will have another perspective. Learning to look at those differences in perspective and style as a value, how hard is that for leaders?
Rick: It’s very hard. As leaders, we tend to like people of the same style near us. Can you imagine three Game Show Hosts together leading on the same staff? It’d be chaos. It’d be fun chaos. You would have a lot of fun. There would be a lot of energy in the room. Nothing would get done.
Same thing with the Chefs. If you have three Chefs as your primary leaders, your executive leadership, every one of them will have a different recipe for success, for how they will be effective in their work. The problem with that is every one of those recipes will be different. Now you become agenda-driven in your leadership.
You wouldn’t have three Stage Managers or Counselors hanging around for very long because they would leave. Stage Managers would argue for months about the plans, and nothing would ever get executed because everyone is afraid to execute a plan. Counselors would be the same way. You get three executive Counselors in the same team, and they would all be worried about who they’re going to offend. Who will be miffed or upset? Nothing would ever get done.
We are naturally designed to have each one of these on the team. If you as a leader start with that, recognize that you want all of them- For me, it’s my board of directors. I am a nonprofit guy, so I have a board over me. Every one of my board of directors is from a different style. I purposefully have done that. They keep the whole organization moving forward. I need those passives, that Stage Manager on my board, to say, “Wait a minute here. Before we go gung-ho into this new vision of Rick’s” or our chair, who is more of a Game show Host guy, “maybe we need to think through this. Have we considered this?” Or the Counselor says, “This is good, but it will create some issues with this particular segment of our people that we work with. Is that what we want?”
Hugh: That is so important.
Rick: I need to think through those things. My board does, too.
Hugh: We do want to be aligned in core values and guiding principles, so we are on the same page. However, we might have different perspectives on those, which to me is a real gift.
Let’s talk about where people can find you. The organization is called Manna. The website is MannaSolutions.org. What will people find when they go there?
Rick: Manna, our namesake, comes from the Old Testament. It was the food that God fed the Israelites when they were in the desert. It was a surprise to them. They woke up one day, and here on the ground was this white stuff, probably like Rice Krispies. It was nutritious and tasted good. They called it manna. The Hebrew word for “manna” is “what is it?” I love that. They said, “What is this?” Exactly. It’s manna. Manna means, “What is it?”
That is the heart of what we do. We want to create nutritious (if you will), informational, helpful resources that are fun and curious. We call ourselves divinely curious in everything we do. We are resource-based.
I have a weekly email that goes to 800+ subscribers right now. We have one of the highest open rates in the business. We are now knocking on 30% every single day. 30% of our clients who get our emails open it up. That’s because they get something they won’t get anywhere else. They get original content that comes from me. I’m a creator. They get photography that they can only get from me. They get insights from culture. They get historical On This Day memes to start the day. We call it the Cup of Joe. It’s coffee for your brain to get you started every day.
We have a life group for those who are more on the faith-based side of things. We do Zoom as well as in-person. We meet and study the Bible. We explore faith and see what it means.
There are a lot of different areas that we operate, but our primary thing is insight and inspiration. That’s our focus. That’s who we are.
Hugh: Behind you, there is a book. Tell us about it.
Rick: As a youth pastor and ministry professor for many years, I did a lot of teaching on generations and understanding the younger generations. I started doing a lot of talking and writing on it. Pretty soon, some people started telling me I needed to put it into a book. That’s where it came from.
GenTech is an argument against the common frames, the labels that we use to define generations—baby boomers or Gen X or millennials or Gen Z, which is why I wrote the book. I got miffed at the whole idea that we are calling another generation by an alphabet tag. They are not Gen Z. Anyone born since 2000 is more defined by the technology, so I call them the iTechs, like iTunes and iPods and iPads and iPhones. That’s what the book is about.
It goes back to 1900 and walks us through the 20th century and into the 21st century all the way to 2055. It outlines the various generations, about every 20 years along the way. Every 10 years, there is a new technology popping. During our coming-of-age years, we tend to find the tattoos of our generational personality. That’s what the book is about. It’s getting great reviews.
I am trying to get us away from these bad names for generations and to understand who we are more through a technological frame. We are the television and space generation, not baby boomers. We are the cable television and video game generation, not Gen X. We are the cell phone, personal computer, and ‘net generation, not millennials. It’s not as sexy, but it’s more accurate. That’s where we need to be with generational analysis. It’s not about marketing; it’s about analysis that creates solutions. That’s what everyone wants to do today. How do we understand these generations? That’s what I help you do, not just in the book, but I do trainings.
Hugh: Can people find this on Manna?
Rick: Because this work is different, RickChromey.com is the starting spot for that. That is my non-faith-based work.
Hugh: Chromey, it’s like Chrome, add a y.
Rick: Yep, just like the browser. Come join me on the journey. I would love to share my work with your organizations. I do a lot of keynotes and workshops, so I’d love to be part of what you’re doing to train your people to be better leaders.
Hugh: If you want to liven up your annual fundraiser, I have a suspicion you can do that. We’re coming to the end of our time here. We often approach these differences focusing on the differences rather than our commonalities and complements of the different styles. I am the visionary guy, the front guy. I need the tactical guy. I have done it all my life, but it’s not where I like to live though.
Rick: That’s the point! It’s not where you like to live. You got it. You understand this now.
Hugh: We set up conflict by how we look at people who have different perspectives as the enemy when it’s actually a gift if you embrace it. It stirred up my curiosity.
This has been very good stuff. Rick, what do you want to leave people with today?
Rick: If you will write to me personally, you can go to my website, MannaSolutions,org, and go into the Books area. We have Leading with Style for a $5 donation to our work, which is pretty easy. If you write to me personally, saying that you want to know more about Leading with Style, I will send it to you for free. How about that? I’ll send you that free e-book.
As far as a closing thought, for me, I want to be real. That’s what I encourage. In this cyber-culture where everything is going plastic and fake, and we live in an artificially intelligent world, I talk about being real. There are three things I try to do every single day.
I try to do something every day that is positive and productive. Right now, it’s being on Hugh’s podcast.
I think it’s important to do the next right thing. We often don’t know what to do, but I say, “Do the next right thing that will get you there.”
And as leaders, we have to do something new every year. Think about how you can reinvent yourself every year. In the COVID year, I basically was sequestered. I was sidelined from doing my work. I spent that entire year studying American history. I was shocked by how much I didn’t get taught in school. Learn something new. Do something new. Be something new. That’s how we grow as leaders.
Hugh: Wow. If you only had that last few minutes, it would be worth the whole thing. Rick Chromey, you have been inspiring today. Thank you for being my guest.