The Four Tendencies to Supercharge Their Team

How Effective Leaders Utilise The Four Tendencies to Supercharge Their Team


Last week we talked about The Four Tendencies and how each Tendency responds differently to outer and inner expectations. As mentioned, outer expectations are what others place on us, like meeting a work deadline while inner expectations are what we place on ourselves, like keeping a New Year’s resolution. 

Depending on how a person responds to these expectations, that person may fall into either of the four distinct groups: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.

I am an Upholder. I stick vehemently to deadlines set by others as well as those I impose on myself. I will hit the gym, no matter how late, if I decide that it is a gym day. However, the problem arises when I think that everyone should automatically have an Upholder mindset as well. After all, we are all doing this for the betterment of the company so they should automatically uphold all their responsibilities, I erroneously thought. This creates problems.

Rubin, who is an Upholder herself, mentions that our expectations are often not met and we will be ultimately disappointed. For example, the staff member I mentioned last week, Sam, is a Rebel who is both smart and talented. Rubin says Upholders and Rebels don’t mix well, especially in a boss-employee relationship. 

Prior to understanding The Four Tendencies, I interpreted Sam’s characteristics as insubordination or even rudeness. Upon further reflection, I realised that her action was not a personal retaliation against me. The framework helped me not to take everything on a personal basis, but rather learn how a team member is motivated. 

Simple changes made a huge difference. For instance, if I said, “Sam, go and study the specific needs of the clients in our industry and give the report to me by Friday,” it is almost guaranteed that I will not see the report. Instead, I might say, “For us to be competitive, we must understand the needs of the clients in our industry. I have delegated this task to a few team members before but they did not produce the results I wanted. I’m not sure if you can either, but I thought of asking you. I will leave it to you how you do it. If I pass it on to you, do you think you can do it by Friday?” 

By putting a challenge to Sam and giving her freedom on how to go about it with a deadline in mind, she will likely take positive action and put her heart into it. 

My general manager, Adam, is an Obliger. When asked to do something, he will just go ahead and do it. Obligers are great to have on the team because they get things done, but when it comes to brainstorming ideas, I notice he usually just agrees to my suggestion. As a general manager who handles a team, I want to develop his critical thinking skills. And to do that, I must resist the urge to tell him what to do. Instead, I must ask him the right questions so he is trained to find options instead of blindly obliging all my suggestions. 

He has become a more rounded general manager when I consciously made him think instead of blindly giving him suggestions which he would just grab and do. 

Here’s how you can utilise The Four Tendencies to improve teamwork:

  1. Understand that it is not personal. It is first and foremost essential to understand that we are all different in the way we think. The thoughts, words and actions of one person do not necessarily mean the same thing to another. If I was asked to do something by a superior, I would automatically make myself do it no matter what. As an Upholder, I strongly believe in being responsible for my actions. However, it would not be the case for a Questioner or a Rebel.
  2. Discover your / your team’s Tendency. To discover your Tendency, just go to It’s free and the results will give you your Tendency along with a simple description. Be honest, as the quiz is only as accurate as the answers you provide. Take note that there may also be overlaps in the Tendencies such as Rebel / Questioner or Upholder / Obliger. Alternatively, by just observing yourself and the behaviour of your team in the past, you would already intuitively know the Tendency.
  3. Change your language to suit the Tendencies of your team. Use the language that encourages your team members to take action on projects and deadlines. When all team members understand that we are different, we can openly talk about how to support each other with our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. All this can be done without hurting feelings or creating conflict. Building understanding grows the team.
  4. Improve on your own weakness. Every Tendency has its unique strength and weakness. Understand your own weaknesses and work on improving them to become a better leader and team player. Develop strong self-awareness and be brutally honest when evaluating your thoughts and actions.