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Birth order theory - understand your birth order personality

5 September
Posted by:
Michael Grose

"Know thyself" is a powerful principle that leaders, managers and effective people intuitively know.

When you understand your own strengths and preferences you are in a position to maximise those strengths and compensate for any weaknesses either by working differently or surrounding yourself with people with different strengths.

Most of us have a dominant birth order personality that matches our birth position. But that personality is influenced by variables such as temperament, gender and other family circumstances. So it is not so much where you are born in your family but how you function that counts. How a person functions generally correlates with birth position.

Your birth order personality relates both to your working style (i.e. how you work and what motivates you) and also your relational style (i.e how you relate to people).

For many people that means working along different birth order lines. For instance, I am in the youngest in my family by seven years, which means I am like a functional first born. So I work like a first-born (achievement-oriented, ambitious and like to be in control) but I relate like a youngest (very good at outsourcing to others and a poor decision-maker).
 
It sounds complicated but it is not.

Birth order theory outlines four types of personalities- first borns, second borns, only's and youngests. If you were 3rd of six children then circumstances would have meant that you either functioned predominantly like one of the big four above.

Here are the four birth order types and some of their characteristics:

First borns - the leaders, the drivers and the responsible types. These people like to manage others but first they need to manage themselves. They love to feel in control and can feel uncomfortable with surprises or feeling out of their depth. They are conservative in their outlook, which is both a strength and a weakness. Their ability to focus on a goal and their propensity to organise others means they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.

Their tendency toward perfectionism can mean they can be low risk-takers but they can be the rock around which organisations can be built. Approval of authority is important for this group so don't expect them to rock the boat too much. First borns, above all else, want to forge ahead.

Second borns - the 'people' people, the compromisers, and the flexible operators. They are likely to motivated by a cause and will enjoy working alongside people. They will often choose tasks or even a job that will give them a feeling of belonging. Friendships are important to this group so they will learn to get along and will help keep the peace in a group or organisation. They often need others to drive them but they are the glue that holds groups together. Relationships are important to this group so make sure they included in all activities. Seconds, above all else, put people first.

Only's - the quiet achievers, the finishers, they expect nothing less than the best. This group will raise the bar for everyone around them as nothing but the best will do. Their great strength is their ability to work for long periods of time on their own so they make great project finishers and strategic thinkers but they can be secretive and don't deal well with conflict. Recognition is important to this group. Only's, above all else, aim to please.

Youngests - the initiators, ideas people and the challengers. This group are the creative, live-for-the moment types who can put some fun and verve into activities. While the message for first borns is to lighten up it seems that this group need to take things more seriously sometimes. Great initiators and very impatient doers, they perservere to get something started but often are not the greatest of finishers. This group will often do anything to be noticed so make sure you pay heed to their efforts. Youngests, above all else, will blow your mind.

Which birth order personality do you most closely resemble? Does it match your birth order position? In reality, you probably nodded your head for some characteristics in each position. But which did you nod most vigourously while reading? That will give you an indication of your dominant birth order personality.

So what is the point? Know thyself and know the circumstances you are working in. There are times when your birth order personality should take over but there are times when you may need to operate or work like someone in another position. This may make you feel uncomfortable but you can do it.

I have a set of badges - one for each position - which I wear for different occasions and different jobs. Sometimes I need to be more like a first born particularly when I need to take a lead. But there are also times that I must act like a second born and learn to compromise and be more diplomatic than take a crash and burn approach. When it is time to take action and throw caution to the wind I will wear my youngest born badge.

Birth order knowledge is simple as it is intuitive but it is also powerful because as Kevin Leman author of The New Birth Order Book maintains, the affects .... "can touch you in profound and sometimes disturbing ways years after you think you have grown beyond all that."

Find out more about your birth order personality.
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