Knowing thyself – Comparative systems of personality categorization

Astrology and PsychologyAstrology is popular because people like to know about themselves. There is an inherent desire to know ourselves, whether ego-driven or soul driven in the quest for self-actualization, and the 12 character divisions in the zodiac give us a ready system by which to explore our natures systematically, at least on the material plane. Discovering the real original constitutional identity of our eternal personalities is something else altogether and only a lifetime of deep spiritual practice and introspection will really reveal that true self, the Atma, covered now by the conditioned and karma based zodiacal ego type. Still the astrological system of personality description appeals to the ego in all of us. Astrology, however, is not the only system of compartmentalized character definition. There is also the Chinese astrological division of 12 types, the Enneagram division of 9 types, the esoteric division of the 7 rays, and numerous others. One that you may find interesting is the system of 9 team functions evolved by Dr Meredith Belbin.

Understanding human nature, our own as well as others’, goes a long way in avoiding clashes with co-workers due to simply differing styles of being. And smooth human interaction is the key to success in any field of life. Astrology divides personalities into 6 extrovert ( fire and air signs) and 6 introvert (earth and water signs). Dr Belbin’s system has only 9 types so the correlation is not exact, but 5 of them are extrovert and 4 are introvert, and you might be able to identify with one or perhaps more of the types. Just as in astrology we are comprised of numerous signs in our horoscope depending on where all the planets are located, similarly we can be made up of more than one specific type of worker, although one type may predominate.

The 9 team roles

1 The Plant: They plant the seeds that the team nurture to completion. Serious-minded ideas person, genius with imagination, intellect and knowledge. They solve difficult problems. However, they can be up in the clouds, inclined to disregard minor practical details and protocol, focusing more on big issues; lose interest quickly. Sensitive to criticism and praise, on their own wavelength. Extrovert or introvert and happy to work alone.

2 The Resource Investigator: Takes the ideas and develops them. Relaxed, enthusiastic, communicative and popular. Can contact useful people, respond to challenges, diplomatic negotiator, think on their feet, optimistic, preserving the team from stagnation. However, can lose interest without positive feedback or once initial fascination has passed. Uncritical. Extrovert so need the stimulus of others.

3 The Co-ordinator: Calm, self-confident, controlled. Unifying force within a team. Usually a respected member with natural air of authority. Good delegator, usually team leader, can extract skills from others and keep the focus. Not necessarily exceptionally creative or intellectual. Extrovert.

4 The Shaper: Dynamic, full of nervous energy, outgoing, impulsive, impatient. Drive and readiness to challenge inertia. Achievement oriented so can push others. Secondary team leader, appearing confident but may have self-doubt only reassured by results. Can rise above problems and carry on regardless, handles (and sometimes causes) confrontation or unpopularity. Extrovert.

5 The Monitor Evaluator: Stable, intelligent, though unexciting, unemotional. Can analyse and judge large sums of material or data or others’ contributions with discretion and objectivity. However, can be tactless and damaging to moral, hard to motivate. Introvert.

6 The Team Worker: Supportive, sensitive, social, recognizing emotional undercurrents. Good listener and diplomat, loyal, popular, mild. Good for team spirit, uncompetitive, though lack dynamism. Introvert.

7 The Implementer: Turns plans into actions, organised, self-disciplined, hard-working without self-interest. Like schedules, budgets and systems. However inflexible, slow to change or adopt new ideas. Introvert.

8 The Completer: Painstakingly orderly, conscientious, anxious, perfectionist with a capacity to deliver what they promise. However they tend to worry unduly, reluctant to delegate, nit-picking. Introvert.

9 The Specialist: Highly specialised knowledge in an area, though little interest in other areas. Drive, dedication and single-mindedness, providing rare knowledge but unable to focus on bigger picture. Dislikes close supervision. Introvert.

The introvert/extrovert labels are not always hard and fast so there could be variations but generally a working group functions well with a mix of the above types and not too many of the same type. Some of us can apply our secondary style if this occurs, which may relate to the Moon sign in astrology. To be really successful a team needs at least one good Co-ordinator, and preferably only one Plant. Team size and tasks vary considerably so some may double up and play two roles. Also too many Team Workers, for example, may not supply enough drive. In other words there is an optimal balance of types to really succeed and there are also certain combinations that are less likely to succeed at all. Knowing this really helps everyone involved. And more importantly, when we realize that people are born with and learn certain natures, and that they are unlikely to change their core style of being on an ego level, then we give up trying to change them, but rather learn where to apply their unique style and temperament in the group endeavour. That is a big secret to success in social dynamics and relationships generally. By knowing your skill set and weaknesses you can fit yourself into the right position in the team. Otherwise it’s up to the Co-ordinator or Monitor Evaluator to help you find your position rather than artificially expecting the impossible.

I’m sure students of astrology can see correlations in certain of the above types and certain zodiac signs, and should feel inspired to discover the matches, thereby learning more about human nature and themselves. The Vedas describe 4 fundamental social types, based on your nature and actions, and anyone can be any of the four types, if they inherently manifest, or can cultivate, the qualities of that type, whether intellectual Brahmana, military/political Kshatriya, mercantile/agricultural Vaishya or artistic/crafty Sudra. And all are equally qualified to access transcendence, for ultimately despite the external social ego differences, we are all animated by the same non-different conscious spiritual particle of the soul, the Atma, whose qualities of eternal blissful consciousness are there, even if temporarily covered by the ego types found in the zodiac signs or the system mentioned above.

References: How to build a great team by Ros Jay (2003)

                       Bhagavat Purana Translated by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami