Four Dimensional Leadership



by Luke Setzer and Matt Person

[This exchange took place on the Objectivist Club Network (OCN) e-mail list in mid-September.]

Luke Setzer wrote:

Since Objectivist Club Leaders may want to know more about general leadership principles, I wanted to share this with you.

I attended a two-week NASA Project Management training class in early June. We spent an entire day on a concept called "Four Dimensional Leadership" or 4DL. You can learn about it at

The pre-course work required us to get co-workers to complete surveys regarding our leadership styles. You can take the survey yourself to learn its content at

with Username = Jane and Password = Feedback

The survey uses two of the four Myers-Briggs sorting patterns or "metaprograms" to lay out a horizontal and vertical axis. For those unfamiliar with these terms, Myers-Briggs uses four broad sorting patterns to measure a personality style:


Extraversion versus Introversion


Sensing versus INtuition


Thinking versus Feeling


Judging versus Perceiving

The 4DL program uses the middle two of these, S vs N and T vs F. In their language, they call these "Present vs Possible" (vertical axis) and "Logical vs Personal" (horizontal axis). This results in a coordinate system with four quadrants: Valuing, Relating, Visioning and Directing.  Examples of leaders in each of these quadrants given in class were:

  1. Valuing: Gandhi

  2. Relating: Dwight Eisenhower

  3. Visioning: Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams"

  4. Directing: Howard Hughes

Survey respondents answered 12 questions on a scale of one to four, with one being poor and four being excellent. The computer tallied the results of all responses and computed scores for the student evaluated. The course ranked those who scored below 60% as "Red" and in need of urgent assistance to correct that behavior. Those who scored between 60% and 74% ranked "Yellow" and demonstrated room for improvement. A score of 75% to 89% warranted a rank of "Green" which was good. A score at or above 90% ranked "Blue" which was excellent.

Here are the twelve questions in their respective quadrants and my scores:


  1. Values Others 69% (Yellow)

  2. Behaves Ethically 88% (Green)

  3. Lives One's Values 88% (Green)


  1. Includes Others 72% (Yellow)

  2. Keeps Agreements 88% (Green)

  3. Tells the Truth 91% (Blue)


  1. Energizes with Vision 75% (Green)

  2. Focuses on Outcomes 81% (Green)

  3. Uses Creativity 78% (Green)


  1. Avoids Complaining 72% (Yellow)

  2. Avoids Blaming 78% (Green)

  3. Organizes 88% (Green)

So the good news is, I had no "Red" scores. The bad news is, I scored "Yellow" on three of the questions: Values Others, Includes Others, and Avoids Complaining.

In my subsequent discussions with the survey respondents to learn what I could do to improve my leadership performance in these areas, the variety of comments proved both informative and amusing. One person suggested I engage in more self-censorship and not be quite so frank about my opinions when I think something is pure bullshit. Instead, she proposed, I should just use deflective words like, "Oh, that's *interesting*! So when is the UFO Conference, anyway?"

Another proposed that I spend less time working at my desk and more time socializing with my co-workers so I get to know people better as people rather than just as workers. The most common and productive suggestion I got was to employ more face-to-face meetings and fewer e-mail exchanges to try to share information and solve problems. The dialogues allow for much more human bonding and opportunities for praising virtues and expressing appreciation.

The other good suggestion was to be sure to praise a job well done rather than just take it for granted as something expected for the pay given. As Objectivists, I think we too often forget to praise virtue while seldom forgetting to condemn vice. When I shared this with my coach, she said that everyone seeks validation whether right or wrong. How you tackle disagreeable issues involves style rather than substance. The strategy is to validate and praise the parts that are right while constructively suggesting alternatives to the parts that are wrong without actually saying, "That's wrong." One thing I learned about myself during this class is that I have a 
basic nineteenth-century mindset:

  1. Sit down

  2. Shut up

  3. Do your job

  4. Quit complaining

  5. Be grateful for whatever your employer gives you

I realized this about three days into a computer-based project simulation. The simulation involved a fictitious project and simulated employees emulated in a software program. We found ourselves tasked to combine the optimum set of benefits to maximize the productivity of the employees in the program. I was amazed at the people in the program who would conveniently get sick at the most inopportune times, quit outright, whine and complain, and not do what the boss paid them to do. All I could think when I witnessed this was, "Why the hell don't these people do their damn jobs like we're paying them to do?" Finally, my self-revelation about my mindset hit me. I promptly confronted the instructor about it. She responded that the "dictatorial boss" mentality might have worked in the industrial age, but not in the information age. I asked her, "How much of that has to do with government regulations that make it almost impossible to fire people?" She answered, "I don't know. I've never really studied that aspect of it."

A friend and co-worker down the hall pointed out to me that financial compensation is only part of the total benefits package. Other benefits, like having a decent boss who treats you like a human being and not just a cog in his machine, often weigh more heavily in an employee's mind.

Not everyone shared his view. Two of the eight respondents agreed with me that your boss pays you to do a job well, and, by golly, you should do it well for your pay! Others agreed with my friend that perks such as pizza parties, etc. create a more productive environment. I have noticed that the view of the person on this issue has a lot to do with their overall disposition and upbringing. The co-worker who grew up on a farm as I did leaned more toward my view.

I would be very curious to see a thread discussing these various issues. Clearly much of this is nothing new. Dale Carnegie's book HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE has been a strong seller since it first hit print in the early twentieth century, and much of the advice I got duplicated what is in that book.

Do the Objectivist Club Leaders on this list employ these "soft" strategies for dealing with people while maintaining your loyalty to rational principles? Please share.

Matt Person responded:

I have received leadership/management training and classes for many years, and have taught these classes for the last several years. I personally think this stuff about 'determining your leadership style' is a waste of time. The best leaders adopt the proper style for the people and situation at hand. From all my past education, I have summarized and teach the following:

See the attached chart.

People and situations can be broken down by two criteria, motivation and knowledge. Your situation, or Category, is dependent upon these two criteria. In Category I, people have neither knowledge of how to do the job properly and no desire to do the particular job. In this case the best boss acts as an Authoritarian, or Dictator, telling the employees what to do, when and how to do it, and the consequences if they do not. In Category II, people have the desire to do the job properly, but they do not know exactly how to do the particular job. The best boss becomes a Teacher in these circumstances. In Category III, people have the knowledge of how to do the job properly, but they have lost the motivation for the job. (I find this to be the most common situation in industry today.) A good boss will motivate his people by getting them involved in the process, such as asking them for their opinions on how to make things better. This leadership style is called being a Democrat. In Category IV, people have both the knowledge and desire to do the job. The best boss adopts the persona of a Coach, directing and encouraging.

It is easy for a leader to adopt the proper style; the trick is in identifying the category of the situation. If you keep in mind that only two variables, knowledge and motivation, affect which category is applicable, it is easier to properly assign it. You must also remember that any individual or group may be in any category depending on the particular circumstances at hand.  For example, you have an excellent, highly motivated, well-educated Mechanical Engineer who must integrate an electronic system into his mechanical design. He believes the electronic system you have chosen to use would be better left as a mechanical system. Although he is in Category IV most of the time, he probably best fits into Category I in this case, and instead of coaching him as you are used to, you must become dictatorial to him.

The good boss always adopts the appropriate style for the situation. If you are always a coercive boss, your people will revert to Category I, regardless of their category before you arrived. If you always act the part of the coach, and your people are not in Category IV, they will either stay in the same category or regress to a lower level. The object is to get every organization to Category IV, but if the boss cannot change his style appropriately, the organization will be stuck.

Feel free to contact me personally if you have more questions. I have been long-winded enough on this forum.


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