Part II: Why we lead and love, trust and don’t trust the way we do.

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

In our last blog, we looked at temperament in newborns and the implications for leadership and love-ship later in life. This week we look at attachment theory that offers percentages on Secure and Insecure children starting around the age of 2 and sure enough, how these styles persist into our roles as managers and husbands, wives, and lovers. Although various studies report various percentages, we typically see the Secure types comprising the largest group at approximately 55%.  Drawing upon the last blog, perhaps this 55% can be explained by adding the 15% of the slow-to-warm babies to the 40% easy ones.

The insecure toddlers are described as either anxious (needy, intrusive, clingy) or avoidant (well, that word is pretty straightforward), and then there is a mixture of these two styles I referred to as Ambivalent in my doctoral dissertation. If you’ve ever experienced a push-pull in a relationship, then you can relate to this ambivalent mixture. So what do you think happens when these babies grow up and get jobs, marry, and/or mate?

I’m so glad I asked that question! Shaver and Hazan drew upon the work of Ainsworth and Bowlby’s attachment theory to determine how these styles play out in adult romantic relationships. Their findings parallel the percentages from childhood. In fact, most personality theories speak to two predominant insecure or problematic types – it all boils down to “moving against” or “moving away,” and indeed these behavioral patterns show a lack of trust that the relationship with others is going to be non-problematic. The Ambivalent types mentioned above can create tremendous trust issues for the other party due to their unpredictable, contrasting behaviors.

Just Google attachment styles and leadership as well as their relationship to romance and see what you get. The implications for leaders and lovers is very apparent in our personalized leadership development programs, whereby we see two predominant leadership challenges emerge in every program. You have your intimidators or bullies (moving against) and those with the fear of conflict or confrontation (moving away); and of course you also have those with less problematic challenges, typically attending because they are assuming more responsibilities and have had insufficient experience at that point in time managing and influencing people.

But what’s really interesting here is that most leaders, managers, and people in their personal life are truly interested in harmony and progress, even when their behaviors may be suggesting something else. When putting these opposing types together (anxious and avoidant) in a work or personal relationship, additional challenges fester. The good news is that most problems are simply the old tapes from these early years that haven’t yet met an intervention. It’s like having a board of directors in our brain aged 1-3, if we don’t manage whatever our “stuff” (that’s a technical term, by the way). But there is more good news – there are methodologies designed to help with reprogramming, whereby you get to keep all the good and let go of the rest – or at least manage it.

So if you are offered an opportunity for growth via a personalized leadership development program, jump at it. When people address leadership concerns, things at home automatically improve because “wherever you go, there you are”! Features of whatever your attachment style will find a way to express itself during good times and bad, and in every social arena of your life. The more you know about what makes you tick, the more you know about what makes others tick and thus the opportunity to improve your leadership, love-ship, and trust ratio.