I’ve been browsing through The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, written by pyschologist Linda Edelstein. It’s an interesting book, and I’ve enjoyed reading about various adult personality types.
I’ve always believed that understanding is a key component of good relationships — in real life and in fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’m going to share a bit of information regarding Edelstein’s basic personality types. Perhaps this knowledge will help us build stronger relationships — and for the writers among us, create realistic characters.
Today, in light of the political controversy swirling around, let’s look at the Boss.
Perhaps no one epitomizes the characteristics of “The Boss” better than “The Donald.” According to Edelstein, The Boss “wants to be in the limelight, whether at home, work, or play.” She goes on to say that the key themes in the life of a bossy individual are (1) being in control and (2) having things his or her way.
Key traits you’ll see in this personality type are confidence, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and obstinacy.
An interesting note is that while the “boss” is thick-skinned and insensitive to social approval, these people are also very sensitive to comments and attacks from others. Pain and punishment won’t change their behavior, but they will react strongly to personal criticism.
Here’s a short video clip to show the boss-type in action:
In the interest of fairness to readers, I’ll quickly point out that bossiness extends across the political spectrum. One of the best-known “bosses” in history was William Magear Tweed, better known simply as “Boss Tweed.”
He was an American politician and the “boss” of Tammany Hall. This Democratic Party “machine” played a major role in the political life of New York — at both the city and state level — during the late 19th century. At the height of his influence, Tweed was ranked as the third-largest landowner in New York City. He was a director of the Erie Railroad, the New York Printing Company, and the Tenth National Bank. He also owned the Metropolitan Hotel.
Bosses thrive on being in charge and will stop at nothing to get things done. They have the ability to accurately assess other people, especially when it comes to finding weaknesses which they can then exploit. They are often sarcastic and have no compunctions about humiliating others.
You can learn more about “Boss” Tweed and the wheelings and dealings of Tammany Hall here:
The boss personality is brusque, bold, boastful, and belligerent, and will not acknowledge other points of view. They tend to see others as “puppets” to be manipulated as they set their grand schemes in motion.
In childhood, a future “boss” will often take the lead in watching younger siblings, keeping things organized, and directing activities. Of course, those leadership abilities can be channeled in a positive direction. Not every child who steps up as a leader will become a cold, ruthless, and demanding boss.
I find it interesting , too, that the leaders of crime syndicates are referred to as “bosses”. Names like Al Capone, John Gotti, and Meyer Lansky quickly come to mind. And what of “Vito Corleone”, the fictional “godfather” created by Mario Puzo? Definitely “the boss”.
Always aggressive, the boss can become reckless. His or her quarrelsome nature can become abusive. These are the people who force their thoughts and beliefs upon others. They refuse to take a subordinate position. They can be rude and sarcastic and will often heckle or ridicule others.
Again, not all “bosses” go to the extremes we see in people like Trump, Tweed, or the mafioso bosses. Some are able to put their aggressiveness to work in socially acceptable ways, rising through the ranks in the military or making a name as a “corporate raider”.
The boss-type personality generally gravitates toward careers where they can be in charge of others, so look for these individuals in hotel management, restaurant management, advertising executives, and CEO positions.
The “boss” is a standard character in fiction, not only crime fiction such as The Godfather, but in contemporary romance, as well. “Billionaire” and “tycoon” are words you’ll often see in the titles of love stories, and while these men may start the story as a veritable tyrant whom no one can please, you know by story’s end, he’ll be changed by the power of love.
And what of the women? Yes, certainly women can be leaders, too, although they aren’t as often associated with the negative qualities we see in the “bossy” male characters. Why is this? Pure speculation here, but perhaps it comes because we so often praise young men when they demonstrate a “take-charge” attitude, yet chastise little girls for the same behavior, referring to them as “bossy” and “domineering”…which immediately brings to mind one of my favorite illustrations. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen it before.
No doubt the little charmer above will grow up to make this list from Forbes magazine:
Without a doubt, the boss — male or female — is a powerful figure. Little wonder we enjoy reading about them and being inspired by their successes.