The Type A Myth

The Type-A Myth


The Type-A Myth

For the last two years, it seems like once a week I speak to someone who brags to me about being a “Type- A” or “Alpha” personality. I want to get these terms completely out of the sales lexicon. They are not helping anyone.

I know, that is a controversial statement. Many people, some of whom may read this blog and listen to my podcast, have built their identities around the idea of being either Type-A or Alpha.

Today I will cover the Type-A personality. Tomorrow I will cover the “Alphas”.

Let’s start with the origins of both of these terms. The term “Type-A Personality”: came from a study Friedman & Rosenman in 1976. They wanted to study the effects personality had on people’s hearts. I do not mean that figuratively. Friedman and Rosenman were cardiologists.

In their cardiology practice, Friedman and Rosenmen found that they needed to replace the upholstery on their chairs a lot sooner than they expected. The patients in their office would often fidget and scratch at the arms of the chair in the waiting room. Their legs would bounce up and down in an anxious manner and this seemed to wear on the chairs sooner than they thought. Because of this, they decided to start checking for certain character traits amongst their cardiology patients.

They tested otherwise healthy adults for personality traits. The people who were competitive, time urgent, and hostile were labeled as “Type A” while people who were relaxed, patient, and easy-going were labeled as “Type-B”. Throughout the course of the research, Friedman and Rosenmen found that if the person has a “Type-A” personality, they were TWICE AS LIKELY to develop a heart condition.

In this study, there was no metric of success or achievement other than the likelihood of a heart attack of stroke. However the idea of Type-A and Type-B entered the lexicon of the culture.

You see very few people ever read beyond the headline of the study. In this case people got as far as the definitions of Type-A and Type-B and stopped. They then started noticing that many people in high stress positions ended up being Type-A due to the nature of their job and the responsibilities within it. They then started confusing correlation and causation.

Prior to the label, it was not Type-A personalities that were given high pressure corporate jobs. It was high pressure corporate jobs creating Type-A personalities. That is the only real corollary between the definition and success. People who are placed under tremendous pressure tend to be Type-A because it is thrust upon them, not because it is a natural state of being for them.

Sadly, we have gone the wrong direction within our corporate culture. We find people who are already tightly wound and we thrust more and more responsibility on them. Then we wonder while so many people crack as they climb the corporate ladder. It is that we are often promoting people who are in a constant state of anxiety because we see that aggressiveness and short temper as a sign of a “go-getter”.

Let me tell you something. The most successful people I know are Type B personalities. They have the patience and mental fortitude to wait for a project to start showing results rather than demanding fruit before the tree is mature. By embracing your Type B personality, you will find that you will create better, linger lasting results for your business.

For more of these mad ramblings, go to

Here are some other articles by Red on SPN you might like:


Related Articles