We make a lot of jokes in b-school about Type A personalities. That’s because b-school is like a support group for Type A personalities. We know we have a little Tracy Flick in all of us, and b-school is a safe place to own up to it.
My name is Stephanie. And I’m a Type A personality.
Despite that fact, I’m terrified of large groups of Type As, so much so, that my fear almost scared me away from business school. Why, you ask, don’t I like my own kind?
Think about the times when you’ve been surrounded by Type As — aggressive, assertive people seeking high achievement and perfection.
Was it, perhaps, a little uncomfortable? Lots of one-upmanship, backstabbing and anxiety-and-nausea-inducing comments like, “Well, the last time I hiked to the Everest Base Camp I need some light reading so I took a copy of Ulysses in Nepali because I didn’t want an English translation to taint my experience”?
I cringe. Yes, these are my people. But that doesn’t mean I like the stew pot of competition, anxiety and relentless reaching that often comes with them when they travel in herds.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered my b-school, while still full of Type As, managed to figure out how to harness all that energy, competition and achievement — and channel it for good.
It sounds impossible, but somehow it’s happening here (for now). The Type As around me are teaching their fellow students when they get confused, rather than leaving them in the dust. They’re chastising themselves when they’re too aggressive or dismissive in class, intent on building a culture that’s respectful. They’re introducing each other to recruiters at networking events instead of elbowing people out of the way. And they’re admitting it when they just don’t get something – and Type As never, ever do that.
One of the recruiters this week noticed the friendly atmosphere and said it wasn’t like any of the other b-schools she’d visited. “Everyone here seems to actually really like each other,” she said in an awed tone.
And that’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Now these are my people.