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What do you do when everything goes to hell? 

That was the question put to Thomas Erikson, best-selling author of ‘Surrounded by Idiots’ as ‘the mentl space’ podcast dove into his personal journey and the challenges he’d faced that led to him writing ‘Surrounded by Setbacks’.

While perhaps best known as ‘the idiot whisperer’, the most-translated Swedish author ‘still alive’, sat down with podcast host Scott Armstrong at the Emirates Literature Festival to discuss his strategies for coping with setbacks, a deep dive on the nature of personal responsibility, and how he personally defines success.

Surrounded By Idiots

Of course, we do delve into human behavior and personality types. In his book (Idiots), Erikson presented a model categorizing individuals into four distinct behavioral styles: Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue. Each color represents different communication and interaction preferences.

The Red personality is described as assertive and decisive, often taking charge of situations. Yellow individuals are sociable and enthusiastic, valuing relationships and creativity. Greens are analytical and detail-oriented, favoring a logical and systematic approach. Blues are empathetic and supportive, focusing on harmony and cooperation.

Erikson’s book helps readers understand these personality types, enabling them to communicate more effectively with others by recognizing and adapting to different behavioral styles.

Takeaways For Leaders

Among the key takeaways for leaders was the need to understand the human beings working for them.

“What we tend to forget about is we need to go back to looking at the individual. Looking at you, Scott, what do you need? Yeah, let’s have a chat about that. What would you like to have in order to be the best productive force in this organization?”

And, the author rejected lazy characterizations of Gen Z saying: “Young people don’t want to be treated as young. They want to be treated as people. You need to sit down with the individual because young people are also Reds or yellows or greens or Blues and they have different drivers. Some have a theoretical driver meaning a a motivational factor which is beneath the surface. Some people who are young would like to see quick results. Some are more patient. You have to go, you know, employee by employee by employee and say ‘OK So what do you need?’”

For more on the role of leadership (and self leadership) and Erikson’s views on the world at large dive into this witty, poignant, touching and insightful conversation