The Compass: Understanding The Four Types in Team Building


In Working with Teams, one of the most important principles is that we;

‘Understand the times and seasons and what we should do’

When working with others, it’s important we understand who we are and who they are and how to work together pulling in the right direction

I’ve written this article on THE COMPASS (A Tool for Team Building and Development) with that in mind…

[Figure 1: The Compass]



In building teams that are able to work together effectively, whether in the spheres of business, education, entertainment, spirituality and so on, there is a mystery that needs to be understood. It’s the mystery of The Four Types

This mystery involves the throne room of The Ancient One; the creator of the universe. He sits on an emerald throne and is surrounded by FOUR LIVING CREATURES…

These Living Beings are described as follows;

One has the face of an Eagle

Another, the face of a Lion

Another, the face of a Man

Whilst another has the face of an Ox

There are strengths and weaknesses to each of these Four Types that surround the throne of God. Now that we have understood that there exists predominantly 4 dominant types of being…let’s move into their environment…



There are four prevailing environments;

Air, Fire, Water, Earth

Each Type find that they are drawn to certain environments in which they can not only survive but thrive. There are strengths and weaknesses inherent in each of these environments

Jesus let’s us into a secret of how his Kingdom operates in his Parable of the Four Soils (found in the scriptures Mark 4:1-20 and Matthew 13:1-23). He says, ‘if you don’t understand this story about the Kingdom, you won’t understand any story of the Kingdom’

Airy Environments– those who like to soar on the wings of new ideas and concepts enjoy this environment; blue-sky thinking and seeing the big picture. They don’t like to get bogged down with detail or the day-to-day running of things. However, Eagle-types who do well in this environment can often be seen by others as being too heavenly minded for any earthly good.

Fiery Environments– those who like inspirational environments– atmospheres full of passion, motivation and encouragement. Lion-types are energised in heated environments where things can get pretty intense…However, when attacked they can be fiery but can also energise people and encourage and strengthen teams when times get tough in the storming season…

Watery Environments– those who like cool and calm environments- where things are pretty even and steady and teams are in their normative season. Human-types settle well beside rivers of living water. But when the waters get stirred up, rough and choppy, they can become pretty unstable or simply go with the flow of what others are saying and doing even when it’s not good to do so

Earthy Environments– those who like to have their feet firmly on the ground enjoy earthy environments. Earthing things, where we can analyse the facts and figures and be accurate. Ox-types like to see precedent of where things have been done well before, case-studies and concrete examples. However, they can often get lost in detail, not seeing the wood for the trees.



In understanding the times and seasons, we recognise that the earth is organised into four dominant seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer and Winter. We organise our work and rhythms of life around these seasons. In managing projects it’s good to know what season we as a team and the project are in. Are we in the Forming season (where the vision is cast and people come together around that Directive vision), the Storming season (where the team have begun but realised things are not as easy as they first seemed in the vision season), Norming season (when the team have come through conflict of the Storming season and found their rightful places in the team) or Performing season (where the team now know what they are each good at and weak at and are performing to their optimum strengths and pulling in the same direction)



What Type of Person Are You? (Eagle, Lion, Human, Ox?)

What Type(s) of Person do you need for the Season you are in?

Which Working Environment is best for the Type of Person you are working with or the Season your team project is in?

What Season is Your Team and Project in?



In leading or managing teams made up of Four Types of People and acknowledging that Projects go through Four Seasons it’s important that we know how to adapt our Leadership Style to each given situation

To individuals we need to adapt our communication style to match their Type and understand what Environment that individual feels most at home in

In Leading or Managing Teams we need to adapt our leadership style to match the appropriate season the team and project is in as a whole

Understanding THE COMPASS: Principle of Four Types will go a long way in your Leadership and Management of teams, helping you to gain an understanding of yourself and others!



Can you change your TYPE? I don’t believe so- we are who we are. Our foundational nature essentially stays the same. Nor should we try to change the TYPE of someone else. These 4 Types are foundational archetypes given by the Father in Creation. We can grow to appreciate our TYPE and look to grow our strengths and minimise our weaknesses as relating to our TYPE. If Christ is at the centre of our TYPE we will become more of the TYPE we were created to be! If we are leaders we can learn to adapt our STYLE to match the TYPE of others and adapt to the situation or environment or season a team is in whilst retaining our natural TYPE. But it is futile trying to become something or someone we are not…it’s better to understand our natural TYPE and the TYPES of others…

Are the FOUR TYPES OF THE COMPASS the same as the FIVEFOLD MINISTRY/MOVEMENT ENGINE? No- I believe the FOUR TYPES relate to everyone on the earth, they are distinct personality types embedded by the Father into creation. Whereas the FIVEFOLD are given by Christ and relate to our SERVICE to others in the building up of his corporate Body (however, there may well be overlap)



The problem with holding together the tension of Four Living Creatures who are all different in Type and Temperament and Style is that, left to their own devices, they would all pull in completely opposite directions!

While the Lion-types push east, the Human-types might be pulling south, the Ox-types pulling west, the Eagle-types pulling north. Without Christ on his throne in the centre- the whole thing would pull completely apart!

We need all the types, in their rightful season. But we need to practice deferring to each other. Humbling ourselves and honouring the Type of Person or Leadership needed at the Right Time. The opportunity for us going into the next season/festival of Tabernacles in the 21st Century, is to really learn how to work in this Compass Dynamic. Doing so will helps us not to get stuck in a rut. We may like to live in the fire environment but our work may actually be stuck in one season because we need to adapt into the water environment and so on. Although we naturally feel at home with people who are like us….the reality is, to create anything of lasting change and fruitfulness- WE NEED PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT LIKE US AT ALL



The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us to dwell in the presence of God and in the presence of others who are of different temperaments to ourselves (The Reformation and Evangelical Church Movement emphasises the Feast of Passover, The 20th Century Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement emphasises the Feast of Pentecost. Perhaps the 21st Century will emphasise the Feast of Tabernacles).

Tabernacles teaches us to dwell with one another in UNITY and JOY despite our (Four Type) differences! During the Feast, Jews are required to bring together The Four Species; four different kinds of plants (Leviticus 23:40). Some say you bring these four species together in a bundle to wave them before the presence of the Lord, whilst others say these four plants were gathered to be the materials for building the temporary dwelling places/tabernacles the people of Israel would stay in for 7-8 days during the feast. Either way, we recognise that all Four Types of Person are needed in the construction of the tabernacle; the dwelling place of God amongst us.

We may have to work with and dwell with people we DON’T ACTUALLY LIKE

In this world, like usually attracts like, birds of a feather flock together. It’s far easier to trust people who are like us; it’s easier to work with people of the same or similar personality types and leadership style and working environment to ourselves…however…

Tabernacles teaches us that The Four Types MUST Unite in the Service of God to be his partners in the Creation of A Whole New World...

[Extract from forthcoming Newforms book on Building Teams]

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Peter J. Farmer

Peter J. Farmer is a church planter working with teams and networks to catalyze new forms of church that murmurate into movements...

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