Interpersonal Circumplex


The Interpersonal Circumplex displays users' language on the axes based on scores from our agentic and communal measures.

The agentic and communal measures capture two primary ways of navigating social environments: pursuing personal goals (agency) and building and maintaining relationships with other people (communality). The two tendencies can operate together or alone, with all possible combinations together forming the Interpersonal Circumplex. Speakers who use highly agentic language are likely exerting willpower to pursue personal goals, indicating that they prioritize things individually and for personal motivations or desires. Using communal language suggests that a person is cooperating and connecting with others to improve social relationships, indicating that they are likely doing things with other people to help meet the group's goals. These two form the “Big Two” dimensions of social cognition.

The successful balance of agentic and communal leadership behaviors involves the ability to exhibit both nurturing and supportive qualities, as well as assertiveness and drive towards achieving goals. The effective integration of Communal-Agentic leadership styles is associated with more effective leadership, as it allows leaders to build positive relationships, foster collaboration, and drive results simultaneously. Our research has shown that companies run by CEOs who effectively balance high scores on these two dimensions (the upper right quadrant of the Interpersonal Circumplex) generate higher returns than those who appear elsewhere in the circumplex.

CALI circumplex

Subfacets of the Interpersonal Circumplex

The radial axes contain sub-facets of agentic and communal, describing communication dynamics that combine the two main measures. These areas can represent combinations of agentic and communal and are defined as follows:

Authoritative: Combines moderate-to-high agentic and low communal. Represents individuals who are assertive and confident in their decision-making, and may come across as more aloof or less approachable than leaders with a more communal focus. Some Authoritative leaders are seen as commanding. They may work to establish and maintain workplace hierarchies and can be perceived as cold.

Directive: Combines high agentic and moderate-to-low communal. Represents individuals who are decisive and take charge, but also, at times, take into account the perspectives and input of others. Capable of balancing the needs of others while driving business results, they also have a bias toward action and can risk coming across as ruthless. These may be naturally highly agentic individuals who push themselves to be warmer and more relatable.

Inspirational: Combines high agentic and moderate-to-high communal. Represents individuals who reflect a combination or balance of the two traits and can inspire and motivate others to achieve agentic goals while also showing empathy and concern for their well-being. This leader knows that strong relationships are required for a group to take decisive action together but also recognizes that achievements are necessary for the group’s relationships and well-being.

Coaching: Combines moderate-to-high agentic and high communal. Represents individuals who balance the two traits while emphasizing getting along and understanding each other’s perspectives. These leaders may excel in guiding and supporting others in achieving their goals. Coaching-style leaders strike a balance between focusing on results and people, prioritizing relationships even in cases where it may be tempting to focus solely on getting ahead.

Methodical: Combines low communal and moderate-to-low agentic. Represents individuals who are more focused on actions and tasks than they are on people and relationships. Such leaders may care about the work itself more than worldly accomplishments and tend to find it satisfying to check items off the to-do list. By leveraging their preference for tasks, methodical leaders can be effective at driving results but could benefit from remembering that they may accomplish more with the buy-in from their team.

Laissez-faire: Combines moderate-to-low communal and low agentic. Represents individuals who are unobtrusive, laid-back leaders who take a hands-off approach to strengthening social relationships and avoid directly making bold changes. They are more likely to be happy with the status quo, maintaining their group's existing strengths — in terms of both relationships and work projects — and keeping their group on a steady, reliable course. They can be effective, low-stress leaders, especially when in charge of expert team members who need little direct oversight. However, they may risk coming across as distant or indecisive.

Democratic: Combines moderate-to-high communal and low agentic. Represents individuals who are highly-people focused leaders and who do well encouraging collaboration and building strong teams. This leader is focused on relationships and may compromise assertiveness in order to get along with team members. At times, their focus on collaboration over competition may make it difficult for them to correct problematic team members or more ruthless competitors.

Participative: Combines high communal and moderate-to-low agentic. Represents individuals who are people-focused and guide teams to results in a participatory, collaborative way. These leaders may shy away from the spotlight and may be seen as more supporting contributors than dominant leaders. Although this style will thrive in flat organizational structures, they may risk coming across as too indecisive or easygoing in situations where action or ruthlessness are expected.

Note: The image of the circumplex above is generated through the Interpersonal Circumplex chart type in our Visualization UI tool.

Specs and Examples

Scores in the Interpersonal Circumplex framework are always in the range of 0 to 100. Our measures are baselined against our proprietary datasets, which consist of language samples that exceed 350 words.

A language sample that generates a score of 80 implies that 80% of all samples in our curated baseline dataset have scores that are less than the score of the language sample being analyzed.

Note: Results will be most reliable when your text sample is >350 words in length.

Example 1: Let me share a remarkable experience we had with our sales teams. I kid you not, we had a whopping 15 different teams all reaching out to the same clients, making it incredibly challenging for our customers to do business with us. That's when we realized the need for a change. We decided to bring all our teams together, creating a unified point of entry to improve scalability and drive bottom-line revenue. As I approach my 10th anniversary with the company at the end of this year, I can't help but reflect on our incredible journey. I vividly remember celebrating my first anniversary with the company over dinner with my husband, and in that moment, tears welled up in my eyes. He asked what was wrong, and I confessed that this job felt incredibly lonely. However, that realization became a turning point for us. We started having more good days than bad days, witnessing progress and the rallying of our team alongside us. Gradually, our culture improved, and now we have a cohesive and caring team of people who share our vision. It's an amazing feeling to have such a strong sense of unity and agreement within the team.

"interpersonal_circumplex": {
"agentic": 59.409121684003196,
"communal": 85.2677468519442,
"category": "coaching",
"level": "high"

This sample depicts a company culture shift as told by a person in a leadership position, indicating a move toward heightened collaboration, teamwork, and a shared approach to enhance scalability and drive revenue. Additionally, the sample portrays the personal journey and emotional experience of the leader, touching upon feelings of loneliness initially but then describing a transformation toward a more positive and supportive team environment. The mention of progress, unity, and shared vision highlights the communal nature of the speaker and the sense of togetherness they have achieved, as seen by the communal score of 85, and the level being high within the coaching category of communal vs. agentic leadership styles

Example 2: We've gained a significant advantage in this situation when it comes to recruiting. The fact is, larger companies struggle to effectively track and secure the best engineers due to their subpar working environments. However, we've excelled in recruiting top talent from these organizations, placing ourselves ahead of the curve. It's important to recognize the potential inefficiencies, particularly in terms of cost. As our company expands and embraces the division and specialization of labor, we inevitably face a scenario where the employee count becomes excessive. But let me tell you, there's a pivotal moment we must be mindful of. When communication inefficiencies start outweighing the benefits of labor specialization, we witness a decline in the return per employee. It's a challenge we're fully aware of and proactively addressing to maintain our competitive edge.

"interpersonal_circumplex": {
"agentic": 84.85258817012371,
"communal": 46.59799243574429,
"category": "directive",
"level": "high"

The speaker of this sample demonstrates an agentic nature through their confident and proactive approach in their language. They assertively state that their company has gained a significant advantage in recruiting, highlighting their success in attracting top talent and positioning themselves ahead of larger companies. The speaker's emphasis on recognizing potential inefficiencies and addressing them reflects their task-oriented mindset and keen awareness of challenges. Their mention of the company's expansion and embrace of division and specialization of labor shows a deliberate and strategic decision-making process. Overall, the speaker's tone and language convey a sense of control, initiative, and determination, which characterize their agentic nature, as reflected in their score of 84 for agentic and the level being high within the directive category of communal vs. agentic leadership styles.

Correlation between communion_language and agency_language in LIWC Extension

In addition to the communal and agentic measures that are part of the Interpersonal Circumplex framework, the LIWC Extension framework also features two dimensions that have similar labels, namely communion_language and agency_language. While similar in name, these measures are calculated differently and will generate different scores when used on the same text sample.

Communion_language and agency_language are categories in LIWC Extension that measure the frequency of utterances that are communion- or agency-focused, whereas communal and agentic in the Interpersonal Circumplex are measures that identify the degree to which people's language reflect agentic and communal psychological traits.

The communal and agentic algorithms consist of multiple input categories with varying weights, that take into account the specific psycholinguistic parameters that comprise the measures. These measures are also normed against our extensive datasets to allow us to express the scores as percentiles that can be compared against the general population.

It is worth noting that someone with a high score in communion_language is likely to be a very communal person, whereas the inverse isn’t necessarily true - someone with a low score in communion_language might still be a very communal person but they express it in a different way. Similarly, high levels of `agency_language is not the only linguistic marker that correlates with a strong sense of agency. Because the communal and agentic measures are based on formulas, we are able to get a more nuanced view of the psychological contexts and are able to capture people who may be, for example, very communal and express it through positivity and community focus, or are highly agentic but demonstrate it through collaborative decision-making and cooperative problem-solving methods rather than assertive language.