For a sneak peek of Beatrice Chestnut, PhD’s The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, January 31, 2017) check out the excerpt below!
Interestingly, it turns out that if you are unkind to people, if you regularly engender negative feelings in others, you tend not to be an effective leader. Being disrespectful and controlling and insensitive tends to be correlated with being bad at managing people. Of course, throughout history, there have undoubtedly been many examples of successful jerks, but more and more, leaders who are self-centered, ego-driven, unaware of their own reactions, unskilled in managing their emotions, and unsympathetic with those of others, don’t have success over the long haul.
After all, the work of doing business happens through people interacting with people. Even in our technological age, the ability of people to understand each other so they can communicate clearly and work together seamlessly— without the personality conflicts and interpersonal tensions that can impede progress—still underlies much of what makes leaders and their businesses successful.
In the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, author Jim Collins explains that “the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one…[was] self-effacing, quiet, reserved…a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will… more like Lincoln and Socrates than Pa on or Caesar.” More and more, it is becoming clear that the ability to achieve and maintain harmonious and productive working relationships depends on one thing: how well the people involved have the humility and the will to understand and manage themselves and understand and relate well to others.
Just like the rest of us, leaders can operate in one of two ways: 1) they can do the things they do in an unconscious, automatic, and habitual way; or, 2) they can do the things they do in a conscious, self-aware, more open and creative way.
Unconscious leaders operate from a narrow focus on doing what feels safe or what has “worked” before or what protects their identity or self-image. Protecting your sense of who you are (and who you imagine others see you as) is only natural, given that we all want to feel good about ourselves. But when defending a positive sense of your image is your top priority, all of your attention and energy gets focused on protecting your self-image or ego. This is why unconscious leaders wind up stuck in a kind of defensive mode, in which they run on fear, insecurity, and a narrow sense of self-interest, like my boss at that restaurant I worked at when I was in graduate school.
Conversely, conscious leaders operate from a place of practiced, mindful awareness. They are able to observe the things they think, feel, and do, and act not just to protect their ego needs, but in the service of finding the most effective strategy to get optimal results and create positive relationships.
When a leader becomes more aware of their assumptions, their emotions, their motivations, and the impact of their behavior, they can not only manage themselves more skillfully, they can also talk about points of vulnerability from a position of strength, which makes them more approachable and accessible to others. When I worked at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business as a group facilitator, the leadership experts there often noted that one of the key traits of a successful leader is the ability to “selectively self-disclose vulnerability.” Paradoxically, it takes a great deal of inner strength to discuss your own weak points, and this practice usually attracts, rather than repels, others. When leaders are honest about both their strengths and their weak- nesses, they demonstrate the capacity to be open and authentic and model what real self-awareness looks like. And this capacity gives them great power in achieving stronger working relationships.
Business As Usual: We are More Unconscious than we Think We Are—Using the Enneagram System of Personality to Increase the Self-Understanding that Supports Great Leadership
Whether we know it or not, we all rely on a few basic strategies for moving through the social world—strategies that develop as part of the defensive “ego” or personality structure discussed earlier. Different people adopt different core strategies: some people try to be helpful and friendly, others try to be perfect,
some try to be productive or attractive to have value, and others endeavor to be knowledgeable. The problem is, we’ve been using these strategies for so long (usually because they worked at some point) that we forget we perceive the world through a particular lens that forms the basis for our strengths as well as our limitations. These adaptive strategies-turned core strengths and patterns become a kind of “programming” or “operating system” that we repeat over and over again, even when it doesn’t t the situation we are in.
The Enneagram system of personality enables us to gain a much deeper understanding of this programming—and the nine kinds of programming we find in people generally. By reading about the traits and habits of the nine personality styles, we can learn how our unconscious adherence to our inner program—in the form of our personality patterns—both helps us get ahead and gets us into trouble. And once we see how that happens, we can use that same insight to learn how to solve the problems caused by getting stuck in the “default” mode dictated by our programming.
The “Enneagram of Personality” details nine personality descriptions or categories and the interconnections among them. Each of the nine personality “types,” or “styles,” represents a distinct way of operating in the world based on a specific “focus of attention”: what you pay attention to and what you don’t pay attention to.
All of these personality styles have strengths and corresponding challenges—an upside and a downside. As the different Enneagram styles show, when we approach the world through a specific lens or filter, it allows us to develop particular areas of clarity and strength based on becoming a specialist at what that lens brings most into focus. However, on the downside, each style can overfocus on a relatively narrow set of strengths, such that they overdo those strengths to the point where they become liabilities. Unconsciously focusing too much of your attention on too narrow a set of strengths can cause you to develop and maintain certain blind spots.