Here are the first three types in my series of posts on looking at leadership styles through the lens of the enneagram. Each of the nine #enneagramtypes will show up in leadership in different ways. All will demonstrate huge strengths as leaders but all have a pathway of growth either to better engage these strengths, or through integration across the enneagram leaning into those of other types.
Starting with Type 1 or E1….
We are ‘Strict Perfectionists’, we want to see good in the world, we often judge those around us, and we are principled and live by strong values. Our motivations are ‘Doing the right thing, avoiding mistakes and working towards self-improvement and self-control’.
Our #strengths include striving for high standards, being systemic in our thinking and role modelling by living our beliefs and values.
Our #growth is to trust others by relinquishing control, be able to delegate, value others’ input and accept and enjoy good enough and imperfection.
Type 2 or E2, otherwise known as ‘considerate helpers’….
These generous and caring individuals often take on leadership or central roles as they enjoy being able to build their influence and connections. They can be great in the limelight. They are motivated by helping and providing for others with a deep-seated need to be liked and appreciated.
Their #strengths include building strong relationships, engaging groups, communities and broader systems often standing out from the crowd. They are ambitious, strategic & goal-oriented.
Their #growth is to catch themselves out when giving unsolicited advice. Ask themselves, “Am I disempowering you by always being there? Am I smothering the creativity and growth of my team?”
You will reap the benefits of stepping back a bit, putting some of your needs first and delighting in watching others grow.
Type 3 or E3, the ‘competitive achievers’….
Type 3’s are charming, charismatic individuals striving for success and to be the best at whatever they take on. They can be ambitious, focused, task-oriented, adaptive and are motivated by their need to outshine the rest. They may have an overwhelming desire to prove themselves often worrying about their image and how the world sees them.
Their #strengths as leaders include always having their eye on the prize, knowing where they are going and being hugely energetic and organised multi-taskers who have a deep seated desire to be successful. They are driven, inspiring leaders and can focus their competitiveness on supporting others to personal achievement.
Their #growth includes slowing down so as to not lose people, allowing themselves to feel failure to learn from it and therefore allowing others to do the same, collaborate more and be open to others’ views and lastly, reconnect to who they really are.
If you are interested in learning about your type and your leadership strengths, let me know.
Types 4-6 to follow…
As a leadership coach, I am frequently reminded that leadership is often learned ‘on the job’. No-one prepares you for; the countless decisions you need to make every day, the challenge of time, managing the external and internal pressures, bringing out the best in all, to name but a few.
While looking back to the early days of their leadership, I often hear leaders say, “if only I had said/done this earlier”, “if only I had been clear about this”, “if only I hadn’t said yes”. It’s always about lessons they wished they had learned earlier, the preparation for leadership.
There are repeating themes from most leaders I coach and while the following is not a complete list, it’s a start.
- Know and set out your core values from day 1
Leaders often feel they have been slow in being explicit about what’s important to them. They are often hesitant at being too forthright with this as they believe it’s right to ‘know’ the organisation, its people and its history. Yet none of this knowledge effects what we believe in. If our values are truth, equality, social justice, compassion, ambition for example, what difference would that knowledge make? From the moment we set out our values, people begin to understand us and we can begin to make decisions based on these. We start from a transparent place not from one where there is curiosity or suspicion about our motives.
- Accept that a life balance won’t always exist
There is little point expecting this to be the case when every day brings new unforeseen challenges. Our best laid plans for our evening ahead can be scuppered by 7.30am that morning. If we accept that we can avoid disappointing ourselves or others. What we must do instead is ensure we find pay back. If that evening activity was lost to us, how do we recompense later that week. How can we remove something from our priorities that just isn’t that urgent? Or better still, how can we delegate to others….
- Be confident about delegating
Some leaders see delegation as a form of weakness, offloading because they can’t cope. For some, only they can do the job well enough. Others are able to delegate to the point of abdication.
I ask my clients to remember when they were entrusted to carry out something by their leader. Then, how did this make them feel, what did they learn, how did they grow, what responsibility went with it? Words repeated back at me were; trusted, empowered, privileged,excited. Perhaps it’s time to flip the term delegate into something much more positive; entrust, empower, develop, invest.
- It’s okay to take time to make decisions, providing…
…you make them.
The most frustrating thing for those awaiting decisions is not necessarily the outcome but the knowing it will take place and when. As leaders become more experienced they are able to make quick decisions especially on recurring issues, and especially when they are clearly values based. The difficult ones may need longer to accomplish.
Rather than ruminate over the pros and cons of the decision in the first instance, focus on the information you will need to know to make it, who do you need to speak to, what do you need to read, what advice do you seek? And then, set a deadline for when you are able to do this. Communicate this deadline to offset any frustration for those who wait.
- How we lead other leaders
Setting out expectations for how we want our leaders to lead is something to consider before day 1. Bad habits are difficult to break so ensuring this is clear and explicit and, more crucially, modelled from the off. Picture the best leader you had…what was it about their leadership that inspired you, how did they model leadership, how did they bring out the best in you?
- It’s okay to make mistakes
Of course it is. If you are committed to perfection, it’s not going to work. We learn and grow from mistakes and if we model failure, we allow others to do so too. We give them space and confidence to take risks and if it doesn’t work ask ourselves the question, what would we do differently next time? Most organisations expect their people to take risks and make mistakes – if they were ‘perfect’ on appointment, how will they develop in the organisation?
While it would be wonderful to have thought through all these, we must acknowledge that we too are not ‘fully formed’ leaders when we step into our new role. And, like our teams, we will mistakes and learn from them. We then find the courage and determination to reset, to draw a line in the sand and put our lessons learned into practice.
As a leadership coach, I am often asked to visit organisations to coach individuals or sometimes a whole tier of leadership in order to support them becoming more advanced leaders.
As part of the completion session of the 1:1 coaching, I explicitly frame the skills I have used through the relationship and encourage each client to use those they believe would be beneficial while leading others. Ultimately, I am trying to develop a coaching culture within and across the organisation, attempting to enable individuals to become coaches themselves.
However, this alone does not achieve it. Studies across organisations show the following must take place to truly embed the culture:
- There is a desire for it at the heart of the organisation. It is a philosophy, a set of values in the way in which everybody is encouraged and expected to work. There are key objectives linked to its integration
- It is modelled from the top. Line management meetings in the main are coaching conversations where a coaching skillset is evident for example;
- great listening and paying attention
- great speaking with clarity and intention
- empowering, supporting and encouraging
- openness and honesty
- powerful questioning and curiosity
- goal/action focussed
- commitment and responsibility
- It is part of a learning and development plan for all while formal training is available for key leaders. This is properly funded and is part of the strategic plan
- There is access for all to a mixture of internal and external coaching
- There are key measurable objectives linked to the benefits of it. For example, the improvement of;
- working relationships
- leadership development
- self-esteem and confidence
- individual and team performance and subsequent outcomes
- retention and recruitment
- resilience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness
- well-being and life balance
- The impact is measured transparently and relates to the goals set by the organisation in its strategic plan. This might involve before and after surveys, 360-degree reviews etc.
There is an increasing trend for organisations to place coaching at the core of their ethos. The undeniable benefits can be abundant and extensive and can make a radical difference for the development of individuals and the success of the organisation.
This question posed by Talking Heads in their huge hit single, ‘Once in a Lifetime’, is the same question many highly successful people ask themselves at various stages in their career, more frequently as they move towards or reach the top of their profession. For some the voice gets louder, with a heightened sense of judgement, possible disapproval, leading to feelings of self-doubt, anxiety and an overwhelming dread of ‘being found out’. This is termed ‘the Imposter Syndrome’. Far from being a realistic self-assessment, the syndrome stops people believing in themselves.
“I have written eleven books but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find me out now, I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out’” Maya Angelou
As an executive leadership coach, nearly all my clients have experienced this sense of fraud at some point in their lives. They exhibit an inability to move forward, feel blocked, stuck and, at its worst, become paralysed with fear. They may have sleepless nights, intensified stress, anxiety, depression. There is an immediate sense of relief when they learn that 70% of successful people feel this at some point in their career or at regular intervals throughout their lives. Some have this inner critic voice with them at all times and have learned how to engage with it and have found strategies that help them to function and continue to be successful. Through becoming familiar with the critical voice, they start to use this ‘checking’ system to their advantage. They recognise when the inner critic is there and have internal conversations to reflect on decisions and to develop a sense of security and assurance of their position in the world.
‘Self-doubt undermines the process of finding our gifts and sharing them with the world’ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
For those who struggle to do this alone, the following are some of the strategies my clients and I have co-created to overcome these moments of self-doubt.
Start with acknowledging it. Recognise the disapproving voices and call them so. Consciously name or even write down the negative thoughts as they occur. “I can’t speak in public, others are far more articulate” or “I can’t work with this client, they are so much more successful than me”. Once you begin to identify the imposter, you will be ready to overcome it.
Practise positive affirmation. Here you develop mantras like “I am meant to be here”. Instead of “why me”, reframe your thinking to “why not me?”. Say these to yourself every time the negative voices crop up. Even though this may feel daunting at first, focused attention and deliberate practice can help rewire our neural pathways.
Focus on your successes and achievements. Remember, you have got to where you are because you have accomplished some amazing things in your career. You deserve to be there. Some of my clients find it easier to focus on the achievements of others in a similar role to them. This helps remind them of their own. Celebrate these as often as you can, spend 5 minutes at the end of every day focussing on the great things about your day. Who were you in those moments. In what way did you help make the moment great.
Acknowledge you are not perfect. Have the courage to lean into your imperfection and accept good enough can still be successful imperfection. Keep to your goal – make progress, not perfection.
Lastly, remember you are not alone. You are in good company. There is a large proportion of successful people out there harbouring the same feelings of ‘why me?’.
With determination and reprogramming, you can overcome your doubt and more easily celebrate your achievements. You will begin to feel liberated and an imposter no more. In the words of Talking Heads, “And you may ask yourself, Am I right? Am I wrong?” You will find the answer.
Just listened to Harriet Harman on Reflections R4.
When asked why she didn’t go for the leader of the Labour Party, she replied “I, like many women, do not consider themselves leadership material. It was always mooted a young gun would get it. Nobody suggested I would “.
She now believes she would have got it. Let’s make all women believe they can take this step.