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Leveraging Personality Type to Improve Leadership Effectiveness By Maureen Metcalf

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Leveraging Personality Type to Improve Leadership Effectiveness By Maureen Metcalf

In this blog and associated interview, Belinda explores how she uses the Enneagram to help leaders build the self-awareness that enables them to perform effectively.

Let’s start with the example of Ken, an experienced leader, who was making a job change.
He realized he was navigating in uncharted territory and that he would no longer be working with the team he knew well and trusted. He would be working with new people who didn’t know who he was or how he worked. Because starting a new job is stressful, he also needed to be aware of his patterns and signs of stress. To help him manage this transition, he revisited his personality assessment to refresh his memory on how to navigate his personal stress and to better understand his new team. He found this tool very useful in the past and expected it would be equally valuable as he stepped into a high-visibility role.

When the 65 members of the Advisory Council for the Stanford Graduate School of Business were polled several years ago on the topic of what is most important to include in the school’s curriculum, there was an overwhelming agreement that the most important thing business school graduates needed to learn was self-awareness and the resulting ability to reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions. All the tools of the MBA trade—forecasting, strategic planning, financial analysis, among many, many others—were determined to be LESS important than learning skills of self-awareness and the ability to reduce denial. This speaks to the emerging recognition that we highlight in Innovative Leadership: Leaders, through their own personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success.

The name “Enneagram” derives from the Greek for nine (ennea) and for a figure (grama), hence, the Enneagram symbol of a circle with nine equidistant points around the circumference. Using the symbol as a map we can describe patterns of personality as well as highly effective pathways for personal change. In my experience using the Enneagram system as a psychologist and leadership coach over the past twenty-three years, I find it to be more robust than any other system I have encountered.

The following section describes the enneagram types.

Type 1—Reformer: The Rational, Idealistic Type
I am a principled, idealistic type. I am conscientious and ethical with a strong sense of right and wrong behavior. I can be a teacher, crusader, and advocate for change, always striving to improve things, but sometimes afraid of making mistakes. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, I try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. I typically have problems with resentment and impatience.
At My Best: I am wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. I can be morally heroic.

Type 2—Helper: The Caring, Interpersonal Type
I am a caring, interpersonal type. I am empathetic, sincere, and warm-hearted. I am friendly, generous, and self-sacrificing, but can also be sentimental, flattering, and people pleasing. I am well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but can slip into doing things for others in order to be needed. I typically have problems with possessiveness and with acknowledging my own needs.
At My Best: I am unselfish and altruistic, and have unconditional love for others.

Type 3—Achiever: The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type
I am an adaptable, success-oriented type. I am self-assured, attractive, and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, I can also be status-conscious and highly-driven for advancement. I am diplomatic and poised, but can also be overly concerned with my image and what others think of me. I typically have problems with over focus on work and competitiveness.
At My Best: I am self-accepting, authentic, and a role model who inspires others.

Type 4—Individualist: The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type
I am an introspective, romantic type. I am self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. I am emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding myself from others due to feeling vulnerable, I can also feel scornful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. I typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity.
At My Best: I am inspired and highly creative and am able to renew myself and transform my experiences.

Type 5—Investigator: The Intense, Cerebral Type
I am a perceptive, cerebral type. I am alert, insightful, and curious. I am able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, I can also become preoccupied with my thoughts and imaginary constructs. I can be detached, yet high-strung and intense. I typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.
At My Best: I am a visionary pioneer, often ahead of my time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.

Type 6—Loyalist: The Committed, Security-Oriented Type
I am reliable, hardworking, responsible, security oriented, and trustworthy. I am an excellent troubleshooter, and can foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious: running on stress while complaining about it. I can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant, and rebellious. I typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion.
At My Best: I am internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing myself and others.

Type Seven—Enthusiast: The Busy, Fun-Loving Type
I am a busy, outgoing, productive type. I am extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited and practical, I can also misapply many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. I constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. I typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness.
At My Best: I focus my talents on worthwhile goals, becoming appreciative, joyous, and satisfied.

Type Eight—Challenger: The Powerful, Dominating Type
I am a powerful, aggressive, self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight talking, and decisive, I can also be egocentric and domineering. I feel I must control my environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. I typically have problems with my temper and with allowing myself to be vulnerable.
At My Best: I am self-mastering and I use my strength to improve others’ lives, becoming heroic, magnanimous, and inspiring.

Type Nine—Peacemaker: The Easygoing, Self-effacing Type
I am accepting, trusting, easy going, and stable. I am usually grounded, supportive, and often creative, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. I want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but I can also tend to be complacent and emotionally distant, simplifying problems, and ignoring anything upsetting. I typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness.
At My Best: I am indomitable and all-embracing, and able to bring people together to heal conflicts.

One advantage of the Enneagram is that it is organic. The nine personality styles are formed through characteristic ways of balancing the three primary centers of intelligence in the human body. While we typically think of the brain as the center of intelligence, advances in neuroanatomy have demonstrated that there is also a complex system of nerves in the solar plexus region that forms the center of body intelligence and a third complex system of nerves in the center of the chest, known as the heart center of intelligence. These three centers are aligned with the three major parts of the brain:  the belly center is aligned with the reptilian brain stem, responsible for instinctual behavior and home of the autonomic nervous system that controls arousal and relaxation;  the heart center is aligned with the mid-brain where we encounter the mechanism for fundamental emotion as well as mirror neurons and limbic resonance that account for our capacity for empathy; and the head center is aligned with the cerebral cortex, which includes the analytical and logical left lobe as well as the holistic and intuitive right lobe.

The key to identifying a person’s core Enneagram type is to look beyond behavior to the factors motivating that behavior. Through awareness of motivation we can predict the ways in which leaders and organizations sabotage their best efforts as well as find the line of least resistance toward getting back on track.

By harnessing the capacity to see your leader type and conditioning in an objective, nonjudgmental way, you can foster better insight to your own experience without the strained effort that can stem from self-bias. You discover that the unique patterns that shape each type are genuine, natural and generally do not change much over time. In the most basic way, they simply reflect who you are most innately. The goal with leader type is to build self-awareness and leverage strengths, not try to change who you are. Understanding the natural conditioning that comes from leader type is a crucial stage in developing leadership effectiveness, and comprehensive innovation within the entire organization.

About the Authors
Belinda Gore, PhD focuses on designing, developing and delivering leadership, assessments, workshops, and coaching. She is a key thought leader in the development of the Innovative Leadership framework. She is a psychologist, executive coach, and experienced seminar leader skilled in supporting her clients in high-level learning. With 30 years’ experience in leadership development and interpersonal skills training, she is known for helping teams discover strength in their diversity to achieve their mutual goals, and works with individual leaders to access their natural talents to maximize effectiveness and satisfaction.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

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We Chose How We Lead – What Do You Chose? By Maureen Metcalf

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We Chose How We Lead – What Do You Chose? By Maureen Metcalf


This guest post by Paul Pyrz, President of LeaderShape. This is an excerpt from the forward Paul wrote for the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers where Paul talks about the importance of developing emerging leaders. Paul is featured in the November 8 Interview focusing on how leaders live in possibility with Maureen Metcalf on VoiceAmerica.

“Leadership is a choice.” – Warren Bennis 

This quote by Warren Bennis, widely known as a leadership author and leader in higher education, is my favorite. Hands down. It is simple, eloquent, easy to remember. And right. Clearly, this is my opinion, but as someone who has read and heard numerous quotes on leadership throughout my life, I keep coming back to this.

We have many choices to make in our lives. We can choose our career, our partner, our attitude, our dinner option, but perhaps there is no more important choice to make in our lives than how we are going to make a difference with the limited time we have on this planet. Far too many of us choose to live lives of insignificance and mediocrity because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, or as even having the capability to make a difference in our communities much less our own lives. So we bounce from day to day without purpose or passion.

I have used this quote from Bennis quite often in my work leading a not-for-profit organization in an attempt to de-mystify the concept of leading. In attempts to define it, we have made leading far too complicated. I have been keeping a list of all the books on leadership that have thrown another adjective in front of “leadership” to sell their version of it. Ultimate leadership. Super leadership. Principled leadership. My favorites being liquid leadership, food leadership (seriously), and boot strap leadership. Go ahead, look for them on Amazon, or in the bookstore. They are there.

A good question to ask is, “Why are there so many books out there on leadership?” Other than because it is a popular topic and people want to make money by window dressing their own version of leadership, I can think of only one other connected reason: People want to understand leadership.

They want to see how it’s defined and how to “do” it. So, they buy the books. We need leaders. We need them now more than ever. We long to be led. Really led. I don’t care as much about the number of followers that a leader has as much as I want to see people using their lives to pursue something that they are passionate about and choosing to make the world a better place in a small (or large) way.

I am passionate about helping young people connect with the idea that they can lead. Not because they have a title next to their names, but because they have a passion, skill, or talent that the world needs, and they just haven’t realized it yet. That is where the concept of emerging leaders comes into play. We need to do more to help leaders emerge, help young people, in particular, figure out that they can lead and know that we need them to lead. They don’t have to be in front of the room, but they need to participate in the room. They don’t need the title, but they need to act like they have it. They don’t need followers, but they need to do something that is worth following. They need the patience to plant seeds, try new ideas, and fail miserably.

Emerging leaders need our support, our encouragement, and our willingness to set them loose and figure it out on their own. We cannot weigh them down with the ideas of the past and how past generations saw leadership. They need to make their own meaning of the concept and wrestle in the mud with hard conversations that produce hard solutions. They need us to get out of their way and give them room to grow with their own understanding and vision. They need a guide, not a prescription.

Jim Collins said that the enemy of great is being good, and that is precisely why we have so few things and institutions that are truly great. We need to push, we need to engage, and we need to help others realize that they, too, have the capability to lead. And then we can only hope that they choose to lead.

Enjoy the journey.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author
Paul Pyrz serves as the President of LeaderShape, Inc., a not-for-profit organization located in Champaign, Illinois. LeaderShape has been providing integrity-based leadership experiences for over 75,000 participants across the country and internationally for the past thirty years. Their organizational mission is to help create a just, caring, thriving world where all lead with integrity and live in possibility. Goal Statement/conclusion: I want this Voice America Series to provide valuable information to leaders and emerging leaders that will prepare them to lead their organizations in the dynamic times we currently face. The more highly effective leaders we have – the better the journey.

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