This post is part 2 of a six part series on using Innovative Leadership approach to building authentic leadership. Last week’s post provided an overview.
Susan, a social service executive, tests as a loyalist using the Enneagram personality typing system. She is committed, reliable, hard-working, responsible, trustworthy, and security-oriented. Though she is cautious and has problems with self-doubt, she’s quite methodical and also passionate about the value her work provides to our community. She evaluates how her projects will impact the organization’s clients, her own children and future generations, and is focused on building the Board, infrastructure, systems and program required to promote a better future. These qualities make her an exceptional Executive Director. She’s an excellent “troubleshooter” and can foresee problems and foster cooperation, but Susan—often running on stress—can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.
She focuses heavily on process and has sense of urgency issues which limit her ability to be an exceptional leader of people and projects. After taking the Enneagram assessment, she was able to identify her strengths and deficiencies. By understanding her authentic type and building on her strengths, she has improved her leadership ability. To augment her strengths, she also needed to build the capacities where she showed limitations—one of which was the capacity to be patient under stress. She started by trying small experiments in leading with patience that were appropriate for her work environment. She documented these experiments in a journal that allowed her to reflect on what was blocking his success as well as what was working well.
Over time she began to receive very positive feedback that these experiments were working, and her ability to be empathetic evolved into an authentic skill. While this may never be her strongest skill, she has made great progress in understanding what others need from her and developing the skills to relate more effectively. Her success is attributed to both hers willingness to learn about herself and also to take corrective action to address a gap in her skills and comfort level.
Susan is hardly alone in needing to expand her leadership capacities. All leaders must adapt and expand the way they lead, whether it’s to accommodate growth in their organization, a new position or a change in the community’s expectations, increasing leadership capacities is a critical need for leaders.
Part of the challenge in building authentic leadership is learning to leverage the clarity of your introspection. You can only be authentic if you understand who you truly are. Looking inside yourself and examining the makeup of your inner being enables you to function in a highly-grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of uninformed decision-making.
First and foremost, start by simply considering your disposition, tendencies, inclinations, and ways of being. Authentic leadership hinges on understanding the simple, native manner in which you show up in your life. One way to observe this is by examining key aspects of your inner being, often called Leader Type, which reflect a leader’s personality type. The leader personality type is an essential foundation of your personal makeup, critically influencing who you are as a leader and greatly shaping the effectiveness of your leadership. The ancient adage “know thyself” holds true as a crucial underpinning in leadership performance and a key tool to learn about your leadership type is through an assessment. We work with the Enneagram and recognize there are many very effective tools. We encourage leaders to create an environment in which people are given tacit permission to be themselves, allowing them to focus energy on their skills, rather than using that energy to fit into an alternate expectation. It also has the added benefit of aligning individuals with the culture of the overall group.
The focus of higher education, historically, have been on the value of hard skills and technical know-how, yet our experience shows the most important thing business, nonprofit management and public administration graduates need to learn as new leaders is self-awareness and the resulting ability to accept feedback and reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions.
This speaks to the emerging deep recognition that leaders who are unable to manage their authentic personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success. The real goal is to understand who you are at your core, build on your strengths, and manage prejudice and idiosyncrasies.
Recommendations to improve your leadership authenticity using the focus on leader type:
- Take a personality type assessment;
- Learn about your type;
- Get input from others on what they think is most effective and least effective about your leadership style relative to your professional goals;
- Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment to evaluate how your type maps to your work;
- Identify the strengths on which you can build, and the weaknesses and threats may interfere with your success;
- Create a development plan that includes defining daily practices to support development, including introspective routines;
- Seek assistance in accomplishing your plan and getting feedback from trusted others;
- Make the change you defined in your plan.
Your ability to use deep introspection relies on your development of, and a capacity for, self-understanding and self-awareness. Employing a deeper understanding of Leader Type for both yourself and others is a powerful tool to promote authentic leadership.
Next week’s blog post will focus on Developmental Perspective.
Maureen will be a presenting Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating how You Lead at the WELD Leadership conference on June 4, 2015 at Otterbein University in Columbus Ohio. Click for more information.
Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, iHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.
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