Proven Path to Leadership Maturity and Effectiveness

This post is a companion to the podcast featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about leadership maturity and vertical development to build the leadership qualities required to lead large, complex organizations and those that aspire to make the greatest impact.

Forbes Coaches Council first published the following article in August 2016.

Future trends indicate complexity, accelerated change, and near-constant uncertainty in the coming years. These conditions will require significantly different leadership skills.

With these new demands for evolving leadership, is there a predictable path to develop leadership? If so, what does that path look like?

Leaders develop both “horizontally,” increasing their ability at their current level of operation, and “vertically,” increasing their level of complexity, emotional maturity, and opening to new awareness. Many researchers are now saying that “vertical development” is required to navigate the complexities leaders and their organizations face.

To answer what the vertical evolutionary path looks like, I reference the research of Dr. Cook-Greuter, who developed a Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF) and measurement of adult development as part of her doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. Dr. Cook-Greuter is now the Co-Founder with Beena Sharma of The Center for Leadership Maturity, a firm that facilitates vertical development in individuals, teams, and organizations. The LMF is the basis of my work with vertical leadership development because it provides a model grounded in research and is practical to use in coaching and leadership development.

Vertical development does not mean that more developed people are “better” people, but rather, in many cases, they are likely to be more effective in key leadership roles within large complex organizations. The following is a summary of the LMF describing the predictable developmental trajectory people navigate as they grow:

The Group-Centric Level

This level is about conforming and belonging. People at this level follow rules, norms and observe hierarchy. They conform to social expectations, work to group standards, seek membership and approval, and appreciate outward signs of status as a sign of approval. They attend to the welfare of their own group; those who are not like them are the “other,” and therefore outside their circle of concern. They avoid conflict, think in simple terms, and often speak in generalities. Feedback is taken as disapproval since their driving value is to gain approval and be included.

Example: This is the employee who looks to what the group is doing to determine his actions. He looks to meet the “expectations” set by the organization, fit into the culture, and do what everyone does. Belonging is his key to success; standing out or having a different opinion feels risky

The Skill-Centric Level

This focuses on comparing self to others and perfecting skills. Individuals at this level focus on being competent in their own area of interest and improving techniques and efficiency. They aspire to quality standards and are often heavily invested in their way as the only way of doing things. Decisions are made based on incontrovertible “facts.” Given their focus on problem-solving and detail, they can get caught in the weeds and not see the big picture necessary to effectively prioritize among competing demands. All consuming attention on being right can lead them to be critical of and competitive with others. They hear feedback about their work as criticism of them as a whole person.

Example: This is the employee who points out when others make mistakes and tries to correct them so they can meet the standards. Her development efforts focus on building expertise. She usually has a “better” opinion unless she is in the presence of a subject-matter expert.

The Self-Determining Level

This focuses on analyzing and achieving to effectively deliver results. Leaders at this level look toward longer-term goals and initiate rather than follow expectations. They value objectivity and scientific knowledge, seeking rational, proactive ways around problems. They often seek consensus — “agree to disagree” — and value mutuality and equality in relationships. They accept feedback to promote learning and success.

Example: This employee continually drives to meet organizational goals. He works both efficiently and effectively and is continually competing with himself and others to drive the best results. He has a five-year plan, is open to new learning, and is beginning to be more reflective.

The Self-Questioning Level

This level focuses on self in relationship and contextualizing his/her experience. Leaders at this level are concerned with the difference between reality and appearance and have an increased understanding of complexity and unintended effects of actions. They begin to question their own assumptions and views and realize the subjectivity of beliefs; and talk of interpretations rather than facts. They can play different roles in different contexts and begin to seek out and value feedback.

Example: This employee is continually inquiring, challenging assumptions, and aware of the limitations of conventional thinking. She focuses on creating an environment where everyone feels valued. She is committed to appreciating value in different perspectives.

The Self-Actualizing Level

This level is about integrating and transforming self and systems, and recognizing higher principles, complexity and interrelationships. People at this level are aware of the social construction of reality — not just rules and customs. They are problem finding, not just doing creative problem solving. They are aware of paradox and contradiction in self and systems and learn to have a deep appreciation of others. They demonstrate a sensitivity to systemic change and create “positive-sum” games.

Example: This person is continually evaluating the organization’s strategy against long-term industry trends as well as global economic conditions while embodying her values and using herself as an instrument of transformation. She is self-aware and firmly anchored in principles while having the ability to adapt based on context.

As we look to the changes leaders are facing in the near and long term, it is helpful to have a robust model for development that allows them to focus their development energy effectively. This framework, along with it, measurement instrument — the maturity assessment for professionals (MAP) — is the most robust I have seen, and I find it highly effective in supporting leaders.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, 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. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful profitability, growth, and sustainability strategies.

Leveraging Personality Type to Improve Leadership Effectiveness

Leader Type

This guest blog was written as a companion to the podcast with Belinda Gore, Building Leadership Self-Awareness Using Personality Type. In the interview and the blog, Belinda explores how she uses the Enneagram to help leaders build the self-awareness that enables them to perform effectively.

This post contains some excerpts from the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook by Maureen Metcalf and contributing author Belinda Gore.

Let’s start with the example of Ken, an experienced leader who was making a job change. He realized he was navigating uncharted territory and would no longer be working with the team he knew well and trusted. He would work with new people who didn’t know who he was or how he worked. Because starting a new job is stressful, he must also know his patterns and signs of stress. To help him manage this transition, he revisited his personality assessment to refresh his memory on navigating his stress and understanding his new team better. 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.  Pretty impressive.  All the tools of the MBA trade—forecasting, strategic planning, financial analysis, among many, many others—were determined to be LESS important than learning self-awareness skills and the ability to reduce denial. This speaks to the emerging recognition that we highlight in Innovative Leadership:  Leaders can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success through their personality quirks and biases.

The name “Enneagram” derives from the Greek for nine (ennea) and a figure (grama). Hence, the Enneagram symbol of a circle with nine equidistant points around the circumference.  The symbol itself is ancient. Using the symbol as a map, we can describe patterns of personality and 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 more robust than any other system I have encountered. Many organizations are familiar with DISC, MBTI, Strengths Finder, and other systems, and training in these models has given employees at every level of organizations a foundation in models for self-awareness. I have found leaders at every level able to readily learn the richer and more versatile information the Enneagram offers.

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 and have 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 2Helper: 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 I can also be sentimental, flattering, and people-pleasing. I am well-meaning and driven to be close to others, but I can slip into doing things for others ‘ needs. 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 I can also be overly concerned with my image and what others think of me. I typically have problems with being overfocused 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 I 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 can 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 can 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 I can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious, running on stress while complaining about it. I can be cautious, 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. I can also misapply many talents, being playful, high-spirited, and practical, 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 powerful, aggressive, self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, I can also be egocentric and domineering. I must control my environment, especially people who sometimes become confrontational and intimidating. I typically have problems with my temper and 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, easygoing, and stable. I am usually grounded, supportive, and often creative, but I 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, 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 how leaders and organizations sabotage their best efforts and find the line of least resistance toward getting back on track.

By harnessing the capacity to see your leader type and conditioning objectively and nonjudgmentally, you can foster better insight into 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 and natural and generally do not change much over time. In the most basic way, they reflect who you are most innately.  The goal with the leader type is to build self-awareness and leverage strengths, not try to change who you are. Understanding the natural conditioning of the leader type is a crucial stage in developing leadership effectiveness and comprehensive innovation within the organization.

A recommended resource for identifying your own Enneagram personality type is to take an online questionnaire.

About the Authors

Belinda Gore, Ph.D., designs, develops and delivers leadership, assessments, workshops, and coaching. She is a key thought leader in developing 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 personal satisfaction. Her clients have included senior leadership in global companies, senior and middle management in corporate and nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurs. She will lead our new service line, which is focused on helping leaders and their organizations build resilience. She will also offer leadership team development, board development, coaching, and Enneagram assessment.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful profitability, growth, and sustainability strategies.