Using Leader Type to Build Authentic Leadership

IntrospectionHow to use the five elements of innovative leadership to become a more authentic leader is the focus of this five-blog series. We will explore each element in sufficient depth and provide recommended next steps. The first component is how an understanding of leader type helps you become more authentic and also create a more authentic workplace.

First, understand your leadership type by taking an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. An environment in which people are given tacit permission to be themselves allows them to focus their energy on their skills, rather than using it to fit into an expectation and aligns individuals aligns with the culture of the overall group.

Paul, an engineering leader, is a Type six personality,(the loyalist). He is committed, reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy, and security-oriented.  .  Though he is cautious and has problems with self-doubt, he’s quite methodical and also passionate about the value his work provides to our community. He evaluates how his projects will impact his children and future generations, and is focused on building the physical infrastructure required to promote a better future. These qualities make him an exceptional engineer. He’s an excellent “troubleshooter” and can foresee problems and foster cooperation, but Paul—often running on stress—can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.

He focuses heavily on process and has insufficient levels of empathy to be an exceptional leader of people and projects. After taking the Enneagram assessment, he was able to identify his strengths and deficiencies. By understanding his authentic type (Enneagram Type six) and building on his strengths, he has improved his leadership ability. To augment his strengths, he also needed to build the capacities where he showed limitations—one of which is the capacity to show authentic empathy. He started by trying small experiments in leading with empathy that was appropriate for his work environment. He documented these experiments in a journal that allowed him to reflect on what was blocking his success as well as what was working well.

Over time he began to receive very positive feedback that these experiments were working, and his ability to be empathetic evolved into an authentic skill. While this may never be his strongest skill, he has made great progress in understanding what others need from him and developing the skills to relate more effectively. His success is attributed to both his willingness to learn about himself and also to take corrective action to address a gap in his skills and comfort level.

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.

When the sixty-five member Advisory Council for the Stanford Graduate School of Business was polled several years ago on the topic of what is most important to include in the school’s curriculum, there was an overwhelming, and quite impressive, 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. This speaks to the emerging deep recognition that we are highlighting in authentic leaders: 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:

  1. Take a personality type assessment;
  2. Learn about your type;
  3. Get input from others on what they think is most effective and least effective about your leadership style relative to your professional goals;
  4. Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment to evaluate how your type maps to your work;
  5. Identify the strengths on which you can build, and the weaknesses and threats that may interfere with your success;
  6. Create a development plan that includes defining  daily practices to support development, including introspective routines;
  7. Seek assistance in accomplishing your plan and getting feedback from trusted others;
  8. Make the changes 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. Both allow you profound openness of personal perspective as well as a greater understanding of others. These critical traits support leaders’ abilities to self-regulate, communicate effectively with others, and encourage personal learning. Employing a deeper understanding of Leader Type for both yourself and others is a powerful tool to promote effective leadership.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

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.

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney

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