Most people are self-aware enough to understand what comprises their character, self-concept, values, emotional makeup, and thinking patterns – in other words, their inner-core strengths. But not everyone comprehends how inner-core strengths (and weaknesses) translate into the characteristics that are evident in their leadership style. Those outward characteristics are our outer-core leadership behaviors. One influences the other. The strength, maturity, and quality of a person’s inner core come through as outer-core leadership strength, vibrancy, and effectiveness.
Every company is different, and needs to be led in a particular way, so there’s no single leadership style that’s “correct.” Anyone who wants to be the most effective leader possible must know their strengths and weaknesses in both their inner- and outer-core behaviors. Excellence in leadership is largely independent of a person’s dominant trait, but is mostly a function of the overall maturity of the person’s traits. All of these go into the unique mixture that makes up each person’s leadership effectiveness.
Twenty years ago, I created the Mattone Leadership Enneagram Inventory, or MLEI. It took me several years to develop, test, and validate this powerful assessment tool, and to ensure that the MLEI squares empirically and experientially with executives in a variety of locations and industries. No assessment tool is perfect, of course, but the MLEI is an accurate measure of a person’s inner core maturity. It identifies strengths and gifts to be leveraged as well as opportunities for improvement. I have found that leadership problems almost always come down to some form of immaturity. Fortunately, immaturity can be overcome once it can be recognized and understood.
The MLEI is based on an enneagram, a nine-pointed diagram that connects its origins to ancient times. The enneagram helps people chart their (or someone else’s) thought patterns, emotions, and feelings, and gives an accurate measure of that person’s overall inner-core maturity. There are three fundamental leader trait combinations, and each of these is further subdivided into three subtypes. We function in all three trait combinations, and we all possess every one of the nine sub-traits. But leadership differs based on which trait is most active and predominant, as well as how mature each of those nine traits are (which largely determines overall maturity level).
People Who Lead from the Heart
The “Heart Leaders” tend to find that their emotions are both their greatest strengths and their greatest weaknesses. When the Heart Leader is mature, however, one of their most admirable characteristics is their ability to successfully incorporate their emotions into leadership so they do not come across as robotic or unfeeling. Heart Leaders include three subtypes:
- Helpers are Heart Leaders who are especially empathetic and develop close relationships. When mature, they handle conflict just fine, but without maturity they can manipulate people and demonstrate selfishness.
- Entertainers are Heart Leaders who place success front and center of their self-concept. Charismatic and inspiring, the immature Entertainer can also be quite jealous, and hostile toward challengers.
- Artists are the third subtype of Heart Leaders. As you might expect, they’re creative and innovative, and good at communicating feelings. Immature Artists, however, can be overly self-involved and make unrealistic demands.
People Who Lead from the Head
So-called Head Leaders excel at thinking things through and getting things done. In fact, they can accomplish amazing things. When mature, Head Leaders can lead teams to even more impressive levels of achievement. Insecurity is typically what derails a Head Leader and prevents them from gaining necessary maturity. Thinkers, Disciples, and Activists are the three subtypes of Head Leaders.
- The Thinker is analytical and able to turn complex trains of thought into action. They’re exceptional problem solvers, but can be slow to act, waiting until conditions are perfect (which, of course, they never are).
- Disciples are dependable, loyal, and productive. While the mature Disciple can be tremendously effective, excess dependence on authority and lack of initiative can derail the Disciple.
- Activists are Head Leaders who are constantly striving and working toward defined accomplishments. Though generally positive in outlook, using activity to distance themselves from hidden pain can derail an Activist.
People Who Lead from the Gut
The Gut Leaders engage strongly with their environment, and much of the frustration of the immature Gut Leader emerges from the fact that we live in a flawed world. Gut Leaders can be disappointed if they don’t achieve the standing they want, as well as when people don’t live up to their expectations. Drivers, Arbitrators, and Perfectionists are the three subtypes of Gut Leaders.
- Drivers are assertive and like to take charge, but drivers who lack maturity can become so focused on “making it” that they exploit others.
- Arbitrators are Gut Leaders who know how to find common ground and bring people together. Problems occur when team members don’t live up to the Arbitrator’s idealized vision of them.
- Perfectionists can achieve amazing results that are hard to find fault with. At the same time, however, they can be highly critical and cause team paralysis out of fear of making mistakes.
Maturity Is Indispensable to Leadership Success
Knowing how each of the three leader types and their subtypes shows up in a person is important, but it’s also important to know which thoughts and behaviors are more likely to derail that person. The leader who knows his strengths and weaknesses is genuine and honest, and has an easier time getting back on track when potentially derailing attitudes or actions occur.
If you read through the process detailed in my book Intelligent Leadership, you can learn much more about your traits and maturity level. You’ll also learn to develop what’s best about your unique mix of leadership traits and overcome the attitudes and actions that hold you back. I invite you to check out all of my blog, and learn how you can develop the leadership skills and maturity you need in the 21st century. You can take the MLEI online for a nominal charge.