When Enneagram One leaders become transformation leaders, they recognize, understand and integrate that their striving for perfection in all they do – perfection in themselves, others, and their environments – limits them in perceiving the inherent perfection in what is around them and within them. In other words, true perfection is not an objective, palpable perfection. Instead, it is an acceptance that everything is perfect as it is, flaws included. When this occurs, they move from the being in a continuous state of resentment, noticing mistakes everywhere, into a state of relaxed acceptance and pleasure in things as they are.
Take, for example, Owen, a highly respected attorney and head of a successful law firm, who was so highly regarded in his firm that others were constantly feeling that they had to measure up to Owen’s example. In his earlier years, Owen had done all the right things. The firm was extremely well organized, its reputation was stellar throughout the community, and he had done something very few law firms had even thought possible. As a self-preservation subtype 1, Owen was firmly convinced that the firm should never borrow money in order to pay its bills, regardless of whether these were capital overhead, vendor fees, or attorney salaries. Although many of the firm’s lawyers had balked at this financial proposition – it offered them lower paychecks on a monthly basis – these same lawyers were astounded when the firm was able easily to weather the ups and downs of the financial environments in multiple decades. The firm was safe, secure and grounded.
At the same time, the law firm revolved around Owen, his high standards, his leadership by example, his fine reputation in the legal community, and his ability to bring in business. Responsible to a fault, Owen worked excessively in order to run the firm and then, he had a major heart attack. This was his wake-up call, the message being that he could no longer keep working in the same way. Without his health, he could not sustain the firm, and this was the beginning of his transformation.
First, he changed everything he could about his lifestyle. This included eating healthy food, giving up cigarettes, exercising regularly, and even having some fun. His greatest enjoyment was motorcycles, and he became an enthusiast, riding his Harley on the weekends with motorcycle groups. He would even ride the motorcycle to work. I remember doing a weekend retreat for his firm when he drove me to the venue, with my sitting on the back of this major machine. In this way, Owen was leveraging his 7-arrow line, but he didn’t have to go on vacation to do it, as most 7s do. He actually integrated fun into his work, a sure sign of transformational work.
Owen also set the standard for health in his firm, and he backed up his principles with action. Should any attorney have a health related addiction such as cigarettes or alcohol, just as examples, Owen committed firm funds to pay for their detox, no questions asked. This was not an expectation on his part; it was merely an offer, and a generous one at that. In this way, Owen was leveraging his 2-wing, and it was sincere. In other words, Owen walked his talk.
More challenging for Owen was delegating. He had always run a tight ship, but with his health at issue, he was longing to find others who could step up to the challenge of leading the firm. Without this, he was stuck in the firm forever, but his health scare made him recognize that this would not always be the case. Facing his own mortality and longing for more fun and relaxation, particularly in nature (his 9-wing), he sought but could not find. He had specifically hired talented people, but where were the future leaders?
So Owen did what transformational leaders do, especially 1s; rather than hire leaders from outside the firm – who might or might not be successful in leading the firm – Owen decided to develop the talent from within. He set up an organizational transformation change effort that included a firm reorganization based on his values and principles, and this effort also involved a rigorous succession plan. During this process, Owen set himself up as a guide on the side, not as the change leader, and Owen maintained a stance as a coach and advisor. His involvement was minimal, but his presence was felt.
Owen, of course, was not perfect, and he would be the first one to tell you so. However, during his tenure, the reorganization was successful but the succession plan was not nearly as fruitful. No one really stood out as the future leader or leaders. After a few years, Owen decided that he would have to let go, and he wanted to spend “quality time” with his wife and grandchildren. Once he left the firm, a miracle – but not really a surprise – occurred.
Within six months of his departure, a cadre of new leaders emerged from the existing pool of firm attorneys. Many of them had been involved in the culture change and reorganization, where they had honed their leadership skills and earned the respect of the other lawyers. In law firms, leading lawyers is akin to herding wild cats, and it is an apt analogy. Lawyers only really follow other lawyers whom they respect and want to follow.
This was Owen’s major problem when heading the firm. He was so well respected that it was nearly impossible for any others to come near the positive regard that Owen engendered. At the same time, when Owen was there, other future leaders were intimidated even to try to step into Owen’s shoes, so stellar was his leadership by example.
In retrospect, it almost had to happen this way. The sad part is that Owen could not be in the firm to see this occur. The fortunate aspect is that he was still vital enough from the side to see the fruits of his decades of hard work and to see the firm that carried his name move forward in time.