As Enneagram Three leaders transform themselves, going from Vanity – the hiding of parts of themselves that do not conform to their idealized self-image of confidence, competence, and success, a doer who gets results – to Hope, the mountain they imagine they must climb seems enormous. When you have lived a life by creating implicit press releases about, however subtle, what do you replace this with? What would it be like to admit out loud when you feel uncertain, anxious, or sad, when you may not even know this information yourself? When you have always kept yourself “together” and developed a wide variety of ways to impress others, what is the alternative? Where do you even start, and will there be a positive result from doing so? What will the journey be like? How do they do this?
Goals and plans don’t work so easily when pursuing transformation. Transformation is a process, not a goal, and the plan for transformation involves “going with the flow” or “being in flow,” which is a state of being, not really a plan as Threes define a plan. In addition, the process of transformation and even the end result (if there is an actual end point!) is a felt-sense of being, not something highly concrete, tangible or even nameable. How can Threes move toward transformation with no concrete goal, no step-by-step plan, and no assurance they will ever “get there” or even have proof they are there?
This is where Hope comes into the picture, the belief that you can be valued and appreciated for who you really are rather than what you do or how many things you accomplish. To transform, Threes truly need to believe that this is possible. Sometimes this Hope comes from an experience where this actually occurred, a surprise experience with someone where Hope becomes a spark of light that grows in a slow yet transforming way. Or Hope can appear through meeting an extremely challenging situation with more than you knew was in you. In such a situation, goals and plans do not work or resolve the situation, so Threes are compelled to try something different, and it works and hope emerges.
David, a high level manager, is an excellent example of the latter situation that occurred after he was hired to be the COO (chief operating officer) of a start-up organization where the founder still had the CEO (chief executive officer) title and role. The CEO, a visionary and an energizing type of leader, was well-respected by the Board of Directors, yet they were concerned by his lack of operational focus and detail orientation. When they hired David to handle such things, the CEO seemed fine with the decision, but soon after David started, the CEO sabotaged and undercut him every time possible: convincing many Board members that David didn’t really understand the business (David had vast experience in the industry and an MBA); excluding David from most operational meetings, severely hampering David’s knowledge of company practices and minimizing his influence on decision making; and demeaning David with key company managers – for example, telling personal stories, primarily fabricated, that put David in a negative perspective. How much worse can this get, especially for a Three who wants to do well, needs to know what’s going on, and whose public image is so very important to his sense of value.
But David met the challenge without doing all the things he might have considered. He did not quit, although he considered this, nor did he get aggressive with the CEO because he knew it would make matters worse. Although David felt anxious at times, he had some friends and family with whom he could be honest about his fears, but also his anger. In this way, David was extremely honest with himself and with those he trusted, and this is what propelled his transformation. He managed through an extraordinarily difficult work situation with integrity, honesty and balance.
Eventually, the CEO was removed, not because of his sabotage, but because the Board recognized that he no longer added value and was, even worse, engaged is some professionally unethical behavior. The CEO was planning to leave and trying to take clients and technical secrets with him! David was in no way responsible for the demise of the CEO, but he was responsible for his own transformative behavior. The staff adored him, the Board of Directors came to rely on him, but most important, the most agonized situation he had ever encountered at work became the experience he now considers the greatest catalyst for growth.