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Transformational leaders | type 5 – from stinginess to omniscience

When Enneagram Five leaders become transformational ones, they must move from stinginess – a scarcity paradigm that leads to an insatiable thirst for knowledge; reluctance to share such things as knowledge, time, space and personal information; and to strategizing about how to control one’s environment to omniscience. Omniscience is the insight that it is only through direct personal experience that one can know all things.

This is a tall order for someone who has always believed that one can only trust what one knows through the mind. It is also scary to not hold onto everything one deems as precious as a way to conserve and contain scarce resources. What if resources are not scarce? What if one won’t be drained by letting go and opening up to more complete integration?

Charlene, a Five leader, was dealing with just this dilemma. A well-respected vice president in information technology, she was always ambivalent about assuming increasingly high-level leadership roles. Her ambivalence was not about her technical expertise or her strategic capabilities, which were both vast. Neither was she concerned about being responsible for large numbers of employees and multi-million dollar budgets. Charlene knew she was organized and task-focused and could handle complexity well. In fact, it excited her.

Charlene’s ambivalence was about the demands people were placing on her for constant human contact. On her 360 feedback results and during performance reviews, Charlene was consistently told that she seemed aloof, was “hard to read,” and appeared detached emotionally. Although Charlene could understand why others would have this perception of her, her internal emotional experience was quite different. She was quite introspective and did have emotional reactions, even if there was a delayed response. A private person, Charlene believed that work was about work and that her personal reactions and private life were hers to share when she wanted and with whom she preferred.

Working with the Enneagram and understanding her type Five behavior, as a leader and a person, was intriguing and seemed accurate, but it wasn’t making a shift in her leadership style or behavior. Then one day, she had a brief conversation that startled her. When she asked the Enneagram consultant why emotions mattered, given that feelings were subjective, and only logic could be trusted due to its unbiased nature, she got the response: “There are many forms of logic, each with their own inherent bias.” Charlene felt breathless, paused and then said, “You got me!”

Several weeks later, Charlene was in a strategic planning offsite where the team, of which she was a high-ranking member, was discussing a possible organization restructuring, one that made sense logically. Just as everyone was agreeing that this was the best direction to proceed, Charlene stood up and said this: “Wait! This may seem like the best decision logically, but what about the impact on people? If we go in this direction, we will be laying off 20% of our workforce. What about them? There must be other alternatives!” Did they want to hear what Charlene had to say? No! Did they listen? Yes, because they had to, so full of fire and impassioned was she in her delivery. Never had anyone seen Charlene so fired up, and she was the last person anyone expected to speak up on behalf of employees.

But Charlene knew in her entire self – body, heart, and mind – that what she said was the truth and that it needed to be said. A not-so-simple event like this transformed Charlene permanently, with a first-hand experience being fully embodied and knowing something to be absolutely true.

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