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Unfolding Your Own Definition of Authentic Leadership

Catherine Bell, Senior Member of the Enneagram in Business Network (EIBN), has written the following stimulating activity questioning the meaning of “authentic” leadership:

Ever since I was little, I have had a fascination with leadership – what makes a good leader, what makes a bad leader, and what is a leader really? Perhaps it is simply authenticity or authentic living and that in and of itself is authentic leadership. Or, is authentic leadership simply trust, transparency, openness, responsibility, commitment, and truthfulness? Is authentic leadership feeling, thinking, and acting from a place of authenticity with wisdom from the past, not reactivity from the past? My team at work recently spent time with leadership guru Dr. Julian Barling, and he describes transformational leadership in these terms:

Charisma – idealized influence and inspirational motivation
Intellectual stimulation
Idealized influence

He also discussed that transformation leadership is the embodiment of an ideal and the ability to construct yourself as the embodiment of that ideal. He also spoke of how Nelson Mandela “walked his talk” in prison, just as he did when he was free. Julian’s wisdom, combined with a discussion with a profound leader, Mac Van Wielingen (who mentions love of truth, and the ability for a leader to have a vision of the future), led me to my own definition of leadership. Here it is:

Authentic leadership is the current “now” embodiment of a future desired end state (which represents a universal truth), which may or may not be actually attainable in this lifetime.

I asked Karen Radford of People and Partners at Enbridge Inc. what leadership means to her and also about the feminine role in leadership:

“At a young age a wise man sent me out to the ‘field’ to lead a team of technicians. I was 23. I was thrown into my first leadership test. The man whose job I was filling was Jimmy Nelson. He’d been with the company for 40 years and had never had a sick day. I chased him for weeks to try and get him to tell me what I was supposed to do in my new role. When I did finally pin him down, he gave me the best authentic leadership advice I’ve ever received in my life. He said, ‘Try to be me and I guarantee you will fail. Learn to be yourself and I guarantee you will succeed.’ Everyday I work to remember my purpose, what fulfills me, and how I bring my full self to my team, our customers and the business.”

What are some of your favorite definitions of authentic leadership?

What is leadership to you?

How can you embody the feminine and the masculine in leadership?

How is Enneagram type related to how you lead?

To what extent do you “walk the talk” of leadership?

Ginger’s blog
In writing this Enneagram authentic leadership blog, I want to make the distinction between an “authentic leader” of each Enneagram style and a “transformed” authentic leader of each style. The reason for this distinction is based on two ideas that I believe, which are these:

A leader can be highly authentic – that is, truly him-or herself, honest, and of high integrity – and not be “transformative.” To be “transformative” as a leader requires that the leader, him- or herself, be transformed. By transformed, I mean that he or she is truly moving beyond reactivity associated with our type and being increasingly in the state of the “holy idea” (higher belief) and the virtue (higher emotional pattern).

In this blog, I will write a short description of an “authentic” leader of each style, based on real leaders I know and respect. In the next blog, I will write about what a “transformed” leader of each style might be like.

Enneagram One Leaders
The Enneagram One leaders I know who are truly authentic have a number of qualities in common. They are extremely honest, but never brutal. All of them adore developing other people, and they do so with a kindness that is non-demanding. In a sense, they have moved beyond trying to “fix” others and into guiding them with a gentle hand. All of them lead by example, yet they themselves are more relaxed about their own behavior than they were in their earlier years. And all of them have a playful quality, having learned that they can actually have fun at work.

Enneagram Two Leaders
All of the authentic Enneagram Two leaders are quite direct and clear, having learned that their more indirect approach really didn’t serve others very well and certainly didn’t serve themselves. They’ve moved beyond seeing only the best in everyone to perceiving others more fully, and this includes the positive and negative. In a sense, they are less naïve and more worldly, but rarely cynical. Perhaps most importantly, they feel pretty good about themselves most of the time, rarely feeling extraordinary when things work out well, but not caving in emotionally when things go less well. They feel clean in their interactions such that one rarely feels hidden agendas coming from them.

Enneagram Three Leaders
Authentic Enneagram Three leaders truly care about those who work for them, rather than perceiving or relating to others as conduits to assist the Three on the path to success. This is palpable in their presence. They also have access to their feelings and no longer go into a frenzy of activity when sad, anxious, etc. They feel comfortable in their own skin. And they still want to do really well, just not at the expense of following or doing what they want rather than following what they think is expected of them.

Enneagram Four Leaders
The authentic Four leaders I’ve known have gotten to or resolved the idea that they are their feelings of the moment and have taken a deeper look at what lies underneath these shifts of mood. They all seem to have a lovely heartfelt resonance, but their focus does not seem to be so much on themselves as on themselves and the other at the same time. Their intensity has a refined quality to it so that one does not feel tired in its presence. It’s more like one is drawn to this soft, still, intense light.

Enneagram Five Leaders
The authentic leaders I have known who are Fives are all incredibly funny. They are also delightful, honest, and pure in their expression of feeling. It’s almost as if opening up the feeling life in them has allowed access to a purity of response that I have not experienced in leaders of other enneatypes.

Enneagram Six Leaders
I’ve known several Six leaders who are extremely authentic. What they have in common is that they have acknowledged their tendency to worry (instead of hiding it), and have taken measures to reduce or challenge their own concerns in very constructive ways. And they‘ve done all this without denying their deep insightfulness. They also tell their own truth, knowing that their sense of reality may not be all of reality, and this is so very refreshing.

Enneagram Seven Leaders
These authentic leaders almost feel like “beings of light,” angels of a sort who are trading up fun and pleasure for a steady, soft brilliance. It takes courage and effort to be still and focused enough to experience one’s interior world, but the Seven leaders who have done so wouldn’t trade their prior pleasure pursuits for the peace, stillness, and steadiness that makes them complete and real.

Enneagram Eight Leaders
I’ve known several authentic Eight leaders, and it can be a huge challenge. Their ability to be “truthful” with a small “t” can be confused with being authentic. They think they are already real, and they are and they are not. The truly authentic Eight leaders share themselves more readily with others, will show and verbalize their need for support and assistance. They show what feels to them like vulnerability; to the rest of us, they seem real, authentic, and so human. These leaders end up living in more gratitude than they imagined possible and demonstrate a consistent sweetness that comes from inside them and is not based on demonstrable generosity (which can also be sweet, but is not truly authentic because it is designed to serve another purpose!).

Enneagram Nine Leaders
Ease, flow, clarity, steadiness: all these words describe authentic Nine leaders. They also share when they are happy, sad, and angry. They will tell you what they think and where they prefer to go for lunch (or dinner or breakfast) rather than deferring to others. All of the above take little effort as they have become integrated into how the Nine leaders are in an authentic way.

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