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Chris Christie | bigger than the rules

I have always liked Chris Christie, or at least I had liked him until the recent Bridgegate scandal, in which many of Christie’s direct staff and appointees in various roles, appear to have closed down two of the three lanes on the busiest bridge in the United States – the one that commuters between New York and New Jersey rely on – for no apparent reason. A series of published emails reveal the lane closures appear to have been done as some sort of political payback, but payback for what is not clear. It was also the first day of school, took place during 9/11 memorial services, and an elderly woman died of a heart attack on the bridge. Medical services were delayed due to traffic; would she have lived if the ambulance had gotten to her earlier has not been determined.

All this is not good for Chris Christie, although there is nothing currently linking him directly to the bridge lane closures. Multiple governmental investigations – both state and federal – are currently underway, so more about Christie’s involvement and the real motivation for the closures, which lasted for four days, will be revealed.

The above is offered as context, but what this blog is really about is Christie’s role and how Christie, a type Eight leader, may have gotten himself and the rest of us into this fiasco.

Why is Chris Christie likely an Enneagram Eight? He is bold and brash, honest and direct, commanding and dominating. He aggressively pushes against ideas, rules, and expectations that don’t suit him and is more than willing to take on other people when he chooses to do so. In addition, Eight leaders like Christie have these strengths: direct, self-confident, authoritative, highly strategic, high energy, protective of those under the wings, embrace the big challenge and moving projects forward, and they support the success of others that are part of their team. Fundamentally, they believe their job as a leader is to move their organizations forward by leading decisively, getting capable and reliable people in the right jobs, and empowering competent people to take action. Moreover, Eight leaders hate being blindsided or not being told the truth and prefer to macro manage the big picture than to micromanage the details. The operations or tactics they leave to others they trust, but they are always involved in the strategy.

This is what makes it hard to believe that Christie didn’t know about the strategy involved in Bridgegate. Perhaps he didn’t know the details, but no one in his or her right mind who works for an Eight leader would be so foolish as to engage in such visible, retributive, and high-profile action without at least the tacit consent of the Eight leader. To do so and risk the career of the Eight leader would be beyond plausibility. There were multiple people who worked for Christie who were clearly involved in the planning and execution of Bridgegate, based on the public email paper trail. Several of them had worked with Christie for years. They had to have known that they couldn’t embark on such an endeavor if it were not okay with him.

In a news conference Christie held after the news broke, he spoke of feeling saddened and betrayed by those who worked for him and were central to the scandal. Oddly unmentioned were the people of New Jersey and New York whose lives were inconvenienced (at best) or put in jeopardy (at worst). What was unclear was if he was upset because his subordinates actually engaged in Bridgegate or because they hadn’t informed him of what they had done, either before (possible), while it was happening (highly unlikely), or after it occurred (even more unlikely).

Time will tell more of the story, but probably not all of it. What is really so sad is that Christie has many positive qualities, yet it appears that his type-based blind spots may be his undoing. Eights don’t feel above the rule of law, as many politicos do when power goes to their head. They do think that rules they disagree with are meant to be broken, that they can rewrite the rules if they want to, and that, in many ways, they are bigger than the rules. They often spread into all the territory they want to be in charge of, whether or not they are actually vetted or authorized to do so. Eights often say they believe that they were born to lead, with a given right to pretty much do what they want. And when Eights become very powerful and want more (a way of lusting over power and territory), and if they haven’t done enough psychological work, they can become quite grandiose. And when the grandiosity seems to fail them, they can dip into exonerating paranoia (as in, “they are out to get me; I did nothing wrong here.”)

The picture of Christie on the Time magazine cover above reads, ”Chris Christie is the master of disaster.” This was a compliment, referring to his heroic stance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Now it appears he may have made his own unnatural disaster. I hope that the truth comes out, that his worst mistake was being too hands-off and trusting people too much. Perhaps then, he can also master this disaster.

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