The future of leadership development will not be about building “horizontal” capability – that is, the skills, abilities and behaviours needed to lead others. What has become obvious in current leadership research is that managers have already become experts on the ‘what’ of leadership but are novices on the “how” of their own development: how to learn, grow and change in the way in which they relate to, lead and engage others. That is, their “vertical” development. (Centre for Creative Leadership, 2012).
Interestingly for those of us who are engaged and participate in the use of the Enneagram, the whole idea of ‘vertical development’ is not at all surprising. Whether we call it levels of development, mastery or integration (and they are only examples of what are offered in the field), we are aware of practices and techniques that enable us to continue to progress through these levels.
Current developmental psychologists including Robert Kegan, as well as those who have gone before him such as Erik Erikson and Jean Piaget, also identify a similar critical path one needs to take in order to make sense of the world in more adaptive and inclusive ways.
The end result of any of this development work (regardless of the starting point) is increased emotional health, higher levels of consciousness and greater opportunities to experience ‘presence’.
Almost by definition, an emotionally healthy leader needs to display a minimum level of ego-driven behavior or self-centeredness (after all, it’s about others, the organisation and/or the community, not themselves) and maximum behavioural freedom (in order to make considered decisions and relate authentically and effectively with others rather than with automatic or knee-jerk responses).
As a result, emotionally healthy leaders are expected to achieve what seems to be a paradoxical balancing act. They manage to be both compassionate and caring as well as decisive and courageous. Emotionally healthy leaders drive positive emotions in their workplace; they create resonance by inspiring others through the creation of a genuinely shared vision, then coaching them to be all that they can be as they work towards achieving that vision.
The qualities and characteristics of these leaders can be consolidated into nine distinctions, which are the same as the nine Enneagram Type behavioural descriptors at the higher emotional health levels. As leaders move into the higher emotional health levels they are able to access the gifts and strengths of each of the nine distinctions, or Enneagram Types, as and when they need to.
These distinctions are:
Courage – Able to step forward to say or do what is needed with both compassion and directness; meeting the moment with confidence and dealing with what is in front of you constructively and effectively, while also ensuring that others who are involved are supported and engaged.
Balance – ‘in tune’ and ‘in harmony’ with all aspects of your environment and yourself; maintaining a calm approach in any situation and creating a sense of unity and inclusion with others; appreciating multiple perspectives as well as holding your own.
Integrity – True to your values and yourself and to those around you; being consistent and transparent in what you see as important and on which you won’t compromise, while at the same time respecting that there are other perspectives and alternatives.
Genuine Connection – Able to build and maintain strong and enduring relationships through meaningful connections and communication; looking after both yourself and others in a balanced and compassionate way; giving generously as well as receiving graciously from others.
Adaptability – Being flexible and adaptable to accomplish what needs to be done; understanding your own impact on others in a situation and adjusting the way in which you engage with and support them to succeed; being self-confident and assured as well as open and receptive.
Authenticity – Real, open and genuine in presenting who you are and what is important to you to the world; acknowledging that you bring unique perspective and insights to people and situations and being willing to share these, with humility, for the benefit of others.
Synthesis – Able to bring all the component pieces together to both create and understand the whole; noticing and gathering information about what is happening at a number of different ‘layers’ in a situation, including with the people involved; integrating all of this information to create meaning and understanding for others.
Continuity – Able to build and maintain a sustainable position for the future, both for yourself and others; balancing the desire for stability in systems with measured and calculated risk taking; looking for opportunities to strengthen consistency in processes with continuous improvement.
Seeing Potential – Able to envision the potential and possibilities in yourself, others and situations around you; inspiring others with ‘what could be’ and bringing optimism to the achievement of what is possible.
What we have also come to appreciate is that increasing emotional health levels cannot be achieved through just ‘thinking’ or ‘knowing’ about the concept. It cannot be achieved cognitively.
Unfortunately, the experience in our work in the world of leadership tells us that it is very easy to come up with a new observation or way of being yet much more difficult for leaders to truly embrace what is required of them to achieve that. This is definitely the case when it comes to increasing emotional health.
Emotionally healthy leadership does not come from learning new skills. It comes from development of the way you see, respond to and interact with the world. In addition, there is a contradiction with emotionally healthy leadership in that the more you pursue it for your own benefit, the further away you get from it. Increasing emotional health means increased attention focused on others and less attention on yourself. It is something to aspire to, but not something to aspire to for your own benefit, or to give impetus to your own career progress.
To improve their level of emotional health, a leader needs to ‘be present’ in his or her own experiences – to be increasingly self-aware and mindful ‘in the moment’. They need to gain a progressively deeper understanding of their own responses and reactions, and of the impact they have on others as they choose their next course of action.
All of this takes time and dedication and a commitment to explore and experiment with experiencing the nine distinctions through a multiplicity of practices – and with discipline in choosing this course.
It also requires resilience – everyone comes up against barriers to growth at different times in their lives – and support: not everyone has the capacity to move past these barriers with only determination and persistence.
We believe that emotionally healthy leadership can have a positive impact – on leaders, their organisations, and on the wider community. In our work, we pursue the development of emotionally healthy leadership as something which can create a better world.
Gayle Hardie and Malcolm Lazenby are co-founders of Global Leadership Foundation. They work with boards and senior leadership teams in leading organisations across the globe on strategic planning and development; transformational leadership and change in individuals, teams and organisations; strengthening collaboration; and board and executive mentoring and coaching.
Their first book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, has been recently published. For further information visit www.globalleadershipfoundation.com