The Self-Aware Leader

leadership leadership development professional development self-awareness type three May 05, 2022
Enneagram and The Self-Aware Leader

Why you need to be The Self-Aware Leader

Right now employee retention and satisfaction are more important than ever. In the “Great Resignation” people are more likely to quit if they don’t feel valued, heard, or recognized - regardless of income, perks, or benefits. 

A recent report from MIT stated “A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover”.1

This means people are willing to quit good-paying jobs when they are working in a toxic, stressful, or unhealthy environment or feel like they are not valued or understood. 

Today’s employees want to feel they are contributing to a greater purpose, expressing their unique strengths, and working in an environment with leaders who support them.

Employees recognize the personality issues and challenges that can derail teams, reduce morale, and escalate conflict and frustration but don’t feel supported or empowered to make the positive changes that would re-engage team members, reduce and resolve conflict, facilitate effective feedback, and increase productive communication. 

Employees want to work in an environment where everyone communicates well, gives and receives beneficial feedback, and resolves conflict easily so they can be at their best - productive, efficient, and meaningfully contributing to the company’s mission, vision, and bottom line.

They need great leaders to help them achieve this.

Old-school leadership doesn’t cut it in today’s workplace. Today’s employees need, want, and expect not just leadership or guidance solely based on work output, but also on the softer skills of interpersonal relationships. 

Modern workers are more collaborative, more engaged in teamwork, and more dependent on each other to create and produce the company’s final product.

Modern leaders, then, need to be skilled in the personal side of business - what creates conflict, why team members aren’t communicating, what’s causing delays or disruptions, how team members trust and relate to each other, and more. 

And they especially need to know themselves and how they could be unknowingly the source of conflict, miscommunication, delays, mistrust, stress, and frustration.

Great leadership starts with self-awareness.

It starts with you as a leader. You need to know yourself first before you can effectively support your team, employees, and the company as a whole. 

But first, let’s consider what happens when leaders aren’t self-aware.

Take Trey as an example. Trey leads a large company they started from scratch. They had big ideas, set clear goals, knew exactly what to do to reach those goals, and worked tirelessly around the clock to make it happen. 

Trey wakes up thinking about work. Starting with emails and Slacks before breakfast, Trey gets to work and starts as if they have no time to spare. A quick hello as they speed past the team and get to a meeting, which starts right as soon as Trey walks in. 

Meetings focus on achieving goals, productivity, and deadlines. Trey brings projects in at the last minute and starts assigning tasks and leaves feeling renewed with new excitement about the company’s goals.

Trey is the last to leave the office, sends out a few more emails, slacks, and instructions until late in the evening, and then it starts again the next day.

Trey feels a sense of productivity, efficiency, and pride in checking off so many things on their massive to-do list. And assumes that everyone else in the company feels the same way.

Except, they don’t. 

Trey, whose focus is on efficiently meeting the goals, getting all the tasks done as fast as possible, and continuing to create and maintain a successful business is unaware of the impact on the team, the personal issues and challenges they’re creating, and the frustration and burnout the team is experiencing.

What Trey sees as efficiency feels curt, impatient, and insensitive to others. 

What Trey sees as meeting goals as fast as possible feels like overworking, burnout, and stress to others.

What Trey sees as assigning and completing tasks feels like never being able to step away from work or having to be on and answering 24/7 (including weekends and time off) to others.

Team members are left feeling unheard, unappreciated, and overworked. They are losing their energy and positive regard for the company and their frustrations are starting to leak out to each other because they don’t feel they can give any feedback to Trey about how work is going for them.

What you don’t know can hurt you

Trey’s lack of self-awareness isn’t unique. 

Unaware leaders don’t know what they are missing and it could be costing them in time, efficiency, employees, revenue, and more. 

One unaware leader might be too focused on personal relationships and too hesitant or unable to give honest and direct feedback costing their employees valuable information. 

Another unaware leader might be too concerned with all the ways a project could go wrong creating too many questions or delays, and missing deadlines or derailing projects. 

And another unaware leader might be so concerned with making sure everyone feels heard that they might unintentionally stop the momentum to get 100% buy-in from everyone on the team, instead of taking decisive, clear action. 

The unaware leader could be causing more problems than they are solving, causing more conflict, derailing communication, and creating a work environment that feels stressful, frustrating, and one that great employees want to leave.

The Self Aware Leader 

Self-awareness is the state of becoming cognizant, present, conscious, and deliberate.

Awareness is neutral. It doesn’t have an opinion or preference. It’s not here to judge right and wrong. It allows us to separate our internal, habitual responses and experiences to observe a more curious, detached view of thoughts, feelings, habits, patterns, and responses. 

The self-aware leader observes and understands their strengths as well as their challenges.

They can actively work to leverage their strengths for the greater good while addressing their challenges so they don’t create drama, confusion, conflict, or alienate co-workers.

Modern leadership requires leaders to be aware - to know themselves, their strengths, challenges or blind spots, communication style, conflict issues, feedback styles, and more. 

This is true for ALL leaders, not just C-suite level executives, directors, or managers. 

Titles don’t matter when it comes to leadership. Some people manage and lead teams, but everyone can be a leader of themselves. And every one of us can, and should, create self-awareness.

Self-aware leaders:

  • get curious and observe themselves objectively,
  • know their verbal and non-verbal communication styles, 
  • recognize what creates conflict for them and how to handle it,
  • understand the way they give and receive feedback, 
  • gain the respect of their teams and co-workers, and
  • create an example for others to follow. 

It’s leadership that starts from within.

But, the awareness one leader might need isn’t necessarily the awareness YOU need as a leader.

Remember, this isn’t old-school leadership. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to creating a great leader.

So how do you become the self-aware leader that you and your company need you to be? 

It starts with knowing your Enneagram type.

The Enneagram is a personality map uniquely designed to help you understand how you see the world. 

Each of us falls into one of the nine Enneagram types. Our Enneagram type helps us understand the motivations behind all of our actions, reactions, thoughts, and habits. Unlike any other personality system, the Enneagram helps us understand WHY we do what we do, and shows us what we can do to transform our lives.

Your Enneagram type can illuminate:

  • the motivations, or reasons, why you do what you do,
  • your strengths, challenges, & motivations,
  • how you communicate, 
  • what causes you to engage in or avoid conflict, 
  • how you relate to others, and
  • your specific, personalized path for growth and self-awareness.

When we know and understand our Enneagram type, we know and understand ourselves exponentially better and can become more self-aware, more proactive in our personal and professional growth, and able to make meaningful decisions and changes that can transform our lives, employees, team dynamics, and organizations as a whole.

Our Enneagram-based coaching provides the unique opportunity to learn your type and understand how it affects all aspects of your life, especially your leadership.

Why knowing your Enneagram type matters

The strengths and challenges of your Enneagram type impact your leadership, so knowing them can be the difference between ease and frustration, connection and conflict, real leadership and pressure.

Because each Enneagram type is so different, what works for one leader might not work for you.

For example, Trey is an Enneagram type Three. 

Type Threes are efficient, goal-oriented, and highly productive. Known as the Compulsively Productive Doer, Threes are hard workers, highly successful, and resourceful. Threes can read a room well, make a good impression, and are action-oriented to make things happen.

All of these strengths come naturally and easily to Trey and created a highly successful, growing company.

But, Trey’s natural drive for efficiency and constantly achieving goals means cutting people short, pushing employees to work in untenable timeframes, and not giving people time to rest, recoup, and connect. 

Trey is unaware that adding new goals before old ones are finished, expecting results right away, and not building in time to complete projects in appropriate time frames are exhausting, frustrating, and stressful to employees. 

Trey’s natural tendency to work hard means working and messaging before and beyond the workday, working nights, weekends, and vacations. This sets a precedent for employees, one where they feel obligated to be working and responsive before and after hours and during time off. 

Employees struggle to create the work/life balance they need to avoid burnout. Trey is unaware that constantly pushing to reach a new goal or higher level of success means not taking any breaks and their employees feel like they can’t either. 

Trey’s drive to take action comes across as impatience when employees engage in an off-topic discussion or spend a few minutes getting to know each other and connecting. Employees feel that Trey doesn’t have time for them, doesn’t get to know or understand them, and isn’t accessible for feedback, coaching, or support.

The strengths of our Enneagram types come so naturally to us that we don’t realize how often we leverage them OR when we overdo them. 

When coaching our clients to create self-awareness, we start by teaching them their Enneagram type and the natural strengths that come from their type.

And then we get curious. 

We teach our leaders what patterns or behaviors to observe so they can tap into WHY they might be acting or reacting in certain ways. 

We guide them to get curious, without being critical, of their unconscious patterns, habits, reactions, and motivations. 

We help them cultivate new levels of self-awareness so they understand their impact on themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

So, what happens when a leader becomes self-aware?

First, they begin to create an awareness of themselves - a neutral, honest observation of their patterns, habits, reactions, thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

A self-aware Trey recognizes the Type Three drive to work all the time and begins to set an example of work/life balance. Emails and messages happen during work hours and vacation time is honored. Trey works to trust others and have them share the workload to create more balance.

Trey appreciates the Type Three desire to set and achieve goals but learns to ask first if the time frame is feasible, the goals match the overall mission of the organization, and what questions employees might have about roles, timeframes, and more.

Trey realizes the Type Three urge for efficiency and slows down to connect with others - taking time to listen to them, be open to mentoring and teaching them, and appreciating the value employees find in being able to connect to Trey and each other.

Trey’s new awareness of the Type Three strengths and challenges not only starts to transform Trey as a professional, a leader, and a person, but also the employees and organization as a whole.

Over time, the culture of the company shifts. Employees begin to feel less stressed and feel they can take time off or at least only have to work during work hours.

Employees feel heard and valued when new goals and projects are introduced and have time to connect so collaborations and teamwork are easier, more attuned, and more productive.

Strategic goals are set with realistic time frames, clear roles, thoughtful troubleshooting, and a collective sense of drive and purpose because everyone on the team can express their thoughts and work together.  

The company shifts to be a dynamic, engaged, productive, and prosperous place to work. Trey gets out of the way, leads by example and with humility, patience, and vision, and employees are loyal, invested, and connected with leadership, each other, and the company. 


Modern employees, companies, and organizations need modern leadership. 

The old-school ways of leading don’t work in current cultures where employees expect and deserve leaders who know their strengths and challenges, actively work to improve themselves and understand their employees, and are willing to do the personal work to develop themselves to be the best leader they can be. 

Each of us has innate strengths with a unique way of seeing the world. Those strengths propel our initial drive to action, create success, and move us towards our goals. 

Our strengths come so naturally to us that we can’t always appreciate what they do for us, when we come to rely on them too heavily, and the negative effects of overdoing them.

Those same strengths, when not regulated or when we are unaware of their overuse, can become our greatest challenges. 

With detached, neutral awareness gained through our expert Enneagram coaching, we teach leaders how to observe and realize their strengths and challenges, and most importantly, know exactly what to do to make meaningful changes in their lives. 

Understanding your Enneagram type is the fastest, easiest, and most comprehensive way to become The Self-Aware Leader who can lead by example, create positive change, and have the inner confidence to teach employees the same. 

The Self-Aware Leader positively and definitively impacts their personal and professional lives, their co-workers and colleagues, their organizations, and the greater world we live in. 

When you are ready to become the leader you and your organization need and deserve, reach out to us and start your journey of self-aware leadership. 

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