Ian Morgan Cron: The Road Back to You

It could be that the greatest challenge of leadership is corralling that most unruly and unpredictable of spirits—our own. Leading with integrity begins here, and the greatest challenges that threaten to trip us up and imperil our influence are likewise internal—issues of the heart.

We spoke with six very different leaders, each with diverse backgrounds and experiences but with a shared passion to lead well—and a willingness to be candid—to help us get at leadership’s fundamental question: “How do I lead myself?”

In 2009, I resigned from a church where I had been the senior pastor for 10 years. I realized I was lacking the kind of self-awareness needed to lead a body of people. Studying the Enneagram helped me understand what resided under the waterline, below the consciousness—the driving and motivating behaviors pushing us all along.

Enneagram is an ancient personality-typing system. It teaches that there are nine core, basic personality styles, one which we all adopt or gravitate toward in childhood as a coping mechanism. When we understand our particular personality style, we can begin to live more self-aware, compassionate and generative lives.

The Enneagram can help us navigate an increasingly complex world. Some people just don’t understand how differently others experience the world from them. We go through life assuming everyone sees it as we do. When we do so, we fail to appreciate God’s diverse creation. The Enneagram is just one of many ways of understanding. It isn’t a Rosetta Stone or a magical device. It’s a body of wisdom you can tap into to help learn how to lead yourself better.

Studies show that the No. 1 predictor of success is self-awareness. Unlike other personality tests such as Meyers-Briggs, the Enneagram is not just going to show strengths or characteristics, it’s going to also reveal what you are like when you are not healthy, when your ego is in charge and God isn’t. If what you are after is flattery, don’t mess with the Enneagram.

I think self-awareness gives you the capacity to observe and monitor your inner world in real time. When you relate to other people, you take into account that they don’t see the world as you do. You can see how your personality, your way of relating, is affecting the situation. Self-awareness allows you to make accommodations and course corrections more quickly before driving off the cliff, which we so often do.

The Enneagram is in whole-hearted agreement with Paul’s metaphor of the church as the local body. We all move, see and function in the world differently. We desperately need one another and we all have different gifts and perspectives. Self-awareness allows us to learn our design and collaborate in the strength of such diversity.

God loves you as you are; it’s all about grace. You hear it all the time in church at the same time a subtext whispers in the background, “Try harder.” You can just feel these mixed messages in the air. Grace provides the reality that there is very little we can do other than giving God consent to do what we can’t do for ourselves. That permission is not a small thing. It’s a lot of work, actually, to stay receptive to his change.

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Ian Morgan Cron is a best-selling author, nationally recognized speaker, Enneagram teacher, psychotherapist, eminent songwriter and Episcopal priest. His book The Road Back to You (IVP, 2016), co-authored with Suzanne Stabile, explores how an ancient personality test raises self-awareness.

Rob Wilkins
Rob Wilkins

Rob Wilkins, an Outreach magazine contributing writer, is the co-founder and creative lead for Fuse Media in Asheville, North Carolina.