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How a Presence-Oriented Approach to the Enneagram Fosters Inclusive Leadership and Innovation by Ipek Serifsoy | wlc-global.com
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How a Presence-Oriented Approach to the Enneagram Fosters Inclusive Leadership and Innovation


Inclusive Leadership and Innovation go hand-in-hand. 
Inclusive Leadership shapes the environment in which innovation can occur, where ideas that don’t fit in with the norm are welcomed, where people feel comfortable bringing in more of themselves rather than just the parts they feel will fit in. Inclusive Leadership creates an environment where the creative tension that results from varied perspectives is celebrated instead of unconsciously shunned aside. Only in such an environment can everyone bring their best, most creative selves to the situation and engage with each other in ways that elicit collective wisdom — in ways that invite open-minded exploration that leads to innovation.

The Enneagram is an ancient guide with practical applications for helping us embrace an expanded sense of self and cultivate an appreciation for differences. With a presence-based approach to the Enneagram (as taught by many wonderful Enneagram teachers including Roxanne Howe-Murphy, Riso Hudson, and others) this map helps us see more of who we are beyond our limited understanding of ourself through our “personality”.

While our personality is the part of ourselves that we best know, it is not our best self. Underlying the conditioned habitual patterns of our personality is a much wider and more powerful self that not only tolerates but invites different views and ideas. It is the part of us that is deeply curious about the world and does not jump to judgment and evaluation, “this is good, this is bad”.

The aim of a presence-based approach to the Enneagram is to understand the inner experience of how our personality structures shape our experience of reality. These personality dynamics, while feeling very real, are instead false stories we superimpose upon our experience and hinder us from being present to what is happening.

Being present entails having a “direct experience” of what’s going on in and around us, free from the stories our personalities use to color the experience. This enables us to see what’s happening with clear fresh eyes. It frees us to more fully experience what is really happening, with what is emerging moment by moment, both within us and around us.

Our personality dynamics, while immensely powerful, are quite subtle and not easily visible. They often operate under the cloak of our unconscious. Thus it’s difficult to track their role and movements. This is where the Enneagram can be a powerful tool. Each of us has a dominant Enneagram Type. When we understand ourselves through the lens of the Enneagram, we can begin to see how these personality dynamics undermine our true gifts and strengths and distort our views. Further when we learn to skillfully untether from these tendencies we open up to a more expansive world, a world where differences are perceived with fascination and interest, and a world where our unconscious biases are brought from the shadows into the light.

As personality layers peel off we become free to access a wider range of who we truly are, and therefore connect to a wider range of those around us. Working with a presence-based approach to the Enneagram builds our capacities as Inclusive Leaders in the following ways:

1. We become more compassionate. As we tune into how our personality tendencies dominate us, we learn to meet our condition with the love and care we’d offer a child or family pet. Our hearts open, first to ourselves and in turn to those around us. We begin to access a new type of intelligence that comes from our heart, a true emotional intelligence.

2. We become more curious. As we begin to see our personality tendencies more clearly, their grip on us begins to loosen and the swirl in our mind begins to settle. With a clear quiet mind we become free to wonder and be curious about what’s going on in a situation, with others and even within ourselves. We access more creative insights to solve problems. Nuances that would have previously gone unseen can now be noticed — enabling us to see and sense possibilities and challenges earlier.

3. We become more truthful. As we untether from our personality’s voice — also known as our ego voice — we begin to hear our inner wisdom. Access to this deeper authenticity is accompanied by a new inner strength that provides us with the courage to speak and express our truth. Not the ‘us-vs-them’ kind of truth that forces or hurts others, but the truth that comes from a grounded knowing of interconnectedness. We are able to be truly honest without diminishing others’ dignity and thereby create a safe environment for others.

This blog is an invitation to take a closer look at a presence-based approach to the Enneagram. It’s not a wave of a magic wand; it does not provide a quick fix. Rather, it’s an invitation to begin the journey toward greater self-discovery, self-compassion, and from there greater understanding and appreciation of others.

Future articles will explore the three centers of intelligence (clear mind, open heart, and body intelligence) as a way to bring us into closer contact with the Enneagram’s wise offerings that support Inclusive Leadership.

by Ipek Serifsoy