“The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”
– Brené Brown
My clients sometimes ask me how I discovered the Enneagram and why I fell in love with it. So I thought I would share the story with you, especially since my theme for 2020 is vulnerability.One of the things I always make clear to my clients, when they start a programme or coaching journey with me,is that there is no goal. It is a ladder of opportunities if you are willing to keep learning.
At the end of 2019 when I was planning my social media and communication strategies for 2020, I happened upon the theme of “SAFFRON DEMONSTRATING VULNERABILITY” as part of my work of building social and emotional intelligence in organisational communities. I knew I could not ask my clients to go there if I were not willing to be in touch with my own vulnerability. I could never have imagined that I would be handed a global pandemic to practice this feeling of fragility. What I have learned though, in the last two months, is that I may have been on to something, and that we never stop learning.
I came across the Enneagram as an enthusiastic 21-year-old Sociology student in 1997, whilst traveling across America. I was instantly hooked. Always the opportunist, here was my golden ticket to understanding myself and other people better. Furthermore, I was delighted by the fact that as I got to know my Enneagram type better, I had an excuse for being “gluttonous” about the things I love. Back then I did not yet have the language to describe my behavioural patterns and distortions. This only came with an intensive study of the Enneagram and exploration of the self.
In the past, I would have simply assumed everyone bought all five pairs of shoes they liked, and that everyone could turn their curiosity and fast-paced mind into magic. All my quirks suddenly made sense, but it also brought important insight into my “blind spots”. Most of all, it helped me transcend some of the ‘stuff’ that has always tripped me up.
Only in 2002 when I was back in Johannesburg did I come across the Enneagram again because of my own quest for self-discovery. This quest had nothing altruistic about it.At that point, I was 26, single, a school teacher, and I needed to find love.
Instead I found so much more. In 2006 I left teaching to turn what had become a personal passion of mine into a career by working with the Enneagram to build emotional and social intelligence in organisations. In all my years of researching many different social and emotional development models, I have honestly never come across anything as profound. At the time I had no idea what a career as teacher of the Enneagram methodology would look like. Yet, I was confident that I would succeed. The first meeting I ever went to was with Porsche. I did not even own a business card. (An insight into Enneagram type Seven, my primary type: ‘Never tell a Seven not to aim for the sky’.)
Since then I have put in about 24 000 hours of self-discipline and self-motivation, consuming the Enneagram from every angle to build my knowledge, self-esteem, skill and experience. This I now bring to my Kind Leadership® Processes.
Why did I choose vulnerability as my theme for 2020? In my many years of working with leaders and teams, I have experienced the profoundness of what happens when leaders allow themselves to be seen. Many of us have a misconception of what it means to be vulnerable. Many believe that vulnerability has no place in the work place.I will go as far as to say vulnerability is a necessity in the work place, because this is how a leader becomes accessible, generous and trustworthy.
But why vulnerability? And how do leaders and teams find strength in vulnerability? Brené Brown, the world-renowned vulnerability researcher and author of several books on the same subject, denotes that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. “Most of us feel brave and afraid at the exact same time. We feel vulnerable. Sometimes all day long.” Vulnerability in that context becomes an act of courage.
In my work with leaders and teams over many years, it became clear that The Enneagram is the most dynamic system to explore our own vulnerability in the work place. Like any emotion, there are a positive side and shadow aspect to our feelings of vulnerability. We can let it devour us or we can use it to become authentic, creative and available to others.
The nine practices of the Enneagram create a map of one’s blind spots, and it is only through accessing our true selves, vulnerably, that we can transcend these areas of development. That is how, with the Enneagram as my guiding light, I birthed Kind Leadership® and am so looking forward to sharing it with you.
Kind Leadership® is based on my belief that our future is going to require a complete mind shift from all of us on this planet. Like a huge whopper of a fall down so that we:
1) change unhealthy behaviours and
2) face the fact that as a global community we cannot continue to treat the planet the way we are
3) we cannot continue to treat each other the way we do
4) we cannot continue to treat ourselves so badly
That’s why COVID’s arrived. This uninvited guest. To show us our fragility and how much we actually need one another. To remind us of what’s important and how we know that.
Kind Leadership® is based on the simple principle:
That when you know someone in all the facets of their being, it’s easier to trust them. The more you trust them, the easier it is to show them kindness easily and genuinely. That’s how all relationships work. And the only way we can get to know each other is to open ourselves up to be seen, to be vulnerable, to be as honest and authentic as possible. This is how we overcome our “blind spots”. Because as I often say, our shadows are so much bigger than the memory they are reflecting, and they almost always prevent us from reaching our full potential, which is such a huge waste of human capital.