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Inner World, Outer Impact: The Ripple Effect of a Leader’s Personality

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    07 Jun 2024

A business owner’s personality can dictate the direction of their organisation. This begs the question: how does your personality show up in your organisation? Does it hinder or help your people, your organisational strategy, and even your clients or customers?

Maybe you’re a bit scared to look. After all, we humans are rarely comfortable with discomfort, and taking a long look at ourselves and our behaviours in an organisation we own is a squeamish task.

Inspired by a recent podcast collaboration with Kirsty Lewis, Dr. Simon Kettleborough, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aephoria shares how he’s seen personality show up in businesses, for better and for worse, and what business owners can do to address their personality blind spots.

“The more we as business owners can hold a mirror up to ourselves, the more we can understand how our inner world shapes how we run our businesses and the impacts of it on ourselves, on our families, on our employees, and on our clients.” – Dr. Simon Kettleborough.

 

“Best We Know the Stuff We Fail to Notice” – Watch Dr. Simon Kettleborough’s conversation with Kirsty Lewis of the School of Facilitation:

 

How Personality Shows Up in Business

“A personality can take hold of a business,” says Dr. Simon Kettleborough. “[Yet] most of us tend to look at client organisations before we look at our own.”

He and the team at Aephoria are accustomed to supporting clients to explore the interplay between a leader’s personality and maturity, two concepts that explore how people perceive the world, make sense of it, and the stories they construct about themselves, about others, and about their wider context.

All of this is measurable, thanks to Aephoria.

Over the past 7 years, Dr. Simon Kettleborough and the Aephoria team have created an assessment tool that uses the Enneagram and a maturation framework to measure a person’s maturity and personality. They’ve found, time and time again, that executives’ personalities and level of ‘vertical development’ (aka maturity) greatly shape an organisation’s strategy. Unfortunately, this is not always a good thing.

Dr. Simon Kettleborough recalls one engagement with the executive team of a fast-moving consumer goods organisation. Almost all of them shared a relentless future-focused approach and were ideas people – so much so that coming up with new ideas for products was, in fact, their business strategy.

Whilst exciting and innovative, this heady cocktail of personalities also translated into business risk. The exco’s penchant for novelty meant they struggled with follow-through on long-term projects, while their aversion to boredom led to a tendency to overlook essential details or neglect tasks that required a slower, more sustained focus.

How the Enneagram Shows Up in Business

The Enneagram categorises individuals into nine distinct personality types, each characterised by core motivations, fears, and behavioural tendencies. This framework proves vital when you start examining your own personality and intrinsic tendencies in both personal and professional contexts.

For instance, consider the Enneagram Type 1 personality, often dubbed the “Perfectionist”. Type 1 individuals are driven by a desire for perfection and integrity in themselves and others. While this trait can foster excellence and attention to detail, it can also pose challenges in a fast-paced business environment.

In a scenario where quick decision-making and flexibility are crucial, a Type 1 CEO may struggle to delegate tasks or accept solutions that deviate from their high standards. Their orientation towards perfectionism may lead to excessive checking across the whole business and micro-management, hindering productivity. When personality fixations take hold of a business, they can lead to the very thing we are trying to avoid, which in the case of this CEO was the imperfection of non-performance.

Understanding our Enneagram Type equips us with a deeper understanding of ourselves. It’s a launchpad for further development and introspection.


“Gain a baseline awareness of what kind of person you are, what your motivations and drivers are, and how they show up in your business. Without bringing these inner world dynamics into consciousness, they are likely to be driving the bus outside of your awareness” – Dr. Simon Kettleborough.

 

Personality at Work: Simon’s Story

Every leader has a blind spot. For Dr. Simon Kettleborough, this blindspot is overwork and burnout and the inability to notice it before it’s too late.

“My personality (I’m an Enneagram Type Three) has a view that I can just keep going; it tells me to push through, so I don’t notice when I’m tired and stressed, and I can sometimes take that out on others. At times, this can impact my business’s culture and can even bleed through to how I engage with clients,” shares Dr. Simon Kettleborough. “I’ve sometimes had feedback from people I work with, saying, ‘You’re being too transactional, Simon. You’re just being too focused on efficiency and outcome, and not mindful enough of the humans.’”

For any business owner, that’s a sign to make a change. But we can’t do it alone.

Next Steps: How Business Owners Can Develop Their Inner Worlds

Developing our inner world comes from better understanding ourselves. That means understanding our personalities and motivations and building self-awareness into a habit so we recognise our blind spots. If we fail to understand ourselves, that lack of understanding will impede our ability to understand and lead others.

Simon recommends the following:

Work with a Psychotherapeutic Coach

Consider partnering with a psychotherapeutic coach who can hold up a stark mirror and provide a structured framework for processing feedback and integrating it into your personal and professional development.

A coach can help identify patterns, blind spots, and areas for growth, offering support and guidance along the way.

Invest in Therapy

“At Aephoria, we pay for therapy for our people,” shares Dr. Simon Kettleborough. “Everyone goes, twice a month. We really believe in that.”

Therapy offers a safe and confidential space for self-reflection and growth. By delving into your past experiences, beliefs, and emotions, you can uncover deep-seated patterns that may be influencing your behaviour and decision-making. Consider exploring therapy or other forms of support to gain deeper insights into your inner world.

Embrace Open Dialogue

Encourage open dialogue and feedback conversations within your team. Create opportunities for brainstorming sessions, team meetings, and one-on-one discussions where ideas and feedback can be freely exchanged. Emphasise the importance of active listening and respect for diverse viewpoints.

Furthermore, seek out feedback from colleagues on your own behaviour. “Build it into the rhythm of your business,” encourages Dr. Simon Kettlebrough. “Invite people to share their experiences of working with you because you’re interested in development opportunities. And try not to respond, defend, or ask for clarification – just say thank you at the end. What you want is a safe container to get feedback.”

Inner world development and self-awareness are journeys. But they’re worth taking if we want to be the best versions of ourselves in our businesses.

Start today. Take a closer look at your inner world. Foster self-awareness. That’s how you can build a foundation to be the leader your organisation needs.

How does your personality show up in your business? Let us know.