SARAH BRAUD Contributor & CEO Braud Creative
Leadership Style of a Four
Do you often wrestle with the questions of “Who am I?” “What am I here for?” “Why am I even doing this?”
Do you have the gift of being present for those in pain? Are you uncomfortable with inauthenticity?
Does leadership often make you feel like an imposter?
If so, you might be a Four.
The Leadership Archetype of a Four is called the Individualist, the Artist or the Romantic.
Fours lead with visions for the future, grand ideas backed by layers of philosophical purpose, and a unique ability for creating beauty from the ashes.
Fours are culture creators and meaning makers. Core values are not far from the surface, if any surface exists at all; fours are awful at small talk.
This archetype leads with their emotions, then ruminates about their emotions, getting trapped in a feel/think spiral that can paralyze them.
Fours are heart first, head second, and the body coming in dead last, huffing and puffing and whining about not being understood all along the way.
The Problem With a Four Leader
As you can imagine, the problem with the Leadership Archetype of a #4 is the lack of execution.
Fours, while inspired and inspiring, thoughtful and thought-provoking leaders, tend to also be slow producers, ball-droppers, blame-shifters, and “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”
These leaders lead less by example and more by ideal, which is, quite frankly, why there are not many fours in executive positions.
Often feeling like they were left out when God was passing out handbooks for life, the individualist leader can spiral into self-imposed solitude singing their anthem all the while, Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…
I get it. I’m a four.
But as an entrepreneur and writer that desires a paycheck as well as well-timed accolades, specified acknowledgements, and precise praise, I have to get into my body and do the hard, boring work of living.
No free pass, no exemption status given.
Invitation for Fours to Grow as Leaders
Invitation: Embrace the Ordinary of Life.
If you’d like to grow as a Individualist Leader, your invitation might be hard to swallow: embrace the ordinary of life.
My favorite Four on earth is my childhood friend, professional singer songwriter, and fellow enneagram fanatic, Matthew Perryman Jones. We often pontificate together about the world not understanding our plight as fours, but mostly we remind each other of our work: to get out of our hearts and heads and into our bodies.
Matthew recites to me one of his favorite poems by Elizabeth Browning about life as a fully-embodied four:
Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees takes off his shoes, The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.”
The invitation for the Four, as I hear it, is to not only see God in the bush, but also pluck the blackberries with the rest of them. Find beauty, purpose, and prose in doing the dishes, picking up laundry, rereading your email to check for mistakes before you send it, and instead of thinking of a new idea, finishing the project you started last week.
5 Steps Fours Can Take to Become Better Leaders
- Moderate your feelings. In her book The 9 Types of Leadership, Beatrice Chestnut reminds Fours to “accept your emotional nature as a strength, but also learn what you need to do for yourself to have your feelings, process them, channel them with awareness…and rise above them or let them go when appropriate.”
Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand and author of several memoirs including New York Times Best Seller Blue Like Jazz, admits reluctantly to having “a 4 wing for sure.” Though he identifies as an Leadership Archetype #3, he must wrestle with some of his Four-ish tendencies. “I try to ignore the negative sides of my 4 wing, the pity and entitlement stuff while embracing the quirky abilities to dive deep into feeling (great for marketing and writing books alike.)” He tells me that, “4s are wonderful. They see more than other types. But you’re right, it’s often hard for them to rise as leaders (as influencers they’re amazing) because their internal world dominates.”
- Practice self-love. Though it sounds hokey, pursuing nourishment is a difficult prospect for the four. What gives you life? Choose that. Notice your tendency to restrict yourself from social life, certain foods, pleasures or play that make you re-enter your body.
- Learn from the producers in your midst. One of my action steps from The Leadership Challenge is to identify someone who is highly organized and productive and shadow them for one day. I’ve yet to complete this task. Irony intended.
- Encourage others by noticing whats there and what is good. When confronted with a new environment or challenge, Fours tend to notice what’s missing first. Instead of vocalizing these thoughts, practice noticing what is there and what is good, particularly in others’ performances.
- Value light, levity & life in others. Being playful and/or being happy is not a natural inclination for this archetype of leadership. Don’t take yourself or others so seriously. It dampens creativity and productivity, especially in your team. If you overdo your tendency to value depth and intensity, others may feel judged as superficial or shallow.
“I’ve seen in my own life that the drive that I had in my 20’s towards authenticity actually didn’t really lead to an authentic way of being. It was more of a passionate quest to find my place in the world since I had so much inner-unsettledness and navigated so many emotions— both mine and what I sensed from what was going on around me. And I wonder if that quest was, in part, a result of me giving my power away earlier on in childhood/adolescence.
The language of “elevating your repressed center” has really resonated with me. And knowing that as a 4, I am “doing-repressed” has really given me an invitation to live into some of the more rhythmic (and yes, boring) parts of life. But I’ve also found fruit in that oddly enough. I can take back some of the lost power, I have more of a say in what affects me and, hell, I’m not so crazy! There’s equanimity for me there, and I end up really enjoying that space and not needing the dark and moodiness that I used to crave.”
Sonja Lowell, Realtor & Interior Designer
The hero’s journey of a Four begins with the heart and ends with the body. Matthew Perryman Jones reminded me of Blaise Pascal’s zinger, “Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.” This seems to be true of all great leaders, no matter the archetype.
If you’d like an overview of all the numbers go back to our first post here.
Further Developing Your Awareness
If the enneagram interests you, several sources are available for developing a deeper understanding of your type. Here are just a few we here at Leadership Reality love:
Books for Four’s
Sanctuary: Unexpected Places Where God Found Me by Becca Stevens, Episcopalian priest, author & speaker, founder of Thistle Farms.
Love Poems from God: Sacred Voices from the East and West (Compass)
Podcasts & Music
Anything by Matthew Perryman Jones. Watch out for MPJ’s song “Waking Hours” on his forthcoming record.
Typology by Ian Cron, episode 021 (Ian and Matthew commiserate about not getting the memo)
Sleeping at Last’s song “Four”
Think You Might Be a Four?
Sign up to take the Enneagram Test with Leadership Reality and know for sure. If you’d like your team to hear an overview about the enneagram and how it can be used to improve their leadership skills, consider at Lunch & Learn Enneagram Workshop for Your Team! For either request, email us at email@example.com.
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