This past summer I spent a week in Minneapolis getting trained and certified in The Leadership Circle 360 Profile (TLCP). I went with excitement for new learning, big hopes of a new offering for my coaching clients, and some trepidation about whether or not I would believe in the leadership assessment framework I was to learn.

My experience in Mini-apple-a-soda (so coined by my 4 year old daughter) was profound.  The assessment tool itself is based on the most unified theory of leadership I have seen. And my own assessment results immediately unearthed some long established patterns that have been holding me back.  

At a presentation to an executive group this week, I explained it this way: As children we develop by navigating in a world of adults.  We learn to think and behave in ways that keep us safe and secure.

  • Some of us do this by striving to be perfect and avoid failure at all costs (Controlling).
  • Some of us do our best to be smart and take distance to avoid being judged (Protecting).
  • Others bend over backwards to please and belong and make being liked paramount to all else (Complying).   

These ways of being become our operating systems (in TLCP they are called “reactive tendencies”). It is necessary and healthy for a 4 year old to be reactive to her world as she learns and grows.  Sadly, it is not the most effective way for a 46 year old entrepreneur like myself.

Of course, each reactive tendency has gifts and strengths as well as limitations. I have always seen myself as driven with high standards for myself. I have also felt capable of creating great results. So when my profile revealed that my colleagues experience me as complying (people pleasing, conservative and indecisive at times) more than they see me as achieving, it was jarring. The truth is that I achieve results but often at a high energy cost to me due to overthinking and navigating to please people.

The positive side of having complying tendencies is that I am often responsive to the needs of others, reliable, willing to go the extra mile, and usually easy to talk to. These strengths have been a winning strategy in my life to help me establish strong relationships and get along in the world. Sadly, this winning strategy is now getting in the way of true leadership.

Reactive tendencies are negatively correlated to leadership effectiveness, and by extension to business results. The work for me is to shift into relating to people in a creative vs reactive way.  Bottom-line it means letting go of needing to be liked as my primary motivator.

This path of leadership is not for the faint of heart.  And the thoughtful leaders I coach are willing to look under the hood for what’s great and what needs attention.  Some of them are afraid of what they will find and they do it anyway in service of the people and the business they lead.

If you are a strong leader who is curious, courageous and willing to change in order to become a great leader, let’s talk.


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