Next in our ongoing school leader Ennea-type series describes a rarity among principals, superintendents, and other district-level supervisors. And the very fact that Type Four school leaders are rare in such roles appeals to their individuality-seeking nature. Because of this, we naturally call the Four school leader “The Individuality-Seeker.”
However, this sought-after quality can be the Four’s downfall when he reaches unhealthy levels and begins to see himself as a hopelessly misunderstood outsider.
Type Fours are commonly called “Epicures,” “Artists,” or “Hopeless Romantics” because of their penchant toward what they consider to be expressions of good taste and their habits of holding on to relationship-regret, and old hurts and grudges. (Individuality-Seekers’ memories are detail-oriented and long, which can work to a school community’s favor or detriment.) Fours can also, then, be described as sensitive, withdrawn, dramatic, and self-centered, regularly making their “enemies” walk on eggshells when they attempt to communicate or rectify a past wrong.
Healthy Fours crave authentic interactions; therefore, they can be tonics to teachers, parents, and students who want to cut through “edu-speak” and get real. Excessive meeting without purpose is the bane of the Individuality-Seeker’s corporate existence; likewise in schools and district offices. The Four wants to drop, and occasionally, tear down the veil that he thinks covers honest words and actions. If he can, using open communication, the school’s mission is advanced. And if he can’t, or won’t because of an imagined obstacle or heightened sense of self-consciousness, he will retreat inside himself, sabotaging his previous good work.
Equanimity and high standards
The Individuality-Seeker finds himself in a quandary. He desperately wants to avoid the mundane. However, school administrative roles demand a certain level of mundane-ness, be it in the form of “red-tape” paperwork, data analysis, or other seemingly non-creative endeavors. The Type Four school leader’s challenge, then, is to reframe such work’s context and find its greater importance in the grand scheme of things. For example, assessment data analysis (a common task for any school leader) might, on the surface, appear as a monotonous task to the Individuality-Seeker. But when placed in the context of informing instruction to enhance individual student achievement, data analysis becomes exponentially more important than it was before.
Because of her high aesthetic and relational standards, the Individuality-Seeker’s school can be a haven of genuine refinement and culture. The Type Four school leader seeks new, innovative ways of being and of school success. Because of this, parents and supervisors are usually assured that the Individuality-Seeker is on the cusp of new research and original, if not necessarily time-tested, leadership methods as long as she remembers to clearly communicate her vision’s roadmap and its rationale. Occasionally, the Four can assume that communication is unnecessary, thinking that surely everyone sees the obvious value in her actions (they are crystal clear to her, after all). In these cases, the Four may potentially translate innocent requests for clarification as questioning of ideals and actions, and, if not mindful of this potential, can slip into unhealthier modes of being. (See Ginger Lapid-Bogda’s Bringing Out the Best in Yourself at Work for examples of how each Ennea-Type potentially filters work feedback.)
The Individuality-Seeker is prone to self-judging (occasionally to the point of self-psychological abuse) because he is so emotionally honest. Part of the heart, or feeling, center (like the Type 2 and Type 3), the Four thinks that he identifies with his feelings stronger than any other type – feeding his “misunderstood” self-image – and must therefore regularly remind himself that he is not his feelings. Because of this stronger feeling-identification, the Four also feels set apart and socially awkward, a quality that can be cause for great school stakeholder misunderstanding. Paradoxically, the Individuality-Seeker desires deep, meaningful connections with people but has difficulty taking the necessary risks in order to form lasting relationships. The Four school leader must always be mindful of this tendency. Thinking that no one else understands his feelings can ultimately be very harmful to leadership perceptions, and the meaningful relationships (with all stakeholders: teachers, students, parents, staff, board members, and supervisors) that he so values.
Too, when unhealthy Fours move to Type Two, they can become so emotionally demanding of their closest confidants – clingy one minute, and aloof the next – that Individuality-Seekers who find themselves in this state also risk finding themselves actually leading no one.
In healthier states, though, Individuality-Seekers move to their point of integration, Type One. In this mode, the Four demonstrates a goal-oriented, productive, but still individually creative, condition. It is also in this state that the self-aware Individuality-Seeker taps into his potential to accept and honor the creativity and individuality of his faculty members and school. Practicing a calming, compassionate equanimity and demonstrating an ability to remove personal feelings from the work equation, all worthwhile ideas are honored as valuable contributions to the uniqueness and specialness of the school and organization.
Practices for wholeness: Growing equanimity by acknowledging individuality of others
To maximize their health and effectiveness, Four school leaders should find creative outlets – preferably within the school community and environment, but outside, too. Perhaps the Individuality-Seeker has a talent to share with teachers and students in classrooms. Students who see their leader valuing written or other artistic forms of expression receive the message that classroom practice is both important and also valued in the real world.
Additionally, since many Fours are prone to embody the true definition of a nature-loving Romantic, these school leaders could experience the regenerative effects of outdoor meditation and reflection. This could take the form of reading or journaling, too.
Finally, Individuality-Seekers could intentionally (but also, importantly, sincerely) practice acknowledging the special and unique qualities of others. While this might seemingly diminish Fours’ senses of “individual self,” in actuality it could lessen the more negative feelings of self-consciousness (as well as narcissism’s grip on their lives) while heightening abilities to affirm their teachers’ and students’ work (thus affirming their own work as the school leader, and ultimately their own self-acceptance).
The Type Four is an enigma as a school leader. And make no mistake: he likes it that way. But when the Four practices equanimity and recognizes that all meaningful contributions to the school organization can be considered unique and special in the big picture, then his school community flourishes and so does his leadership.
Look for additional profiles of other Enneagram Types as school leaders in coming weeks. For a complete list of Enneagram resources, check the Enneagram links on the left-hand side of this page, and visit our Services page to learn about the wide range of CLS workshops available for leadership and professional development. For previous type profiles, click here and scroll to the bottom of the post.