“He is the best man who, when making his plans, fears and reflects on everything that can happen to him, but in the moment of action is bold.”
This Herodotus quote somewhat describes the motivation of the next individual in our series of school leader Ennea-type profiles: the Type Six school leader – the Security-Seeker; especially if we take poetic license and revise a section to read: everything that can happen to him and those in his organization.... The Security-Seeker school leader is often maligned for what, on the surface, appears to be a persistently negative outlook. However, to the Six, this seeming-negativity is actually troubleshooting for the good of the organization, her stakeholders, and herself. She desires to anticipate difficulty and squelch it before it happens for her own safety and success, and especially for those in whom she has placed her precious trust and love.
We once worked closely with a Type Six school leader who related the Six point of view this way after completing an initial Enneagram study with us:
I gained such a reputation for negativity that people started nicknaming me ‘Don Downer.’ But simply being negative – a downer – wasn’t what prompted me to question plans and instructional initiatives. In my mind, I was figuring out what could go wrong, and I was helping other people who hadn’t or who couldn’t do that. I was contributing and protecting by being proactive. But I don’t think others saw it that way.
The Type Six is regularly dubbed “The Loyalist” because of his unwavering dedication to organizations and to a few trusted and admired individuals. But his loyalty is often overshadowed by persistent questions about, and objections to, even these trusted individuals’ new ideas. Therefore, the Six is also called, and will even call himself, a “devil’s advocate.”
Indeed, Sixes are the devil’s advocates of the Enneagram, but not intentionally to the consternation of her stakeholders as might be perceived. The Security-Seeker’s head- or thinking-center anxiety stems from her need for affirmation of safety and, at unhealthier levels, from her aversion to change, which always implies risk and uncertainty. If she is not aware of her tendency to do so, the Security-seeker can halt effective reform efforts, as well as decline opportunities for significant career-advancement simply to avoid the temporary discomfort of unfamiliarity. It is then that the Six school leader’s motto becomes the familiar idiom “Better the devil you know than the one you do not.”
Because of the Six’s desire for safety, security, and stability, he will often remain in organizations – include public school organizations – longer than anyone else. Career or any other change incites fear of unknown variables; therefore, Sixes can become a necessary wealth of institutional knowledge and school systems’ backbones. When superintendents or principals hire new leaders or teachers, the experienced Six can be the perfect mentor. Routines, procedures, folklore, passwords, personality eccentricities … even door keys – the Six will remember, or remember where to locate, them all and will regale her newly-hired charge with the necessary information in great detail.
Similar to the metaphorical stiff backbone, though, the key to health is stretching and bending. Unhealthier Six school leaders might subconsciously sabotage meaningful and effective change efforts by alienating stakeholders with persistent questions and uninformed doomsday scenarios, and by giving in to their unwarranted change-fear and refusing to budge from their current situations.
Indeed, while the Security-Seeker’s carefulness can foster effective instructional leadership by funneling time, resources, and energies into most effective initiatives and programs, it can also result in stagnation of school culture and student achievement due to mostly imagined future problems.
Practices for wholeness: stretching and bending the backbone
The Security-Seeker enjoys a familiar routine of activity (and non-activity). Therefore, a stretch for this school leader might be to gradually embrace a healthy spontaneity when participating in extracurricular activities.
In the school community, the Six might relinquish some safety-control by entrusting research of, and preliminary decision-making about, programs or initiatives requiring change to other administrative instructional leaders or teacher leaders.
Finally, the Security-Seeker could consider mentoring new administrators to begin imparting some of her vast array of institutional knowledge.
Keeping motivation in check
Security-Seekers’ serious, long-term commitments to school organizations are admirable. Sixes may rightfully pride themselves for their “stick-to-itiveness” in times of trial. However, this commitment should not be solely motivated by a deep-seated desire for safety and change-abhorrence. When the Six’s self-talk regularly includes a question of motivation (Why am I resisting?), and she can honestly respond and take appropriate action, then the Security-Seeker school leaders’ cautious, admirable discernment process can translate to meaningful school reform efforts.
The challenge of improving teaching and learning implies change. The Security-Seeker may shy away from this change because it is risky; however, she may also bravely approach this change because it is full of wonderful possibility.
The healthy Six school leader faces her fears of the unknown and takes the brave leap of faith to move the school into successful new territory, and away from comfortable, but stagnant, traditions.
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.