Graham* is a mid-level leader in a large financial organization. His boss recommended coaching as a way to accelerate his leadership skills and support his career development plan.

When Graham and I met for the first time, I asked him to use three words to describe his leadership strengths.

After a moment of reflection Graham shared, “I think I am easy to approach, a good problem solver, and results oriented. I also care about the people on my team.” Then he added, “At least I think that’s how others would describe me, but to tell you the truth I don’t really know, I’ve never asked!”

Graham was quiet for a few minutes and then said, “If I don’t really know that information, how can I possibly have the positive impact I would like to have as a leader?”

What three words would you use to describe your leadership strengths?

Are those the same words that others would use to describe your leadership strengths?

By the end of our first session together, Graham was keen to get more information about whether he was truly having the impact he wanted on his team and his organization.

I suggested we use The Leadership Circle 360 tool in order to gather some very tangible feedback which would in turn accelerate our coaching experience and help him to quickly achieve his goals.

The Leadership Circle profile is a 360-feedback tool that is unique in that it packs a lot of theory and leadership framework into one tool. The results you receive get directly to the heart of how you are showing up as a leader. Through means of a visual representation, we quickly get a picture of alignment and differences, of how you see yourself versus how others are experiencing your leadership.

Not only does the feedback tell us how you are showing up, it also helps us understand what drives you, what motivates you, and what is happening below the surface that comes out in your leadership behaviour.

Bob Anderson, the Founder of The Leadership Circle, writes,

“The core tension that we manage as adults, in my opinion, and especially as leaders, is the tension between purpose and safety. Each of us is oriented toward a purpose that desires to come through our lives. Leaders, especially great leaders, are moved by a deep sense of personal purpose. They discern it. They distill it. They stand for it. When we see great leadership, we see someone standing for something that’s vital to them—something that matters more than anything else, that they build their life and their leadership around. They create organizations that reflect that purpose. They distill it into vision of contribution and a vision of what they want their lives to be about.”

And yet, for most of us, part of the reason we work is also our need for safety, our need to pay the mortgage, to feed our family and put our kids through school, or save for retirement. The reason is interchangeable from person to person. So even if I hold a strong sense of purpose, moving toward that purpose is inherently risky and I will still have all of these financial obligations that don’t go away, leaving me caught between my need for safety and my need to be a bit more risky and courageous in my leadership.

How does all this theory tie into the Leadership Circle Profile?

Graham and I talked about this concept of being oriented towards safety and/or purpose.

“How is getting this unique kind of feedback going to help me?” he asked.

“When we get your results, the data is already organized around this core tension.” I shared. “Knowing where you are more strongly oriented, either towards safety or purpose, will help us to pinpoint behavioural strategies that will accelerate your professional and personal development.”

The Leadership Circle Profile uses the terms ‘Reactive Structure of the Mind’ and ‘Creative Structure of the Mind’ to identify the primary driver behind our behaviour. Consider:

  • People whose primary driver comes from the Reactive Structure are more focused on staying safe and maintaining a sense of security.
  • People whose primary driver comes from the Creative Structure are more focused on higher purpose and creating what matters most.

Understanding your primary driver is imperative to understanding why you operate the way you do. Further, understanding your primary driver allows you to take that awareness and make conscious choices about the kind of leader you want to be.

To take this feedback tool over the top in the ‘extremely useful information you can do something with’ category, it also explores the underlying assumptions that may be running your behaviour. What you believe about something, someone, and/or a situation, is on a very unconscious level impacting how you behave.

Let’s compare this understanding to the internal operating system of your computer that is always running in the background and constantly impacting how your computer interfaces with you. You can’t see it, you pay no attention to it, and it only impacts you when the things you can see are not operating the way you would like them to be.

We, too, have an internal operating system that is always running in the background. What the Leadership Circle does is bring that invisible operating system into the open so that you can make different decisions based on new knowledge and insights. It gives you the information you need to take your leadership to the next level.

Anderson sums it up in a way which I shared with Graham,

“In summary, the Leadership Circle profile will give you a map that allows you to reflect on how you are living and leading. It provides powerful feedback against a battery of key competencies. It indicates the life-stance or Structure of Mind out of which you are leading. It indicates the way you are navigating the tension between purpose and safety. It provides pointed feedback on the reactive strategies when safety is threatened. It points to the underlying assumptions that are running the pattern of results you are creating. It shows the interaction between Reactive Tendencies and Creative Competencies suggesting that if you are living and leading in a way that generates or drains energy—for you and for the organization.”

Here are some great questions to ask yourself:

What are your leadership strengths?

Are you operating at the level that you would like to be?

What might be holding you back, or getting in the way for you?

How impactful would it be for you professionally and personally if you could discover the assumptions that are running your internal operating system?

Related blogs:

How to be influential: Recognizing when authority won’t work

How To Be Influential: Be Human

*(name changed for confidentiality purposes)