Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Friday, 30 January 2009

Obama's Inauguration - The Principles of Hope

Last week's Inauguration address by President Obama once again showcased his extraordinary speaking talents. My impression is that the delivery of his speech deftly weaved together the threads of Presidents Kennedy and Clinton, of Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., and reaffirmed the role we have come to see as a cornerstone of his identity: statesman and orator.

Yet this time, there was something more. It was his moment to offer a first glimpse of the course he intends to set for the world's most powerful nation over the next four years. He's given us the agenda that will drive his behaviour as President and that will guide the staff of his administration.

NeuroPower Leadership: the Compassionate Leader

I've written previously that Obama is frequently able to embody what within the NeuroPower framework (as developed by author and strategist Peter Burow) is called a NeuroPower Leader.

Specifically, he is able to manifest the characteristics of what is termed the Compassionate Leader, which is the result of integrating the two NeuroPower archetypes of Chancellor and Navigator. Before we go on, I'll give you some detail on how NeuroPower suggests these archetypes are formed.

Archetypes and the 6 Intelligence Centres

Each of our individual personalities comprises two archetypes. An archetype is formed through the combination of three of the six thinking functions that NeuroPower suggests make up the majority of our brain's activity.

These six thinking functions (also called Intelligence Centres, or ICs for short) may be grouped in their three respective pairs under the following headings:

Innovation and Vision
Logic and Passion
Data and Empathy

Note that there isn't a stark divide between each pair, so it's not "Data versus Empathy," rather (following the Jungian conception of behaviour) they are the respective endpoints along a continuum of possible behaviours.

Master/Mirror Archetype and Integration

As we each tend more toward one or the other end of these three continua, we'll each come to prefer or rely on one set of three thinking functions as our "default" mode of operating. The combination of these three preferred modes of thinking results in our Master archetype. Meanwhile the other three thinking functions that represent our less-preferred ways of operating combine to form our Mirror archetype.

To take President Obama as an example, I would argue that his default mode - that is, the three ICs that he tends to favours in the first instance - are the Innovation, Passion and Empathy ICs. The archetype that results when these three are combined is the Chancellor archetype and, since these are his preferred three ICs, the Chancellor is his Master archetype profile. The corresponding three ICs (Vision, Logic and Data respectively) therefore combine to form the Navigator archetype and this is his Mirror archetype profile.

The two key concepts to grasp here are that:
  • We all have access to all six of these thinking functions or Intelligence Centres. Reintegrating your Master profile (made up of your "preferred" three ICs) and your Mirror profile (made up of the other three ICs) is the central developmental challenge each of us faces in our efforts to express our fullest capacity as people - hence that's also the primary developmental focus of the NeuroPower framework.
  • The Master profile tells us what we want out of life, the Mirror profile reminds us of what we need. How this plays out is that our Master archetype forms our self-identity (i.e. where we place our focus and how we communicate with others; to that degree it also determines how others view and value us as individuals) while the Mirror archetype influences our behaviour.*
Up to the Inauguration we've seen a good deal of Obama's Master archetype, the Chancellor, and this has determined our sense of his identity. In this speech we begin to see the integration of his Mirror archetype, the Navigator, and get a sense of how that is likely to guide his behaviour.

Here is the video of his speech and below that are two short descriptions of the Chancellor and Navigator archetypes. I invite you to use these archetypes as a lens through which to view the content and delivery of his message, to see how seamlessly he has integrated the best aspects of each and how he brings them to the service of his purposes.

You can visit the original YouTube page here.

The Chancellor**

Chancellors are charming, enthusiastic, energetic and ambitious. They like competition, negotiation, promoting ideas and people and rising to the top. Chancellors are found among some of the most senior leaders and officials in society. They live to work and rise to challenges, particularly those complex people issues that others cannot seem to sort out.

Chancellors are passionate about projects with which they are involved; they are highly adept at getting team members to achieve their respective objectives, each for their own reasons. Indeed they are the ultimate diplomats: they strive to build bridges both externally, between groups and people and internally, within the sometimes conflicted breast of an individual with whom they may be interacting. They are altruistic at heart and dedicated to authenticity and bringing out the best in others.

At their best, Chancellors are genuinely charming, excellent negotiators, diplomatic, strive for esprit de corps to foster high-performing team environments, and have a warmth and kindness about them, even a sort of venerability as they put us in touch with our own better natures.

The Navigator

A Navigator’s mind is structured and visionary. These traits combine to produce a person with a clear vision and the discipline and structure to achieve it. They are super-dependable and like to be a respected contributor to the community and a pillar of society.

Very emotionally detached, Navigators are inflexible when discussing plans, directions, approaches and logistics. If they are given no advance warning, however, they can cope with flexibility and ambiguity and perform brilliantly ‘on the hop’.

Navigators are very focused when there is a clear vision, executing enormous mind over matter, suppressing unwanted emotions and disciplining themselves and the people around them.

At their best, Navigators are the embodiment of faith, exhibiting complete confidence in the achievement of their goals and never, ever giving up hope. They are protective, almost patriarchal figures. They excel at visionary planning, holding responsibly to the agreed course of action, reaffirming the guiding principles that underlay their plans, and encouraging role excellence in themselves and others. They love to explore and conquer new realms, leading themselves or a group into uncharted territory or experiences - and to do so with honour and respect for others.

Reaffirming the principles of hope

For me, Obama's message was an inspirational reaffirmation of American ideals, principles and the responsibility that comes with power and leadership.

Looking outward to the world and (re)building bridges, he has set his stake in the ground to say clearly and confidently:
...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. [my emphasis]

Welcome back, America. The world has missed your leadership and your culture's deep, abiding belief in the power that ideas can have in shaping the world. As anthropologist Margaret Mead reminds us:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

*adapted from the NeuroPower handbook, edition 1.0.5 (2008), p 746
**adapted from the NeuroPower handbook, edition 1.0.5 (2008), pp 270-271
***adapted from the NeuroPower handbook, edition 1.0.5 (2008), pp 364-65, 375, 562

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