Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's Your Greatest Weakness?

I'm happy to report that last night's debate went to suit me. Both Clinton and Obama seemed like great choices (and Edwards seemed pretty sharp some of the time, too.) They all stood together, were very collegial, and denied that there was any conflict between them about race. Read about it here and here.

I did see some evidence of enneagram type. For one thing, Obama may or may not be a 9, but he's clearly running on a 9 platform: bringing people together. Here's a quote:

"And what we really should be focusing on is, you know, who's got a vision for how we're going to move the country forward? And I believe that right now, the only way we're going to move the country forward is if we can bring the country together, not just Democrats but independents, Republicans who have also lost trust in government, and we are able to push aside the special interests and the lobbyists, and we are truthful to the American people and enlisting them in changing how our health care system works, how our economy works, what our tax code looks like. "

The most revealing point in the debate, Enneagram-wise, was when the three candidates were asked about their greatest strengths and weakness. Obama's strength sounds like a 9's strength, and echoes the quote above. He said: "My greatest strength, I think, is the ability to bring people together from different perspectives, to get them to recognize what they have in common and to move people in a different direction." This sounds like the peacemaker. In response to this, Clinton suggested that as a management model, setting a vision and bringing people together reminded her of George W. Bush's model, and she suggested she would be a more hands-on manager. Obama did my favorite thing, which is to not get defensive but to calmly say that that's not the issue: in this case, that George W.'s problem wasn't managerial efficiency, it was an inability to listen to differing perspectives:

"But I think that there -- there's something, if we're going to evaluate George Bush and his failures as president, that I think are much more important. He was very efficient. He was on time all the time and, you know, had -- (laughter) -- you know, I -- I'm sure he never lost a paper. I'm sure he knows where it is. (Laughter.) What -- what -- what he -- what he could not do -- what he could not do is to listen to perspectives that didn't agree with his ideological predispositions. What he could not do is to bring in different people with different perspectives and get them to work together."

So Clinton and Obama look at George W.'s management style, the 1 sees lack of a 1 strength, holding people accountable, and Obama, possible 9, sees lack of a 9 strength: the ability to listen to various perspectives.

What's even more revealing of enneagram type than people's strengths? Their weaknesses. Let's start with John Edwards. Edwards relied on the old interview stand-by, using what is actually a strength as your answer for greatest weakness. C'mon, Senator Edwards, even Michael Scott knows this trick.

"I think weakness -- I sometimes have a very powerful emotional response to pain that I see around me. When I see a man like Donnie Ingram, who I met a few months ago in South Carolina, who worked with for 33 years in the mill, reminded me very much of the kind of people that I grew up with, who's about to lose his job, has no idea where he's going to go, what he's going to do -- I mean, his dignity and self-respect is at issue, and I feel that in a really personal way and in a very emotional way. And I think sometimes that can undermine what you need to do."

So his greatest weakness is he's compassionate? Maybe if he'd said "I'm a weepy pansy-boy" I could have bought it as a weakness, or if he'd explained how empathy for others had gotten in the way of getting things done, but as presented, I can't see how this is a weakness.

Hillary, to her credit, gave a weakness that was really a weakness, and a 1-ish weakness at that: impatience and frustration. Here is the quote:

"I get impatient. I get, you know, really frustrated when people don't seem to understand that we can do so much more to help each other, and sometimes I come across that way. I admit that. I get very concerned about, you know, pushing further and faster than perhaps people are ready to go."

Hillary is a 1w2, and you can hear the 2-ish theme here as well. Impatience and frustration with other people not trying hard enough (very 1-ish), and not going far enough to help people (2.) Her strength was 2ish as well: she talked about her desire to help Americans, especially children, and her track record of doing so.

Now for Obama's weakness: He can't keep up with paperwork:

"And as I indicated before, my greatest weakness, I think, is when it comes to -- I'll give you a very good example. I ask my staff never to hand me paper until two seconds before I need it, because I will lose it. (Laughter.) You know. The -- you know. And my desk in my office doesn't look good. I've got to have somebody around me who is keeping track of that stuff. And that's not trivial. I need to have good people in place who can make sure that systems run. That's what I've always done. And that's why we've run not only a good campaign but a good U.S. Senate office. "

Now this quote doesn't prove he's a 9; it might indicate he's a Myers-Briggs N and maybe a P or at least not a strong J. But I find it to be something a 9 is more likely to say than a competence type (1, 3, or 5), for instance. I don't see a 3 as likely to be comfortable saying he can't keep track of a sheet of paper or keep his desk organized or that he needs a handler.

Obama reminds me of Bill Clinton. Some people consider B. Clinton a 3 (Riso and Hudson), others a 9 (Condon, Fauvre.) Clinton definitely has some markers of a 3 (called Slick Willie, the womanizing problem), but Obama lacks these. So until I see some evidence otherwise, my going theory is that Obama is a 9 who happens to have a very nice smile.


Anonymous said...

Yea! I am glad that Obama has a messy desk. Now I don't feel so bad about the way mine looks... or did. I think they'd fire me at my new place if I had a messy desk or office. They are so, incredibly clean!


Mary Beth said...

Hi Amy! Yes, I liked that too.