One basic tenant of good leaders is that they discover frameworks to help them work with people. Not all frameworks are healthy – I once had a boss tell me that fear was one of the tools in his leadership toolkit. Really.
Fortunately, there are plenty of perspectives that allow you to lead more maturely than relying on fear. Two of these important but overlooked perspectives are people’s orientation to time and their stances.
Time Orientation and Stances
One of my favorite teachers is Suzanne Stabile. I love how she expresses both of these concepts. As it sounds from the name, time orientation is how people relate to time. Some people are constantly in the past, others are in the present, and still others are constantly in the future.
Stances involve how we initially respond to others. Some withdraw, some are dependent on others, and still some are aggressive to others. Some of the best teaching on stances I’ve found is from Suzanne.
You’ll notice this in daily conversations. For time orientation, some people seem to forever rehearse the past. Others seem challenged to be in the present because they’re constantly thinking of the future. And with stances, some people seem to constantly be overpowering others while other people seem to be like turtles pulling into their shell.
Notice this as you interact with others. Do you constantly say, “But that’s over. It’s in the past”? If you do, you may have a future time orientation. And as a leader, that means you’ll need to work a bit harder to be aware of the present and the past. It can be more effective to meet others where they are before pushing them to where you are. As Stephen Covey used to say, “To go fast with people, go slow.”
And if you notice yourself constantly being dependent on others, you may need to watch that it doesn’t devolve into unquestioning loyalty to them. Or if you constantly overpower others, it may not be that you’re surrounded by weak people. You may be in the aggressive stance and may need to tone it down.
Effective leadership doesn’t require you to be someone else. You get to be yourself. But you need to work to be a more mature version of yourself, growing in your understanding of others.
Time Orientation, Stances, and the Enneagram
Those who work with me know that I find the Enneagram to be an incredibly helpful framework for working with. Having been studying it over the last 30 years, I have found it uniquely explains our motivations. It describes the nine stories humans seem to live in and why we do what we do. And it helps us in grace to the people around us.
Coupling these types with the stances and time orientation makes an incredibly helpful combination for leading others. The time orientations and stances line up strikingly well with the nine enneagram types.
- Past – 9, 4, 5
- Present – 1, 2, 6
- Future – 3, 7, 8
- Withdrawing – 9, 4, 5
- Dependent – 1, 2, 6
- Aggressive – 3, 7, 8
Suzanne gives a very helpful overview of the nine type’s orientation to time and stances in a recent podcast. Listening to this will help you as a leader. You will hear what time orientation and stance a person may be who keeps bringing up examples from the past. And why your boss may have loads of ideas that each seem important but doesn’t stick to any of them!
You can hear the entire podcast at: https://www.theenneagramjourney.org/podcast/2019/episode50