The counsellor explained my Meyers-Briggs (MBTI) and Strong Interest (SII) Inventory scores. “INTJ, well suited for leadership,” she said.  I would do well in marketing or advertising, something senior, she continued.  What came next was like listening to a fortune-teller, especially as I consider where I am now, 20 years later.  I would definitely get a PhD, someday.  I am not sure whether the telling directed my path or my personality itself.  But here I am at “someday” in my journey to PhD.

Tools, tools, tools, they all seem the same.  Each provide a little more insight into where we are best/worst suited to work, what kinds of roles we would/wouldn’t be good at, what we should/should not do and so on.  The tools have not changed much in the last two decades.  Since then, social technologies have changed the roles and requirements of leadership to one more dependent on relationships. I set out on this stage of my journey to understand the tools currently used to measure leadership potential and their ability to accommodate this evolution.  For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI).

Leadership Tomorrow

To begin, I shall clarify what I mean by leadership tomorrow, in the New Social Paradigm (Forbes Öste, 2012).  One cannot lead alone.  To lead one must be followed.  Social technologies have lifted the wizard’s curtain and made authenticity a requirement.  Access to information about individuals and organizations actions both current and past is open to everyone.  Change is rapid, and has a more drastic impact with its ability to spread.  Global reach of even local news, ideas and innovations is real-time and visual, requiring little or no translation. Communication is pocket sized, global, mobile, instantaneous and tracked.   New and emerging technologies keep the conversations going around the clock.  These changes are perceived as exciting, frightening or “just are” depending on the individual.  This is not the leadership of yesterday.

In the past, leaders might have been able to survive in the egocentric bubble of the third level of consciousness (Kegan, 1994) and even thrive in the fourth. Knowing who they were and the impact their actions had on others sufficed.  Going forward, a fifth level consciousness will be necessary. The ability to understand we are not only their being part of something bigger but also of the interdependence with that something is key.  The blinders need to come off, and those who are open to the discovery and still able to lead will do so.  The new social paradigm of tomorrow will require a high level of personal awareness and interest in others. note: if I lost you here, try watching this animated video on Kegan’s levels of consciousness

Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI)

Porter's Themes in Relational Awareness Theory

Fig.1 Porter’s Themes in Relational Awareness Theory

One follows or leads based on gratification.  Gratification fulfills a need that feeds self worth, both aware and unaware.  Elias Porter (1976) recognized the value of identifying and charting the innate motivating value system (MVS) for greater self-awareness. Porter claims Relationship Awareness Theory (RAT), the theory behind SDI, is for people. This differs from the widely used Jungian (MBTI) and Costa & McCrae’s Five Factor Model (FFM) based personality assessments, which are about people.  Understanding ourselves so that we are better able to relate to others is certainly “for” people.  Like the saying goes, we cannot love until we learn to love ourselves.

The relating style of individuals is driven by their MVS (Fig.1, Theme 1).  When in the comfort zone, represented by the dot on the MVS chart, the relating style is where self worth is highest.  This is represented by the dot (Figure 2), in this case, in the blue zone representing Altruistic-Nurturing Motivation.

Full disclosure: I charted in the “hub,” in the middle of the chart: Flexible-Cohering Motivation.  This might explain my affinity for contextualism and the expressions “it depends” and “what if.”  The hub was added later as a distinct zone.  Further exploration, might prove to support the idea that anomalies are the norm and the norm is the anomaly (Forbes Öste, 2012).

SDI Charting Motivational Value Systems (MVS)

Fig.2 SDI Charting Motivational Value Systems (MVS)

Self-worth is driven by the ability to apply our strengths. For teams to function, understanding the different motivations is vital for successful collaboration.  The SDI method for charting a group and running role-play scenarios leads to understanding of both pitfalls and opportunities in relationships as both a giver and receiver with different MVS.  In social strategy, it is important to “do unto others as they would have done to themselves.”  SDI provides a tool for understanding what or how they would have done to themselves.  A good leader brings out the best in those who follow.

In leadership and in life there are times of equilibrium and disequilibrium, often resulting in a state of conflict.  Theme 2 (fig.1) in RAT recognizes the change in motivation that occurs in conflict, represented by the arrow generating from the dot in figure 2. Like the initial MVS this varies both in direction and amount of movement (length) for everyone.  When in the conflict state, there is a desire to return to dot.  Self-awareness avoids the trigger points but also identifies what is needed to return to equilibrium at the dot.

Fig.3 SDI Profile fo Personal Strengths

Fig.3 SDI Profile fo Personal Strengths

The innate MVS does not change, but relating style adapts accordingly to situations (fig.3).  When this is driven internally, it is referred to as borrowed behaviour.  In this temporary state, the desire is to return to where self-worth is the highest.  Behaviors that are forced or driven by external forces and often indeterminate in duration are masks. They impact self-worth and can lead to overemphasis of the behavior.   As leaders, identifying masks to in self and others will encourage authentic interaction.  This will improve engagement of strengths, and therefore willingness to follow.

SDI Analogy for MVS anchor to relational behaviors

SDI Analogy for MVS anchor to relational behaviors

Miscommunication is common in relationships, professional and personal.  Verbal and non-verbal add to the complexity.  Interactions are shorter and often remote, increasing the likelihood of miscommunication.  In RAT Theme 3, Porter recognizes the risks inherent in overused or misapplied strengths.  For example, confidence becomes arrogance or helpful become suffocating.  Fifth level consciousness would minimize misinterpretation to minimize conflict and maximize effectiveness of the interaction.

SDI Applied

SDI and RAT can be an excellent complementary tool to teaching concepts that require greater self-awareness.  It will be interesting to apply SDI prior to teaching social strategy as a foundation to increase receptivity. For example, building a greater self-awareness of motivations would provide great insight into their relationships needed to map their stories. The MVS chart (and exercises around the delivery of results) in relation to others’ motivations has the potential to provide clarity to some of the more complex pieces of social strategy concept, dealing with reciprocity.

Social strategy is a used for making the most of the social and knowledge resources available to individuals and organizations.  A key element to social strategy is Social optimization(Forbes Öste, 2009), the building and maintaining of mutually beneficial and effective relationships.  Greater awareness of the motivation driving mutual needs increases the probability that it will be fulfilled for both parties.  This requires a higher level of consciousness, which is one of the, if not the biggest challenge to teaching social strategy. From what I have seen and experienced SDI as a tool has the potential to do raise the level of consciousness.


The tools evolve, each with its part in helping build self-awareness.  Much depends on the interpretation of results, delivery and use.  The SDI’s, emphasis on innate strengths, relating to others, and changes that occur in conflict results in a more receptive self to those results.  Understanding not only self but also others in the new social paradigm is critical.  Those who lead from strengths (their own and others) will build more engaged and sustainable systems.  Capacity to lead, whether innate or learned does not seem to be the question, but rather the motivation and interest in building a higher level of consciousness.  Open your eyes and you will see where the journey leads and who will follow.

Costa, P.T.,Jr. & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Forbes Öste, H. C. (2009). Social Optimization, from http://www.slideshare.net/hcfoste/social-optimization
Forbes Öste, H.C. (2012) Coming into Port for Provisions: Reflections on Epistemologies(unpublished), Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara CA
Judge, T. A., & Joyce, E. B. (2000). Five-factor model of personality and transformational leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(5), 751-765.
Lerner, R. (2006) Developmental science, developmental systems and contemporary theories of human development. In W. Damon and R.L. Lerner (Eds.). Handbook of Child Psychology, vol. 1 (pp. 1-17)
Porter, E. H. (1976). On the Development of Relationship Awareness Theory: A Personal Note. Group & Organization Studies (pre-1986), 1(3), 302.
Kegan, R. (1994) In Over Our Heads. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press (pp. 15-137).
Scudder, T. (2012). How Does the SDI Correlate with the MBTI?  Retrieved 12/12/12, 2012, from http://www.personalstrengths.com/sdiblog/?p=163

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assessment tools, Leadership, social optimization, social strategy
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