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ATD Blog

Developing Whole Leaders


Thu May 02 2013

Developing Whole Leaders-0ab6152485cba66490db4549584147c93826a14decc36155a1c8e022ffeaf3c9

In the February issue of T+D magazine, the cover story discusses the challenges facing human capital development (HCD) in a global workforce. The article cites the need for collaboration and results-driven learning in Asia; talent growth and retention in Latin American; and future-focused planning in Europe.

As I read this article, it struck me that these challenges we face as HCD practitioners are equally as diverse as the challenges of our global leader clients. Global leaders must enable collaboration and knowledge sharing, anticipate and plan for the future, provide process and resources for employees to do their jobs effectively, inspire innovation and creativity, and work hard and make tough decisions. We as HCD practitioners need to help cultivate and develop these indispensable whole leaders. In this post I’ll discuss the FEBI, the best tool I’ve found for developing whole leaders.


So far in this blog series, we have seen how important each energy pattern of the FEBI can be—how the Driver can be a great warrior, ensuring we clear barriers and reach our goals; how the Organizer can give process to our brilliant ideas, allowing them to become reality; how the Collaborator can recharge our internal batteries, helping us to be fully engaged and engage others; and how the Visionary enables us to embrace chaos, expanding our world to all that is possible.

Could you imagine a global leader lacking any of these qualities?

The good news is that you don’t have to—everyone has the capacity to develop all four of these patterns. With a bit of awareness and practice, we can learn to summon the right pattern at the right time.

Through our work with organizations across the globe, we have found that the most successful leaders are those who are best able to engage all four aspects of themselves. Recently, when we asked a group during a leadership development program to describe a “whole leader,” they said: A whole leader “gets the big picture and the details, drives results, gets it done, is good with people, thinks short-term and long-term, has a clear focus but still listens, balances work and life, can handle ambiguity, and works well with diverse people.”

To become such a multi-faceted leader, you’d better have a full bench! The best leaders do. And this goes beyond corporate leadership. If you’re a parent, a coach, an artist, a teacher, a sailor, a nurse, or an active member of your neighborhood, you need all four to be at your best.


While it is true that we have the ability to summon all four energy patterns, we also have preferences. In psychology we might call this personality type. Most people have a preference for one or two of these patterns, naturally utilizing them more often than the others—both when they’re useful and when they’re not. Conversely, most people also have one or two patterns they use less often; it takes more energy to engage these weak patterns and may cause some discomfort. Discovering what patterns you prefer and don’t prefer and what you are utilizing and not utilizing is the first step in creating that full bench of pattern players. Perhaps you already have a sense of your preferences just from reading this blog series. If you want a more scientific answer, you can complete the FEBI, a validated psychometric assessment that measures these four patterns and tells you to what extent you prefer each of them. It also will show you numerous ways to cultivate a weak pattern, and how these patterns might help you. Armed with your newfound self-awareness, you can begin to use your personality more fully, rather than remain stuck in it. You’ll also gain new insights into those around you, and be able to identify which patterns they prefer.

As we saw throughout this blog series, certain patterns are best at engaging certain situations. For example, the Visionary is best for creating a strategic vision. The Organizer is best at determining the steps to bring that vision to reality, and so on. You’ll begin to have awareness of what pattern is best for a particular situation. By putting all of this together, and with a bit of practice and intention, you can become proficient at bringing out the right pattern at the right time.

Since we have preferences, those patterns that are least preferred require more energy and intention to access. You can kick start any pattern by engaging its various forms, such as using physical movement and cognitive activities, playing a certain kind of music, or placing yourself in a particular environment. Take time to practice engaging all of the patterns, especially those with which you are less comfortable. This will allow those bench players to be ready when they are needed, becoming not just global leaders but whole leaders.

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