In Defense of Driver – Even for Servant Leaders
“I used to have a lot of Driver, but I don’t need it much anymore.” I’ve heard countless people comment as we reviewed their FEBI reports, especially those with low Driver scores, including many successful leaders and colleagues in leadership development. They’re not surprised by the low Driver score; they know it’s the pattern of pushing, competing – “the accelerator pedal of business” – we sometimes call it. And for people who recall earlier days of arrogant certainty and ambitious striving, it can feel like a pattern outgrown. Indeed, there’s a lot not to like in the Driver pattern. In our latest research comparing the FEBI against the NEO – more on that in other posts – Driver correlated as expected, showing up as the most disagreeable pattern. Among its significant correlations we find action-orientation – just do it! – but not trusting, not altruistic, not compliant, and prone to anger. No wonder so many people willingly relegate this pattern to their past.
But the last group who came through our core program at the Institute for Zen Leadership showed me anew what Driver energy is good for, even among mature, servant leaders, and certainly among people who would train in Zen. In The Zen Leader program (as in the book), we move people through each of the 4 FEBI energy patterns and let them experience the corresponding emotions, mindset and behaviors. As we were debriefing the Driver pattern, we talked about its role at different stages in life, from defining our boundaries during our terrible two’s, to teenage rebellion, to the warrior, the disruptor, and ultimately the guardian. I likened this more mature role to something of a temple guardian that, at a metaphorical level, keeps out evil spirits. In dealing with dozens of things to do and endless distractions, the Driver serves as our own guardian – helping us focus on what is most essential. As we put our ideas or work out into the world, the Driver protects them/us from being stopped by barriers or dismissed as lightweight. Even in Zen meditation, we subtly engage the Driver pattern during every exhale, as something of our inner temple guardian to keep the mind clear.
This remarkable group took it further. The jiki – that is, the person who leads the meditation sessions – is also a Driver guardian, they noted, that pushes us to get serious, be here now, and put everything into our sitting. “There’s yet another role the temple guardian plays,” offered one of the participants, already a seasoned Zen practitioner. “Because it’s counter-productive, even dangerous to open stuff in ourselves until we’re ready to deal with it.” I’ve come to trust that the mind-body doesn’t open something up until it’s ready to deal with it. But the truth of his point hit home as my mind flashed to people who took mind-expanding, acid trips in the 60’s and were rarely able to integrate the experience and, at worst, were jumping off buildings thinking they could fly. “The fierceness of the guardian is supposed to give us pause at the gates of the temple,” he continued, “and we only enter if we’re ready to face whatever the training will put us through or pull out of us.” The fierceness is meant to either raise our own fierce determination or make us stay the hell out. For fierceness will be called for. As a Zen Master of old put it, “If you’re going to do battle with yourself, better go in armed to the teeth.”
So thank you, oh disagreeable Driver, for helping us be warriors when we need to be, great protectors of our work, our teams, families, companies and countries when we need to be, and great destroyers of delusion! -GW