World-renowned migraine pain and treatment expert, Dr. Sheena Aurora, shares her personal experiences of leadership growth using self-awareness of her dominant Enneagram dynamic—Enneagram Type 8. She shares how she uses this understanding to better lead her team.
Dr. Aurora makes great points about being a Type 8 leader. Type 8s have very strong intuition and often know exactly what to do. When working with teams, the intuitive Type 8s can already be many steps ahead of the group. As a leader, Dr. Aurora shares how she’s learned to take the time and carefully explain everything to her team in a logical way. She describes this technique as tapping into the Type 7 dynamic, which I thought was very insightful. Also, I appreciated her perspective as a woman leader, and the importance and challenges of accepting and embracing the Type 8 leadership style as a woman in leadership positions.
Matt : Thanks for joining me in conversation with leaders, who are using the Enneagram as a leadership tool, and a tool for personal growth and development. Today, I’ll be speaking with Dr. Sheena Aurora, a world-renowned expert in the treatment of migraine pain. She’s been using Enneagram as a leadership tool for over 10 years and shares insights into how she’s grown her leadership style based on her self-awareness of her Enneagram type. And now for the conversation.
I am delighted to be speaking today with Dr. Sheena Aurora. Dr. Aurora is a world-renowned expert in the field of neurology, with extensive experience in mechanisms for migraine related pain. Currently, she’s VP of medical affairs at Impel NeuroPharma, working towards migraine relief treatments. Sheena served in leadership roles in numerous organizations like Eli Lilly, Stanford University, Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle.
And in fact, Sheena was voted as one of the best doctors in Seattle Magazine’s, Seattle’s Best Doctors in both 2010 and 2011. So what at an amazing list of accomplishments? So Sheena is also a close family friend, and we’ve had many conversations about the Enneagram. And she’s used her knowledge of the system in the workplace, and I’m eager to learn how the Enneagram has served her as a leadership tool. So Sheena, thank you so much for joining me today.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Thank you, Matt. Always a pleasure, and thanks for all the inspiration. And I thank you every day when I’m using the tools to try and be a better leader.
Matt : That is fantastic. So I think that we did an Enneagram workshop together, probably the first time was at Stanford. So you’ve been using it for over 10 years now.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Yes. I think at Stanford it was more of an individual test, and I came to your workshop. Oh no. Actually, you did work with some of my colleagues there. That’s correct. That’s correct.
Matt : Right. Right.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Yes.
Matt : I remember we met with a group and we did a little thing, so that was really great.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: That’s correct.
Matt : Well, let me start by asking you this. As you were on your Enneagram journey, what did you discover about yourself that you really didn’t know or appreciate before?
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Thank you, Matt. So one is when I just looked at Enneagrams and was talking casually, I was labeled as a 3. And when I read about the 3, it sort of resonated. So I would encourage everyone who is really interested in this. As a neuroscientist, I’m also interested in the Enneagram because it makes more scientific intuitive sense compared to some of the other personality tools, et cetera, that it is.
I think it’s a wonderful framework. And I’m a huge fan of your book, and I try and use that on almost on a daily basis. So once I did the test and did a couple of workshops, I realized that I was an 8. And I think that just like other tools, I think that this gave me more of an insight to who I was naturally as a person. And perhaps some of the qualities of an 8, which I think everybody has some aspects in their Enneagram that works for them as a leader and some perhaps that they need to work on, which intuitively doesn’t come together and it’s certainly I’ve had a journey where as a physician and then in practice, I’ve been an individual contributor. And then when you take on leadership roles, you realize that those principles that make an 8 so strong as an individual contributor does not make you a good leader or a leader that I want to be.
So my leadership style is almost more of a servant leadership where I wanna remove obstacles. So for that, I had to adjust what was intuitive to me.
Matt : Oh, that is so interesting. So you’re using the word intuitive, cause that’s your go-to style being in the intuitive center of the 8. And then just realizing that that doesn’t always work as a leader and that sometimes you have to bring more of the thinking part of it into it. And I’ve heard this from other 8 leaders as well like, you already know what to do, but you have to explain it to everybody else in order to get them to come along. So that’s where that 7 energy comes in, right?
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Right.
Matt : Because 7s are really good at explaining things. Oh, that is fantastic insight. Thank you. So now, how are you using the Enneagram in the workplace in terms of working with your team?
Dr. Sheena Aurora: So I think as an 8, like you so correctly pointed out, I have the intuition, I have the strategy piece. I’m a big person … The big idea person, but implementation or how to distill it down is not my strong suit. And sometimes I have to be reminded. And what I’ve made my team aware is I wanna be a better leader. These are the principles that I wanna operate on. Are these the principles that you believe that I should operate on?
So first, I get a buy-in and then I say to them, “Please help me get that,” because I’m okay to be reminded that not everybody’s on the same page as me. I remember when I was a lot younger and I didn’t know that, I would give people the headline, and all the thinking that had gone behind me bringing that to fruition, to me it was just not important.
But I do realize that now it’s not only important to get somewhere, but how you got there and how to bring everybody along, it works a lot better. Now, I can’t promise I do it every time, but I do try.
Matt : Right. Right. Right. And I love how you’ve brought your whole team into the conversation and established that baseline for how to work together and then reminding people that you want to be held to a standard. And it’s okay for people to remind you that, “Hey, we’re living to this standards.” What a great conversation to have with your team. That’s fantastic.
So now having used the Enneagram for a while and reflecting on it, what advice would you give to other leaders of your same Enneagram type, Enneagram type 8?
Dr. Sheena Aurora: So I think that one is realize that you’re an 8 and embrace it. I think in my whole life, I’ve tried to get away from being an 8, but I think you embrace it. You realize the qualities that you intuitively have, and you try and … And although I do believe in honing on strengths, I also realized that sometimes when things that make your strengths not appear as strengths.
So for example, my sense of humor is a bit sarcastic and that doesn’t always bode well, particularly with my teenage children. And I would say that even as part of being a team leader, sarcasm is not embraced by all. So I would say use it to your advantage when you’re trying to give the cliff note version to someone, or when you’re talking to another 8, then it’s fine to use.
So I think doing workshops and doing team building events … I think what I love about the Enneagram so much is that it’s helped me figure out who I am. And having figured out who I am makes me a better leader.
Matt : Well, that’s so well said and that’s so interesting how you point out that when you’re with other people of your type, it’s just so easy. Things just click, but not everybody is your same type, and other people have different perspectives and different sensitivities. And you are learning to essentially modulate some of your type A behaviors … Oh excuse me, type 8 behaviors when you are with other types.
And another thing that you brought up too, I think, which is really important that especially for women in leadership roles, oftentimes it is more challenging and there’s a lot of societal pressure that you mentioned. It’s like, I don’t want to be a type 8, but you are a type 8 and you should be allowed to be a type 8 and be the leader who you are.
And I think, like you said, just embrace it and then understand it and move forward with it. And that’s such great advice, Sheena. So thank you so much. Did you have a final thought you wanted to share?
Dr. Sheena Aurora: I just wanted to share that when you said other women, I now know a young woman who’s in her mid 20s who is in marketing. So I just asked her. I said, “What do you guys do these days for team building, just to know about your team?”. And she said, oh we do the Enneagram. I said, oh, I love the Enneagram. And so she looks at me very, and she says, what type are you? And I said, I’m an 8. And she says, I’m an 8 too. But I don’t like to say I’m an 8. And I said, Jess, embrace it because you’ve got such strong on skills, but I, I get that mad. I mean, I look at my daughter and she’s 14 and I don’t know what type she is we have to wait to what she evolves, but it’s confusing for women.
Like, do you lean in, do you not lean in, lean in doesn’t seem to be working? And I think that’s, that’s a personal struggle that all type 8 women go through because intuitively that’s our nature. We are big picture, big ideas, big strategists, we are the visionaries, we get it, we can gel things together and we want to go at a million miles an hour and we just want people to remove get out of our way and just let us go. And, and I think that that becomes really, really challenging. And so if you think of other ideas, I would love to know them. I am trying to put together my particular field is migraine or headache. I want to put some networking for women together to see how do we bring others along in this framework.
Matt : Right. That’s, that’s so great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your, your thoughts and your insights with us today. Sheena I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our conversations and working with you on this and how much you’ve embraced it. And I hope that you’ll come back and share more insights in the future.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Absolutely Matt, it’s a pleasure and you’ve helped me so much. So it’s the feelings of mutual. Thanks.
Matt : All right. Thank you so much. Bye now.
Dr. Sheena Aurora: Bye.
Matt : Thanks for watching. Sheena made so many great points about being a type 8 leader, type 8s have very strong intuition and often know exactly what to do. The problem is when working with teams, they might not be on same page. And Sheena describes that she’s learned to take the time and carefully explain everything to her team in a logical way. And she describes that as tapping into the type 7 dynamic, which I thought was very insightful. And then I also appreciated perspective as a woman leader and the importance and challenges of accepting and embracing being a type 8 leader in a organizational situation. So if you found this helpful, please click on the thumbs up button, subscribe to the channel and get notifications of future episodes. And if you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section and I’ll get to them as soon as possible. Thanks again.