The Highlands Company Blog

The Surprising Three Levels of Hardwiring

Marc A. Pitman, CFCC, is a Highlands Certified Consultant and the founder of Concord Leadership Group (CLG). At CLG, they believe that great leaders aren’t made by trying to fit individuals into a specific mold. Leaders can have very different styles and be equally effective within their industries or disciplines. The key is for the leader to understand his or her hardwiring, identity, and goals. These three components constitute the Quadrant 3 Leadership™ approach.

The following article by Pitman (originally published on the CLG blog) provides a closer look at the “Hardwiring” circle, which begins with the Highlands Ability Battery.

While we start Quadrant 3 Leadership coaching wherever the client is, a common place to start is with the “Hardwiring” circle. As a leader, you’ve likely heard a lot about “hardwiring.” I believe it is one of the most misunderstood parts of leadership. Too often, hardwiring assessments result in labeling ourselves and others and then use them as an excuse. “Oh, I can’t possibly do [fill in the blank]. I’m not wired that way.” Or as a form of self-sabotage, “I probably can’t lead; leaders must really be born.”

But hardwiring is crucial for leaders to explore. Understanding your hardwiring helps you discover your unique gift to the world. It helps you reduce stress by letting you know what stresses you. And giving you clues as to why.

If you’ve been exposed to hardwiring before, you’ve likely used only one type of the three we look at in Quadrant 3. Some of the most famous assessments like the DISC assessment are behavior based. These are good but there are actually three types we look at in Quadrant 3. The three types of hardwiring we look at are:

  1. abilities
  2. behaviors, and
  3. motivations.

Each of these types has assessments related to them. Assessments are typically limited. Very few are even scientifically verified. But using assessments can help provide new perspectives and common language for expressing insights. Assessments should never be used to box people in. Or to tell them what they can and can’t do. Worse, used irresponsibly, they can become weapons used to inflict pain on peers and subordinates. But used correctly, assessments can be incredibly helpful. We are complex and wonderfully made. Assessments should help us grow in compassion to others by showing us how different people communicate, think, and process information.


Abilities are what comes naturally to you. What you can do quickly. Some find the Kolbe assessment to be a helpful form of ability hardwiring. Here at The Concord Leadership Group, we use the Highlands Ability Battery. This assessment tests you in nineteen separate areas, recording how you actually perform on tasks under time pressure. This pulls out all sorts of helpful information about who you process data, how you learn, and why you may be experiencing stress at your work.

Behaviors are like the DISC assessment. We use the assessment from Extended DISC. Not only is this one consistently verified scientifically. But it is also offered in cultures all over the world. This means it’s not just a majority culture, North American thing. The Gallup StrengthsFinder may also be a behavior oriented hardwiring assessment. Behavior hardwiring is great because you can actually see it. You can observe how others behave.

Motivations are typically missed by most leadership processes. While we can see how others behave, we don’t know why they do them. One tool that can give us some indication on motivations is an old framework called the Enneagram. While not scientifically rigorous, this can be startlingly clear in shining light on the “story” each of us live in. There are 9 types and each can be great leaders. Knowing these can be like being handed a decoder ring, helping you much more effectively speak their dialect. The Enneagram is best learned from people who have walked with it for decades and from your own reading. Most assessments are nothing more than “entertainment.” If you must use an assessment, the Enneagram Institute is helpful. But it should only be used to narrow down your possible types. I’ve found the best writing and speaking on the Enneagram is currently from Suzanne Stabile and Barbara Chestnut.


We often slip into thinking that everyone else thinks like we do. Or should. Exploring these three areas of hardwiring helps you better communicate and build influence with others. More importantly, it helps you stop trying to force yourself into someone else’s definition of leadership. You get to define leadership on your own terms. And to be able to explain why you’re measuring success as you are.

Concord Leadership Group founder Marc A. Pitman has been leading organizations and teams for decades. His failures and successes have caused him to study leadership for over 30 years, including earning a Masters in Organizational Leadership and certification as a FranklinCovey Coach. Combining his ongoing education with his own experience, Marc helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. He’s the author of Ask Without Fear!® – which has been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish, and Mandarin. He’s also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank.

The Concord Leadership Group LLC helps nonprofit leaders around the world navigate the competing demands of leading in the 21st century. Leaders grow in their personal ability to lead and organizations grow in their ability to retain staff and grow fundraising.

Marc A. Pitman, CFCC 
The Concord Leadership Group, & The Nonprofit Academy | @marcapitman