What your Enneagram type may say about your leadership style

What your Enneagram type may say about your leadership style
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As leaders in our respective fields, we welcome any opportunity to gain invaluable insight into our skills, habits, and personality types. When we have a better understanding of how and why we operate, as a result of either nature or nurture, we can then make improvements to better ourselves and the interpersonal relationships necessary to enhance our personal brands and businesses.

Myers-Briggs is, arguably, the most widely recognized tool in identifying how one perceives the world and interacts with the people around them, though most recent attention has been placed on Enneagrams: nine unique ways that explain how and/or why a person may think, feel, or act in practically any situation.

To explain Enneagrams in further detail and shed light on what your specific type may say about your overall leadership style, we chatted with Michael Norton, co-director and teacher at The Enneagram Group, to lend his expertise and break down what it all means.

What is an Enneagram personality type?

“The Enneagram is a tool that identifies nine different ways of seeing and being in the world,” explains Norton. It can be used to illustrate how people may respond to social situations, romantic relationships, and, perhaps the most helpful since it takes up most of our day, work projects.

These are the nine Enneagrams by number and nickname. Keep in mind that no personality is better or worse than the other and you can identify yours by taking a short quiz (which is also available on The Enneagram Group’s website).

  • Type One: The Reformer
  • Type Two: The Helper
  • Type Three: The Achiever
  • Type Four: The Individualist
  • Type Five: The Observer
  • Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic
  • Type Seven: The Enthusiast
  • Type Eight: The Challenger
  • Type Nine: The Peacemaker
enneagram types

Why Enneagrams are helpful for leaders, their teams, and the workplace

“As a leader, we choose to put our attention and focus on certain areas of our work, and to ignore or override information from others,” says Norton. “The Enneagram helps not only to recognize our strengths as a leader, but also how our worldview might be limiting our success.”

“In this way, the Enneagram is not only a map that points to our default patterns, but also offers ways to expand our limiting patterns and see reality more clearly,” he adds.

By going out of your way to understand and interpret your innate and learned behaviors, you’re already taking the first step to better yourself and deepen your sense of self-awareness.

“The tools we’ve developed with the Enneagram help people understand not only why others behave the way they do, but also how to work with others to find a solution,” argues Norton, claiming that these identifiable personality types can help to answer seemingly complex questions like “why does my boss act this way?”

“All workplaces have default operating systems that, intentionally or not, inform feedback, strategy and mission. In our experience, most of these operating systems are developed unconsciously and quickly become the water we swim in. Like a fish, a team feels disempowered to change it because they can’t see it,” stresses Norton. “When the teams we work with start to incorporate The Enneagram into their workplace, communication becomes more efficient and productive because the operating system becomes clear. Missions align and strategy is enhanced as the team starts to understand each individual’s unique skill set and focus.”

In fact, once you’ve developed a general grasp on how coworkers, clients, and direct reports see and experience the world, you can then interact with them in a way that is not only productive, but motivating.

“Less time is wasted on drama and miscommunication.”

enneagram personality

Enneagram leadership styles and how to improve them

After proactively figuring out your Enneagram personality type, your next step is to actually take a step back and be open to feedback and constructive criticism.

We tapped Norton to provide a detailed explanation of each type’s typical leadership style, as well as a “growth edge,” which is an opportunity for leaders to challenge their norm, learn from potentially negative habits, and grow into a better version of themselves.

Type One: The Reformer

Leadership style: “Reformers focus their attention on what’s right and wrong, so as leaders they’re great at determining the right course of action and leading a team with integrity. This focus on doing the right thing can also create hardship for the One, as they might hold themselves and others to incredibly high standards and be perceived as judgemental by their team.”

Growth edge: “Notice how many ‘shoulds’ navigate your leadership style and find more time to communicate what you really want with your team.”

Type Two: The Helper

Leadership style: “Helpers focus their attention on the needs of others, so as leaders they’re fantastic at working hard to make their team feel cared for. They are great at the ‘people’ aspect of work. This focus on other’s needs can create dynamics at work where a Two leader will work really hard to avoid saying no or disappointing their team. They might fall into the trap of believing it’s easier to do it themselves than upset another team member.”

Growth edge: “Pay more attention to your own needs and ask your team directly to get those needs met. You should regularly check in with your team members on who is responsible for what, and notice your impulse to take on more than your [fair] share.”

Type Three: The Achiever

Leadership style: “Achievers focus their attention on tasks and getting things done, so as leaders they have a gift for motivating others and driving a project to the finish line. However, this focus on getting things done points to an underlying belief that their value comes from doing and achieving. Threes can struggle with slowing down, finding work/life balance, and recognizing when something has failed.”

Growth edge: “Notice how you might have a habit of exaggeration or ‘softening of the truth’ and can go blind to failure. You should recognize that admitting failure and expressing your frustration or fear builds morale and can actually build confidence in yourself as a leader.”


Type Four: The Individualist

Leadership style: “Individualists focus their attention on what’s missing in themselves, others, or the world, so as leaders they’re fantastic at noticing areas for improvement and finding innovative, creative solutions for them. The challenge of this focus is that Four leaders can have a hard time feeling complete or satisfied, both with themselves and with their team. This dissatisfaction can create psychological and emotional strain on a team because of their over-focus on problems and difficulties.”

Growth edge: “Focus on what is already present as positive and notice how your focus on what’s missing and wrong creates emotional reactivity and suffering for yourself and those around you.”

Type Five: The Observer

Leadership style: “Observers focus their attention on intrusion and what others might expect of them. They are often more comfortable with data and facts than people. This makes Fives more of a ‘thought leader’ than other types. They often exhibit a unique capacity to gather data and information on their own and are excellent at remaining objective and rational in a crisis. The challenge of this focus of attention is a pattern of isolation and detachment as the Five attempts to conserve energy.”

Growth edge: “Recognize how your instinct to withdraw and withhold actually invites more intrusion. Practice being more forthright and stay present which is, in the long run, a path to more energy and freedom.”

Type Six: The Loyal Skeptic

Leadership style: “Loyal skeptics focus their attention on potential problems and hazards. As leaders, they’re fantastic at thinking through what could go wrong and being prepared. Loyalty and predictability are really important for this type, so their leadership tends to be reliable, measured,and cautious. The difficulty for Six leaders is learning to trust. Because of a focus on what could go wrong, they rarely consider what could go right and can be seen as pessimistic or overly skeptical to team members.”

Growth edge: “Recognize how much of your strategy is led by fear. Start to take action and lean into a bit more risk before you’re fully prepared.”

enneagram at work

Type Seven: The Enthusiast

Leadership style: “Enthusiasts focus their attention on pleasant options and possibilities. As leaders, they’re optimistic visionaries who can see connections and innovations that others can’t. The leadership challenge for a Seven is following through on their vision and not having too many balls in the air. Sevens are often very excited and engaged at the beginning of a project, but when it becomes difficult or frustrating, they often get distracted by something more exciting and new. Over time, this can create confusion on a team as to where they should be placing their energy and focus.”

Growth edge: “Slow down and focus on one task at a time. Sevens need to work on making and keeping their commitments, even if it starts to become uncomfortable or difficult.”

Type Eight: The Challenger

Leadership style: “Challengers focus their attention on fairness, truth, and empowerment. As leaders, they are strong and direct, and are great at inspiring a team to take action and have an impact. However, as leaders, Eights have a tendency to become controlling and unintentionally disempower the people around them. They are driven to be strong and protect their team from a world they perceive as tough, but this often causes them to overlook the value in everyone’s vulnerability, including their own.”

Growth edge: “Recognize that vulnerability is a strength in leadership. Let your team see your weakness, which can create more empowerment for everyone.”

Type Nine: The Peacemaker

Leadership style: “Peacemakers focus their attention on other people’s agendas. As leaders, they are great at supporting others on their team and have a unique strength of ‘leading from behind’ by listening to everyone’s position and synthesizing a solution. The challenge for Nine leaders is focusing on what’s important to them rather than on what’s important to others. Overly focusing on harmony often means creating consensus at the expense of their own agenda.”

Growth edge: “Take a personal position on an issue, regardless of what the group wants. Establish (and then adhere to) your own priorities and communicate them clearly to your team.”

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