Leading with the Enneagram

Person holding chart with enneagram symbol

Discover how the Enneagram can reveal your leadership qualities and growth opportunities

Lawyers and physicians often feel driven to take on work beyond normal client or patient loads. Many seek – or find themselves in – leadership positions. Society perpetuates the myth of the “born leader,” which implies that some “have what it takes” while others do not. This myth discourages many from pursuing leadership positions because they believe they lack the leadership qualities necessary to succeed. This is a shame, because it means that the rest of us miss out on what they have to offer.

You may desire to lead, but aren’t sure if you are capable. How can you build confidence in your leadership potential and take on more responsibilities? One effective approach is by learning your Enneagram type and the leadership qualities and challenges that come along with it. This requires drilling down into your thought- and decision-making patterns, behaviors and coping strategies. Doing so enables you to reshape the habits of mind currently creating roadblocks so that they better serve you and so that you can better serve others as a leader.

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a system that groups human personalities into nine patterns. Each pattern is associated with a number, though the numbers have no significance in terms of ranking. Titles are sometimes used to convey the archetypal patterns for each number. Of course, the fact that there are nine patterns does not mean that there are only nine types of people. Rather, individual personalities form through the interaction between a person’s dominant pattern and life experiences. Each Enneagram type is like a lens that colors and shapes (or distorts) how we view the world and relate to other people. Knowing your Enneagram type doesn’t offer simple explanations for your behavior, nor is it destiny. Rather, it offers insight into the underlying patterns that shape how you interact with those around you and why you behave as you do in certain situations. Perhaps most helpfully, the Enneagram also provides a framework for making needed changes and for personal growth.

Enneagram Types and Leadership Potential

Each of the Enneagram personality patterns have different innate leadership qualities and potential challenges. See if you recognize yourself in any of these descriptors.

Type 1: “The Perfectionist”*

Leadership qualities: Highly organized and driven. Focused on efficiency and correctness. Rational and self-disciplined. Looks for ways to improve procedures and maintain high standards.

Potential leadership challenges: Uncompromising expectations for self and others. Can be highly critical, judgmental and impatient. Tends toward workaholism and micromanagement.

Type 2: “The Giver”

Leadership qualities: Encouraging, supportive and appreciative of others. Humble and sincere. Effective at mentoring. Skilled at networking.

Potential leadership challenges: Can be a people-pleaser who stretches too thin trying to meet a group’s needs. Needs to feel needed. Can become over-involved and overbearing. May expect others to “repay” their giving.

Type 3: “The Achiever”

Leadership qualities: Ambitious and energetic. Goal-oriented and industrious. Persistent and effective. Attracts others through charisma. Often outstanding in their position.

Potential leadership challenges: Can be competitive and overly invested in “winning.” May focus on impressing others as an end in itself. May seek success “no matter the cost.” Inflated view of self, arrogant.

Type 4: “The Romantic”

Leadership qualities: Intuitive and sensitive. Individualistic and true to personal feelings. Able to focus on details that will result in the highest quality products or services. Creative and inspired.

Potential leadership challenges: May be overly sensitive to criticism. Can be temperamental, erratic and moody. May focus on personal needs over the needs of others. Creative abilities may devolve into creative impracticalities.

Type 5: “The Observer”

Leadership qualities: Observant, intelligent and curious. Inventive, open-minded, able to see problems in new ways. Visionary. Detail-oriented and technical. Able to master skills and knowledge.

Potential leadership challenges: Over-intellectualization and over-planning may delay action or conflict with time restraints. Can detach from the “bigger picture” due to preoccupation with ideas. Antagonistic toward people who contradict their expertise.

Type 6: “The Loyal Skeptic”

Leadership qualities: Loyal and trustworthy. Fosters strong relationships and cooperation. Committed to causes. Able to anticipate and troubleshoot problems and challenges. Seeks to create stability.

Potential leadership challenges: Can be risk-averse, overly cautious and suspicious. Discomfort with instability or a lack of control may create anxiety. Can be self-doubting and indecisive. May become defensive and divisive when their sense of security is threatened.

Type 7: “The Epicure”

Leadership qualities: Enthusiastic and upbeat. Multitalented and able to adapt well to new ideas and innovations. Able to create enthusiasm for projects and plans in others. Unafraid of change, seeks new possibilities.

Potential leadership challenges: Can become distracted and scattered, lacking follow-through. May take on too much to avoid boredom. Fickle, as enthusiasm often shifts to new interests.

Type 8: “The Protector”

Leadership qualities: Confident and resourceful. Decisive. Strong and protective, stands up for others. Attracts others through initiative and ability to take charge.

Potential leadership challenges: Can become combative and intimidating. Willful, “my way or the highway” thinking. Egocentric. Can be disrespectful of others who challenge or disagree.

Type 9: “The Mediator”

Leadership qualities: Good-natured and friendly. Able to ease tensions and support group harmony. Easygoing. Trusting of others. Able to work with anyone and allow others to stand out.

Potential leadership challenges: Conflict-averse. Tends to over-accommodate others at the expense of their own ideas and needs. Can be passive-aggressive and stubborn. May avoid problems by ignoring them, delaying action or becoming indifferent.

Though described separately above, each Enneagram type connects to the other eight. None of the predominant skills, or challenges, within a number is mutually exclusive. As we grow, we naturally adopt qualities of the other types. This means that a 7’s free-flowing creative tendencies are not inaccessible by a cautious and well-organized 6, and vice versa. So, all Enneagram types can develop the leadership qualities and skills that will make them effective, strong leaders.

You can lead.
Coaching helps you discover how.

Of course, one blog post won’t provide all the tools necessary to understand your Enneagram type and how it relates to leadership. You may not even recognize your type from the list above. Or, if you do, you may not know what to do next. Leadership coaching offers solutions.

Thalia’s coaches are skilled at using the Enneagram to help clients:

  • understand their desire to lead
  • find motivation to work toward a leadership position
  • challenge and release defeatist thought patterns and assumptions
  • cultivate leadership qualities
  • anticipate challenges they might face in a leadership role, based on their Enneagram type
  • learn how their Enneagram type may shape their interactions with individuals and teams
  • develop skills in their current position, and work more productively with clients, patients and colleagues

Our coaches are uniquely suited to offer flexible and responsive coaching and mentoring that can help you develop your innate leadership potential. The extensive experience and knowledge they gained during their long, successful careers (over 35 years in the legal field alone), in-depth coaching training and personal development work enables them to offer creative, insightful and compassionate support. They skillfully blend coaching strategies, tools, observations, feedback and teaching to support your unique needs. Most importantly, our coaches are committed to helping you reach your deepest understanding of self so that you can live and work in ways that serve both you and others.

We hope you are ready to learn more about your Enneagram type and what it can show you about your leadership qualities and potential. Take the next step and get in touch. Fill out our contact form, or call us at 204.470.6460, to arrange an initial consultation.

*The nine Enneagram pattern titles used in this post are from Dr. David Daniel’s The Essential Enneagram.