Enneagram for Business Leaders: How to Be a Better Boss

Enneagram Boss

What Is the Enneagram?

In this day of self-awareness, more and more business leaders are seeing the value of helping their teams get more insight on how they are “wired.” The Enneagram has been a very helpful tool in doing so. 

What is the Enneagram? Well, let’s start with what it isn’t: It isn’t just another personality test. Personality tests help you determine how you receive, process, and act on information. The Enneagram is different. It’s a is a map for self-discovery and personal growth based on nine basic personality types. 

The Enneagram’s uniqueness lies in helping us understand why we do what we do. It helps us understand our core motivations, which then gives us deeper insight into why we think, feel and act in certain ways.

Benefits of the Enneagram in the Workplace

Understanding your Enneagram in a workplace setting can have multiple benefits, such reducing work related stress, building team cohesiveness, and improving overall efficiency. Companies and teams are made up of people. People all think, feel, and act. Knowing why a person thinks, feels, and acts the way they do can be a strategic advantage into building a more effective team. 

For example, one company hired me to work with their entire marketing management team. We used the Enneagram to help them identify how they responded in stress, how they managed conflict, and how to identify their deep core motivation. These and other traits were explored and discussed among the team. The result? Their team has been repeatedly identified as the most effective team in the organization. 

How to Figure Out Your Enneagram as a Business Leader

As mentioned earlier, the Enneagram is divided into nine types. Each type has a name that summarizes its main motivation. The types are:

  1. Type One: The Perfectionist
  2. Type Two: The Helper
  3. Type Three: The Achiever
  4. Type Four: The Romantic
  5. Type Five: The Investigator
  6. Type Six: The Loyalist
  7. Type Seven: The Enthusiast
  8. Type Eight: The Challenger
  9. Type Nine: The Peacemaker

Each leader fits into one of the nine types. We’ll describe each one in more detail below. 

The best way to determine your type is to secure the help of an Enneagram expert. An initial assessment often serves as a starting point. From there, a coaching or “typing” conversation with an experienced Enneagram expert will provide deeper insights and understanding as you find your Enneagram type. Uncovering areas such as motivation, fears, desires, etc., come to the surface via conversation. 

How to Be a Better Boss Based on the Enneagram

Once you know your Enneagram type, you can begin to use the information to become a better leader. I don’t have the space to address all aspects of leadership for each type in this post. Nevertheless, let me offer you some thoughts (with some help from Ginger Lapid-Bogda and Ian Morgan Cron) on how each type can improve their leadership. 

Type One: The Perfectionist

More than anything, Enneagram Ones want to do good, be seen as good, and help those around them become good. As a result, they are usually driven to by ethics, and making sure that, whatever they do, it’s “perfect.” They often seek to avoid fault or blame. 

Enneagram One as a Leader

  • Strengths: Ones tend to accurate and objective. They are a great resource for decision making, simply because they are looking to do the right thing. 
  • Weaknesses: Because of their strong moral compass, Enneagram Ones can become easily irritated by choices they view as unethical or unwise. They can become judgemental and critical of others. 
  • Communication style: Ones are clear communicators committed to life-long learning and self-improvement. However, they can easily become overly critical, impatient, and direct.
  • Enneagram Type One leadership advice: Be more open to alternative points of view, particularly when you disagree with someone. Take time every once in a while to see where “perfect” is getting in the way of “right.” 

Type Two: The Helper

Enneagram Twos are called “The Helper” for a reason: They are “others focused” and spend much of their time meeting the needs of others. Their core motivation is to be loved and needed. As a result, they often ignore their own needs. 

Enneagram Two as a Leader

  • Strengths: Twos are all about the relationship. They lead by listening, then responding in practical ways to the needs of others. Two leaders are great at people development. 
  • Weaknesses: When tired or drained, they can become too assertive, even angry. 
  • Communication style: Twos are great listeners. They display a high level of empathy. They are advice givers and truth tellers. However, conflict and radical candor can be a struggle. 
  • Enneagram Type Two leadership advice: Always remember that you can’t take care of others if you yourself are not cared for as well. Self-care will make you better for those you lead. 

Type Three: The Achiever

Sometimes called “The Performer,” Threes are motivated by being or appearing successful. They are great at sizing up their audience and giving them it what they need so they can get the “applause.” They are high octane doers.

Enneagram Three as a Leader

  • Strengths: Teams like to follow Threes due to the clarity and confidence they provide. Because they remove emotion from the equation, they are clear and direct. 
  • Weaknesses: Threes are often described as bad listeners. Long discussion or emotional conversations will raise their ire. 
  • Communication style: Practical is the key word here. They prefer results orientation, clear examples, and “get to the point” conversations. Threes will display impatience when they feel others around them “don’t get it.” 
  • Enneagram Type Three leadership advice: Work hard to allow feelings and emotion to come into conversation. Seek to understand the difference between failing and being a failure. 

Type Four: The Romantic

Fours are the “deep” ones. They often show a somber, sensitive side and want more than anything else to be understood for their uniqueness. 

Enneagram Four as a Leader

  • Strengths: Fours possess a strong ability to be in touch with feelings, both theirs and of those around them. When allowed, they are not afraid to explore their emotional side. 
  • Weaknesses: Fours can be moody, melancholic, and withdrawing, focusing on their inner world instead of those around them. 
  • Communication style: Fours have the ability to understand the “thing beneath the thing”, the deep meaning under what’s on the surface. However, sometimes there is an over emphasis on feelings at the expense of practicality. 
  • Enneagram Type Four leadership advice: Remember, the best leadership starts with others (it’s not about you). Focus on “them” first. 

Type Five: The Investigator

Fives are motivated by obtaining knowledge so they can be competent and not rely on others. They tend to have a “reservoir” of energy that is limited, so they will often appear begrudging as they seek to manage their inner resources effectively. 

Enneagram Five as a Leader

  • Strengths: Fives are logical, observant, and always seeking to learn and absorb. 
  • Weaknesses: Fives can come across as closed off. They really don’t like to share feelings or personal details. 
  • Communication style: Fives tend to prefer bullet points vs. detail. They are very process-oriented and systematic. They can come across as detached, and focus more on the task at hand than those around them.
  • Enneagram Type Five leadership advice: Be okay with being open and vulnerable about feelings. Take small “breaks” throughout the day to recharge and process.

Type Six: The Loyalist

Sixes are dedicated to relationships and processes. They are worst-case scenario thinkers who are motivated by creating safety and security for themselves and those around them. 

Enneagram Six as a Leader

  • Strengths: Sixes are healthy skeptics with a great sense of wit. They are unafraid of questioning so that the best course of action can be understood.
  • Weaknesses: Sixes are big-time “reactors”. They can be contrarian, skeptical, and not trusting. They often angrily react (due to fear) instead of responding with intention. 
  • Communication style: Sixes will often follow a “plan the work, then work the plan” pattern. They sometimes focus more on avoiding catastrophe then moving, building, and growing. 
  • Enneagram Type Six leadership advice: Stop regularly and ask, “What is the truth?” about the current situation. Work on responding, not reacting. 

Type Seven: The Enthusiast 

Sevens are the Fun Bobby of the Enneagram. They are constantly scanning the horizon for the “next fun thing.” Their core motivation is to avoid pain and discomfort.

Enneagram Seven as a Leader

  • Strengths: Carefree and light-hearted, Sevens tend to move fast. They often take a “glass half full” posture. 
  • Weaknesses: Sevens are often guilty of not taking things seriously enough and may suffer from “Squirrel!” syndrome (easily distracted). 
  • Communication style: Sevens are well known for their endless energy and enthusiasm. Future-oriented, Sevens can lack focus and attention and be overly talkative. 
  • Enneagram Type Seven leadership advice: Be aware of the tendency to reframe the bad into good prematurely. Jump into conflict, and let it run its course when appropriate. 

Type Eight: The Challenger 

Eights tend to be argumentative and confrontational. They are driven by a fear of appearing weak or vulnerable. They are “charge ahead” personalities. 

Enneagram Eight as a Leader

  • Strengths: Eights are straight to the point. They command authority, and they don’t waste time getting things done. 
  • Weaknesses: Eights can be dictatorial and demanding. They’re often guilty of plowing through others in order to accomplish tasks and initiatives. 
  • Communication style: Eights are clear, direct, and honest. They quickly identify the issues, and move discussion to resolution. However, they can be too direct, missing the emotional or non-verbal cues. 
  • Enneagram Type Eight leadership advice: Practice vulnerability, and understand that it’s okay to admit emotions such as sadness, fear, or uncertainty.

Type Nine: The Peacemaker 

Nines are relaxed and nonchalant. They tend to be accommodating because they are driven by a desire to keep both internal and external peace. They are the avoiders of conflict. 

Enneagram Nine as a Leader

  • Strengths: Nines are good at affirming others, even those they disagree with. They have a unique ability to see and appreciate all sides. 
  • Weaknesses: Nines will hold back their own thoughts and opinions, often because they question their own value. 
  • Communication style: Nines are very approachable and nonjudgmental. They will listen to all perspectives without judgment. However, they may be slow to pursue and develop relationships, and will often hold back their ideas.
  • Enneagram Type Nine leadership advice: Work to develop confidence in your own input and presence. Understand that confidence is not arrogance, and your ideas have value. 

Find Out Your Enneagram

If you’d like to find out your Enneagram type or the type of your team, I’d love to provide some guidance on how to go about doing so. Much of my executive coaching includes the Enneagram, so feel free to contact me and set up a time to chat.