If you’ve opened any of your social media accounts in the last few years, you’ve almost certainly come across plenty of Enneagram content.
The Enneagram functions as a kind of map of the human psyche. A system consisting of nine personality types, it provides a deeper understanding of human behavior that can be segmented and sub-segmented by the assigned “Types.”
A healthy fraction of the people reading this are already one hundred percent in-tune with their Enneagram assessment. You know your dominant number and your wing and you’re probably following no less than 4 Enneagram-based meme accounts on social media. You know that Karen is such a 7 and that Carl is a 4 and that’s why he’s so moody.
For the uninitiated or the curious, you can take the official Enneagram Institute test here (for $12) or there is a free version online here. Take a minute to figure out where you land and then rejoin us.
Those of you who have already spent some time digging into the Enneagram already know that it can be a useful tool in mapping and dissecting how we both view the world in which we live and how we interact with those around us. Today we’ll spend some time painting in broad strokes what insight your enneagram might be able to offer in the ways in which you lead your team.
Enneagram types and descriptions come from the Enneagram Institute. More detailed descriptions and helpful suggestions can be found on their site.
The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic
Does this sound familiar? “If you want something done well, you have to do it yourself.” Type 1s can have a hard time entrusting important tasks to team members, leading them to overextend themselves and set themselves on a course for burnout. Try and be more intentional about training key members of your team to take some of the burden from you, allowing them to grow into their own roles and you to focus on more high-level tasks.
The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive
A Type 2 leader can get into the habit of wanting or needing to be viewed as helpful and friendly. This can interfere with the inevitable need to put their foot down when the situation calls for it. While it’s true that most value a beneficent leader, Type 2 leaders should focus on allowing their priorities to rank evenly with those around them.
The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious
A leader who fits into the Type 3 Enneagram is likely the highest performer on the team. For this person, achievement feels like a currency, and thus they tend to stack as much of it up as possible.The tendency for this type to overachieve can often mean success at the expense of their mental health and key personal relationships. It may help to focus on leading from a symbolic or motivational place, continuing to benefit the team, but allowing more space in your life to take care of yourself.
The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental
Those that identify as a Type 4 on the Enneagram generally grapple with the feeling that they don’t fit in with the group. The assumption that they are somehow outcast leads this type to compensate by leaning into their unique creative qualities. The notion of being apart can lead some breakdowns in team communications, so a good exercise for this type is to try and intentionally step outside of your own story and into that of your team or organization. Remember your team needs your creativity.
The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, and Isolated
Leaders that identify as Type 5 are very often the smartest person in the room. To the outside observer, Type 5 leaders can appear aloof or detached. As a team leader, a Type 5 is generally an expert in their field and build their confidence based around this expertise. Some Type 5s have a buried fear of inadequacy - use your strength to boost your team and you can be the rising tide that lifts all your boats.
The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, and Suspicious
Having a Type 6 as a leader means that there is a plan for everything. Being security-oriented leads them to developing strategies for anything that could go wrong. Unfortunately, this need for security often stems from a feeling that they aren’t supported. Generally this is a lack of trust rather than a proven hypothesis. Recognizing this in oneself is important for a leader that identifies as this type to be able to manage their team from a place of trust.
The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered
At their best, the Type 7 leader is a focused, ideas-based manager. At their worst, they are scatterbrained and lack the focus to realize the entirety of their ideas, brilliant though they may be. Some work to focus on a deeper execution of your ideas can take this leader from scattershot to deadeye.
The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational
Every team member needs different levels of it in order to be effective, but it’s generally true that team growth does not happen absent of challenge. A Type 8 leader at their best gives appropriate challenge but remembers that challenge is not an effective tool without an equal level of support. Unchecked, a Type 8 leader can be seen as a bully. This type should focus on strengthening their support side as well.
The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, and Complacent
For a Type 9 leader, the default can often be to gloss over bumps in the organization without acknowledging their existence or how they can be fixed. They can also be agreeable to the point of withdrawing from any actual input with their team. This can be frustrating as a leader needs to be able to establish a firm position from time to time in order to be effective. A Type 9 leader can be incredibly effective because of their innate knack to bind a team together, they just need to be confident and established in their beliefs.
Obviously these rules and types are not set in stone, but identifying where your personality sits on the Enneagram scale and recognizing the biases and predispositions they can point out is helpful in optimizing your leadership style - both for your growth, and the growth of your team.