Article - Intermediate

Developing leadership for the 9 Enneagram Types

By Dirk Cloete | 6 April 2022 |
thumbnail every type can be a leader

Every Type can be a Leader

In a complex, multi-disciplinary world, we need the unique gifts of diverse leaders to safely navigate the future. In Part 1 of this article, we focused on how each Enneagram Type can be a great leader and highlighted their unique strengths.

However, when leaders are under stress, facing demanding workloads and pressure to make decisions, they may overuse their gifts to the point that they become an inhibitor or derail their effectiveness instead. This article aims to illustrate how each of the Enneagram Types can develop their blind spots and balance their leadership gifts in a way that brings out the very best of their personal style.

1 Enneagram 1 - Strict Perfectionist Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to create clarity, discipline, and structure for teams, they could be derailed by their black and white thinking. They will strive to achieve unattainable standards of perfection and could be afraid to be judged by others or make mistakes, which potentially stifles creativity and slows down progress. Type 1 leaders need to challenge themselves to be flexible, appreciate positive contributions to the team, and allow for efforts that deviate from the original plans.

Specific areas for development:
  • Focus on playing in the 'grey': Become more comfortable in the ambiguous, emergent spaces of the organisation.
  • Focus less on trying to make everything perfect.
  • Let go of wanting to have everything under control and being overly attentive to details.

2 Enneagram 2 - Considerate Helper Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to care about and support their team through both successes and challenges, they could be overly involved in the personal lives of their team. They may struggle to ask for help and would rather make themselves indispensable. They may try to please people in the organisation in order to be liked and appreciated. Type 2 leaders need to challenge themselves to embrace a broad context that expands beyond the needs of others and the immediate personal context.

Specific areas for development:
  • Balance taking care of others with taking care of yourself - acknowledge that you have needs and desires.
  • Balance dependence and autonomy in personal and professional relationships.
  • Work with your 'need to be needed' and find an internal basis for self-esteem, relying less on affirming reactions from others.

3 Enneagram 3 - Competitive Achiever Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to focus on achieving success and rewards the completion of tasks, people who work for Type 3 leaders often feel as though their sole purpose is to help the leaders become successful. Type 3 leaders will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals and, as a result, might struggle to function in highly bureaucratic environments. They blossom on the rewards for success, namely being admired and recognised. Type 3 leaders need to challenge themselves to be more attentive to others' contributions and c reate a space for their ideas to be incorporated, even if this is less 'efficient'.

Specific areas for development:
  • Embrace your inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences in order to become more real and authentic.
  • Appreciate yourself for who you are rather than for what you do.
  • Balance your driven-ness where you continuously try to make things happen with an approach that appreciates of the flow of events.

4 Enneagram 4 - Intense Creative Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to intrinsically motivate people, connecting them to a sense of purpose and meaning in their work, they are likely to be seen as temperamental, self-absorbed, and moody. As their identity is wrapped up in their work, they believe their work is a true expression of how they see themselves. They want work to be personal and meaningful and will avoid what they perceive to be ordinary or mundane work. Type 4 leaders need to challenge themselves to hold their own vision loosely and invite others to contribute their best efforts to create space for new possibilities to emerge.

Specific areas for development:
  • Focus on bringing in the voices of yourself and others to let solutions emerge.
  • Balance heart and mind by being aware of the objective reality.
  • Appreciate yourself for who you are rather than for what you do.

5 Enneagram 5 - Quiet Specialist Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to plan and allocate resources in a rational, strategic and efficient way, they could be somewhat detached in their style. Typically, Type 5 leaders surround themselves with only trusted advisors and tend to be quite private. People have observed their behaviour to sometimes be cold, impersonal, and intellectually arrogant; they could also appear intimidating. As they might feel somewhat insecure, this behaviour serves to keep people at a distance. Type 5 leaders need to challenge themselves to become more aware of the interpersonal dynamics in their team and step outside the role of being the 'strategist'.

Specific areas for development:
  • Be more open to sharing your thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences with others.
  • Focus on being less on the boundaries of events and more involved in interpersonal interactions.
  • Balance a 'detached' style with a more engaged approach to connect emotionally in real time.

6 Enneagram 6 - Loyal Sceptic Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to encourage and role model trust, cooperation, and collaboration, they can become suspicious and mistrustful of others' motivations when they are stressed. They might use fear tactics to mobilise their team and focus on 'what can go wrong'. Playing into their own insecurities, they might start showing off to impress people in meetings or cut themselves off. Type 6 leaders need to step forward in situations where they are unsure,as they have already built a good foundation where other people know and respect their capacity and capabilities.

Specific areas for development:
  • Build and trust your own authority, not relying on external factors or people to create meaning and certainty.
  • Be aware of 'always reading between the lines' and being mistrustful, noticing how this could potentially be projection.
  • Have confidence in your and others' ability to handle unexpected challenges.

7 Enneagram 7 - Enthusiastic Visionary Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to inspire, energise, and motivate people to do their best, they can become impatient, critical, and sharp when team members don't meet their standards or understand the big picture they have in mind. Type 7 leaders are often trusting of others with naive optimism that everything will somehow work out. They overlook the importance of having discussions to ensure that everyone is aligned to the task at hand, which can lead to misunderstandings later on in projects. Type 7 leaders need to sustain ideas and projects, both delegating and putting in legwork to see things through.

Specific areas for development:
  • Consistently display a real concern for others.
  • Balance pleasure and enthusiasm with more acceptance of pain and discomfort.
  • Temper a critical and sharp approach with being open to suggestions from others.

8 Enneagram 8 - Active Controller Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to stretch and challenge both themselves and others to deliver extraordinary results, they can be experienced as 'steamrollers' that are domineering, powerful, and intimidating when they don't agree with the direction set. Type 8 leaders easily disrespect people they perceive to be weak. They want to be in control and find it difficult to work for others. Type 8 leaders don't want their authority to be challenged - and they don't like surprises. Although they want to be kept informed, they don't like the detail. They might derail efforts by showing anger when they don't get their way. Type 8 leaders need to allow themselves to rest when they realise that they are expending too much effort and let others support them, too.

Specific areas for development:
  • Practice being more open about your weaknesses and areas where you feel vulnerable.
  • Balance your 'fiery', unilateral action approach with a more receptive and responsive one that invites input from others.
  • Allow others to also have autonomy and control.

9 Enneagram 9 - Adaptive Peacemaker Leader

Although this leader is gifted with the ability to stabilise the work environment and create alignment and coherence for their area, they have a propensity for avoiding decision making. They tend to be indecisive, afraid to offend, and thus distract themselves by focusing on smaller, unimportant matters. Type 9 leaders don't like highly competitive environments where they feel pressured. They react to these environments by becoming stubborn and disappearing. Type 9 leaders need to challenge themselves to take ownership and address conflict as it arises.

Specific areas for development:
  • Value your own opinion and offer your thoughts and preferences even if they are contrary to what others want or need.
  • Balance a passive approach with more activity and assertiveness.
  • Embrace conflict and appreciate the fact that working through conflict will bring people together.

Summing Up

The Enneagram empowers us with the knowledge of the core drivers of our behaviour as leaders. We have the ability to understand and make sense of our view of the world. The Enneagram offers us the tools to balance our unique gifts as leaders so that we can use them appropriately in various contexts. It teaches us to notice when we are accentuating our core strengths to a level that might hamper our effectiveness and provides guidance on how we could address this.

As leaders, we need to continuously be aware of our behaviour and how this might impact our teams. As you grow as a leader, focus on the following developing strategies to work specifically in identifying your over-used gifts and working towards developing yourself:

  • Be aware of your gifts and reflect on how they have been useful in the past.
  • Notice when you are not using your gifts in a balanced way and they are becoming weaknesses.
  • Be open to exploring alternative viewpoints.
  • Acknowledge your derailers and take steps to balance and guard against them.
  • Work with an accredited Enneagram coach to enable deeper exploration of your leadership.

Want to know your Enneagram Type? Get your iEQ9 Enneagram Test