There are many different systems used to define personality types. Myers-Briggs, DISC, Love Languages, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram – just to name a few.
At a few of the companies I’ve worked for, we’ve had consultants come in and help us figure out our types and how that impacts the way we work and how to work with the people around us. I’ve done Myers-Briggs and DISC and they both do help tremendously. It’s just like a diet – all diets work, the key is you have to stick with it and commit, which is where many of us fail. Then I heard about the Enneagram and I think it’s my favorite. One of the differences is that is really gives you an idea of your darker side, the part that needs work, that you need to watch out for.
What is the Enneagram? The Enneagram is an ancient personality-typing system that teaches there are nine basic personality styles in the world. Each of those types has an unconscious motivation that powerfully influences how that type acts, thinks and feels every day at any given time.
Once you know your Enneagram number and understand what it means, you can use that information to be a better leader, a better person, a better business partner… You can also use it to understand parts of your personality that you should be aware of to work better with others.
The Enneagram can teach you what makes people tick. The Enneagram shows that what is best about you is also what is worst about you; and what is worst about you is also what is best about you.
A group of researchers at Cornell University did a study of high-performing CEO’s to find out what made them successful. The answer? The key predictor of success among leaders is self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to observe, monitor, and regulate the way you act, think and feel. How is your personality functioning? How is it affecting other people? How is it affecting your decision making?
To figure out your Enneagram type, we recommend going to
In my experience, the paid type indicator tests are the most accurate. The free ones are good too; but use them as a comparison.
OK, so let’s break down each of the 9 types. We will keep this very high-level but I encourage you to take a deep dive into the Enneagram once you know your type and the types of the people around you.
Ones. The ones are the improvers. The perfectionists. The unconscious motivation of the one is a need to perfect themselves and others in the world. They have a desire to be very good people because they believe the world punishes people who are bad and rewards people who are virtuous.
Twos. The twos are the helpers. They are warm, supportive, generous, servant hearted. Their unconscious motivation is really to be liked. They want to be appreciated. They are also the most interpersonal number on the Enneagram. But, when they aren’t doing great, they can use helping and meeting the needs of others as a calculated way to win the appreciation and approval of others. The word spite comes to mind.
Threes. The threes are the performers. Everyone thinks all entrepreneurs are threes; and many are. They are productivity oriented, goal oriented, driven, ambitious, competitive. Lots of people think they are threes because sometimes it seems as if that’s the best one to be. Nobody gets more done than a three. To-do lists on top of to-do lists. The unconscious motivation of the three is a need to succeed, to appear successful, and to avoid failure at all costs. Threes believe that the world only values people for what they do and accomplish versus who they are inside.
Fours. Fours are incredibly creative, imaginative. You will find them in careers where aesthetics are emphasized – graphic designers, decorators… Their dark side is they can be melancholy, self-absorbed, complicated. They are the most complicated number on the Enneagram. They are motivated by a need to be special and unique because the four has the belief that there is something wrong with them at their core but they don’t know what it is. They feel like it’s all their fault. It seems to them that everybody else seems to have the missing piece they most want. They have this need to be special and unique as a way to compensate for the missing piece.
Fives. The fives are the individualists. They are the most analytical number on the Enneagram. They are also the most emotionally distant, if not unavailable. They are information junkies. These are people who see a world that is intrusive and overly demanding. They are typically introverted. These are people that are always cramming as much information and new knowledge into their heads as they possibly can as a way to fend off feelings of inadequacy and ineptitude.
Sixes. The sixes are the loyalists. It’s been speculated that there are more sixes in the world than any other type. They are earthy, practical, witty, funny. They have an unconscious need for safety, security, and to feel supported. They are worst-case scenario thinkers, always scanning the horizon, looking for what could go wrong. They suffer from pre-traumatic stress disorder. You know what career is perfect for a six? A risk manager.
Sevens. They are the joy bombs of the Enneagram. Sevens are adventurous, very future oriented. Their mind is always in the future, it’s very hard for them to stay in the present moment. They are one of the best entrepreneurs on the Enneagram, because they see overlapping patterns and systems and their mind goes to work and they say, “You know if you put this together with this, we’ll get that. And no one has ever done it like that.” Their unconscious motivation is a need to avoid painful or distressing feelings, thoughts, or situations. So, all that fun and future-mindedness, all that believing in a world of unlimited possibilities is really a way to stay out of difficult feelings and painful situations and skip all that stuff.
Eights. Eights are called the challengers. Along with the threes and the sevens, they are also drawn to being a leader, an entrepreneur, an innovator. They can be blunt, combative, and often have larger-than-life personalities. They can start an argument with anyone for any reason, or no reason. Their unconscious motivator is a need to assert strength and control over others in their environment in order to mask tenderness and vulnerability.
Nines. The nines are the peacemakers. They can be called the sweethearts of the Enneagram. They are easy going, supportive, hakuna matata, go with the flow. The unconscious motivator of the nines is a need to maintain connection with other people to preserve inner and outer peace. One of the strategies they use to make sure that happens is to avoid conflict at all costs.
I’m sure as I went through each of these you found yourself identifying with each one just a little bit. Everyone has a little bit of each type in them. But you have more of one type than any other. Think of it like a house. It’s got nine rooms. We all prefer to spend time in one particular room of the house. Sure, we can hang out anywhere. But where do we go when we’re happy and relaxed or angry and upset? That one room.
So, how can you use the Enneagram to build better teams, to be better leaders, to be better entrepreneurs? We know self-awareness is a key factor for success. Secondly, knowing and understanding your team and the people around you is a critical element. If you all adopt and learn about the Enneagram, it will be something you all can talk about, a common ground, something you might even joke about sometimes – Oh, that’s exactly what I’d expect from a Four! It becomes a system for you to understand how someone might be affected by something and that their reaction might be completely different from what you would expect.
The Enneagram says there are nine different definitions of normal. Once you understand that, you can no longer say, “If only everyone was like me, normal, this would be easier.” No! Each type has their own normal. Understanding that can lead to better relationships, better retention, better morale in the workplace…
For example, if you put a two in a closed office all alone and then wonder why they are struggling – it’s because they need to be with people, able to help and collaborate all the time. Meanwhile, a five will actually thrive in the solitude. Twos need to be reassured, they want to know how much they are appreciated. Threes want to know what the goal is, how they can exceed the goal, and what the reward is when they exceed the goal.
So, is any number better than the other at being a leader, or running a business? The answer is no. Some numbers – like threes, ones, sevens – they might not have to work as hard to be successful because they are wired that way – more aggressive and extroverted. What is all depends on is how self-aware are they?
One of the benefits of learning the Enneagram is increased empathy, compassion for other people, which reduces conflict and miscommunication.
So, is it possible for your number to change? Not really. If you’re a six at age 5, you’re still a six at age 55, you’ve just done some growing up and maturing so you’re hopefully a bit more stable and adjusted. You probably know yourself a bit better and can navigate through the highs and lows of your type.
Now I know all of you are trying to figure out what number you are. Take the quiz and find out. And, as with any personality test, answer honestly and don’t put too much thought into it. There are some links in this lesson to our recommended typing websites and resources. What am I? What is Sarah? How does that impact how we work together? I am a three – the performer –  but also very close to being an eight – the challenger. Sarah is an eight. Eights are often sought out as partners because they are confident, capable and strong. They are good decision makers. They are loyal. When they are under stress or not at their best, they can become overwhelmed and simply retreat or move on to something completely different. They push for control and when they can’t have it, it reeks havoc and they lash out. We can both relate to this. I am thinking of a situation where I did exactly that.
Threes want to excel, to be the best. They never want to sit around doing nothing, they never want to be unprepared or to have to ask others for help. So me. Their darker side reveals that they are very insecure; they believe they have to succeed for people to find them valuable. When stressed, they go on autopilot, they make sure to look busy while not actually accomplishing anything – in an effort to distract themselves from the issue while also letting everyone around them know how busy they are, how important they are. They can be stubborn and resistant and refuse to acknowledge they need help or might have a problem. Been there.
OK, that is the Enneagram in a nutshell. There is so much more to explore. Take some time to do your own research. Remember – it’s like a diet, they all work; you just have to pick one and stick with it. So find the personality typing system that you like, learn all you can about it, and use it to navigate your career, your relationships, and your vision for yourself.
Resources to learn more:
Book: The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron
Podcast: Typology hosted by Ian Morgan Cron
Quiz: iEQ9 Enneagram Assessment at