The Enneagram is an ancient framework or map for personal transformation and insight. Enneagram literally means the “model of nine” in Greek. In recent years it has become one of the most popular ways for leadership coaches, psychologists, spiritual directors, teachers and even script writers from Hollywood to make sense of the human psyche.
The Enneagram represents nine worldviews or motivations through which we see, interpret and respond to the world. The styles decode the ego-patterns we express. All nine styles are equal as there is no “best” or ultimate style given that the same quality or motivation holds both helping and hindering aspects as it is expressed in the world.
Why should I be interested?
Have you ever reflected on some of the more challenging and painful aspects of your life, feeling like true insight is a breath away?
Have you ever wished for a human “hack” that could explain the patterns of disagreement within your intimate relationships?
Have you longed to work with colleagues that are more mature and self-aware?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, the Enneagram might be just what you’ve been looking for. This personality map has many uses and benefits in the journey of human maturation and development and is helping individuals understand themselves better, is supporting more mature relationships and is assisting organisations get the most out of their people, teams and leaders.
Does this mean that there are only nine types of people in the world? Definitely not! We are as unique as our fingerprints. However, if we want to understand ourselves, our loved ones and our colleagues better we need some sensible, coherent way of thinking about the differences and similarities between people. The Enneagram offers a more complex, and therefore more realistic and useful view than a 2×2 boxplot view of human nature.
If you want to explore the Enneagram in your own life and work, the best place to start is by finding your Enneagram style. This is most often done through the support of a professional Enneagram practitioner that will use either an assessment or a narrative typing method to help you hone in on your Enneagram “home”.
The descriptions below may however also be a helpful starting point. Read through them and see which one resonates most with you. You’ll know you’ve found your Enneagram style if it hits a nerve.
Enneagram 1: The Meticulous Judge
This style is characterised by the desire to be a good person who does the right thing. This means avoiding being wrong or bad and making mistakes. This is hard work as I can never relax my desire to be responsible and keep things together. Ones can seem uptight, controlling and critical to others, but you can be assured that they give themselves a very hard time. They are self-critical and work hard to keep things together to keep things from falling apart.
Famous Ones: Nelson Mandela, Tuli Madonsela, Kate Middleton
Enneagram 2: The Supportive Cheerleader
The Enneagram Two style is relationship-oriented in nature. As a Two I want to be accepted and appreciated by the people I care for. I will therefore go out of my way to be helpful, supportive and kind to others. This normally comes at the cost of self-care: satisfying and even knowing what I want in life seems like a selfish act that will only lead to rejection. To avoid being selfish, I devote myself to the needs and agendas of others.
Famous Twos: Desmond Tutu, Vuyo Mbuli, Juliette Binoche
Enneagram 3: The Ambitious Taskmaster
As a three I look at the world and set goals for myself that I pursue through hard work and political smarts. I want to show the world my value as a winner, as someone who succeeds and gets ahead. This means that I am very sensitive to failure and looking bad. I know how to adapt to get what I want and need. This normally comes at the cost of relationships as my workaholic tendencies and shrewdness may alienate the people I care for most.
Famous Threes: Mmusi Maimane, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods
Enneagram 4: The Sensitive Maverick
This style is characterised by the desire to be authentic and true to myself. As an emotional and sensitive person, I pay a lot of attention to my feelings and take my cue from these feelings. I sometimes feel more authentic when there is some suffering and drama in my life, which means I might unconsciously complicate reality and relationships. Other people say I am intense, and even a bit strange but I like it that way. Who wants to be normal and like everyone else?
Famous Fours: Brenda Fassi, Prince, Alanis Morissette
Enneagram 5: The Expert Observer
The Enneagram Five is an intensely private person who wants to understand and make sense of the world. As a Five I am oriented towards knowledge, rationality and analysis. Engaging with the world and people in it quickly becomes invasive and exhausting, so I maintain my boundaries and try to be as self-sufficient as possible. If you want an interesting perspective on an issue, I am a good source of that as long as I care for the topic and your questions aren’t stupid. Just give me time to think about it first.
Famous Fives: Thabo Mbeki, Jodi Foster, Stephen Hawking
Enneagram 6: The Vigilant Questioner
The world is an unsafe world full of people who cannot be trusted. If I let my guard down, people will take advantage of me and my worst fears will come true. That is why I am always mentally prepared. I like to think of what might go wrong and plan for that well in advance. Some people say this is a pessimistic approach to life, but they don’t understand that worrying about what might go wrong is a good way of making sure that good things happen.
Famous Sixes: Ellen Degeneres, Mel Gibson, Chris Rock
Enneagram 7: The Positive Dreamer
As a seven I believe that life is too short to be stuck being miserable or bored. I choose to do interesting things and I am always looking ahead to see what good things I might get involved in. When things become painful, I distract myself or move on or look at the bright side of life. People say I am hard to keep up with, but I like it like that. I’m great at starting things up but once things become dull and start feeling like drudgery I am happy to pass it on to someone else.
Famous Sevens: Marc Lottering, Mylie Cyrus, John F. Kennedy
Enneagram 8: The Tough Protector
The world is a jungle where only the strong survive. I am one of the survivors. As an Enneagram Eight, I know how to take charge, make decisions and move things forward. People say I’m aggressive, but I think of it as passion and drive. I hate feeling weak and vulnerable. I can’t bear to watch people waste time or beat around the bush. I hate it when people are untruthful or unjust. You will know where you stand with me because I will tell you exactly how I feel.
Famous Eights: Julius Malema, Helen Zille, Gordon Ramsay
Enneagram 9: The Adaptive Diplomat
This style is all about creating harmony in the world. If everyone could just be a bit less assertive and a bit more caring, we could all get along and create a better future. I hate conflict and upheaval and sometimes I might think you’re fighting with me when you are too intense or loud. I feel calm when things are stable and somewhat predictable, which means I like my routines. I don’t get angry easily, but when I do it is absolutely exhausting.
Famous Nines: Kofi Annan, Graça Machel, Ronald Reagan
If you want to explore the Enneagram further, you can do so individually, in relationships or as a team at work. There are some great books out there but to unlock the full potential of this map of transformation, get in touch with us. Finding your Enneagram style is the start of a lifelong journey of self-awareness and development. As Russ Hudson, an Enneagram teacher and author says: “We’re not about eliminating the ego or transcending it, but really transforming it through being present with it.”