Enneagram and Leadership Styles 

 February 5, 2022

By  Tamara Davidson

In the 25 years that I’ve been learning about, and using the Enneagram, either through my own individual inquiry or when facilitating others to understand themselves through this framework, I’ve been continually amazed at all the different applications of the Enneagram. What I’ve loved being a part of is witnessing this incredibly decisive psychological tool enter organisation’s all over the world and radically transform leaders and the people they lead. Answering the questions, who am I? Why do I do what I do? And how can I self-actualise my highest and best potentials? If you're new to the Enneagram you can read our blog - What is the Enneagram of Personality.

We know that self-awareness and self-regulation are keys to effective and conscious leadership. To be self-aware requires the willingness to inquire into oneself, to seek regular feedback, and to respond to the needs of the individual situation. To self-regulate means to take control of one's behaviour, emotions, and thoughts often in the pursuit of long-term goals. More specifically, emotional self-regulation refers to the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses. Self-aware leaders recognise that both their strengths and personal limitations not only impact their own experiences and outcomes, but also have a huge impact on their colleagues and their broader team.  

The Enneagram makes it possible for leaders to gain an accurate assessment of their leadership strengths and challenges, and provides a developmental plan for better decision-making, successful relationships, and getting results. Knowing our Enneagram style allows us to become more balanced and present no matter the environment. The Enneagram teaches us about our own reactivity, and what to do about it. It also helps us to understand other people's reactivity and how we can best respond to it. 

Ken wilber  - Enneagram and Leadership Styles


Today's business and world leaders are faced with unprecedented complexities and rates of change in markets and social conditions. This places extreme pressure on leaders to develop all aspects of themselves to the highest degree possible…. their cognitive, emotional, inter-personal, and ethical capacities, as well as their fundamental sense of self…. Only those who develop to this level…. will be successfully equipped to manage a profitable, sustainable growth business or effective organization. 

Ken Wilber - American Philosopher

So why learn about the Enneagram if you are a leader?

  • Integrate all three intelligences – mind, heart, and body.
  • Understand your own worldview and patterns of attention and their strengths and limitations. .
  • Uncover and reduce your blind spots as a leader.
  • Learn about your inter-personal style, your strength’s, and challenges in relationships.
  • Learn how to really understand the people that you lead and how to facilitate their highest and best.
  • Develop specific leadership competencies, driving for results, strategic planning, and leading high performing teams to name a few.
  •  Learn how to bring presence to your leadership, reducing stress and reactivity.
  • Increase your personal authenticity as a leader, so people want to follow you.
  • Step into your growth edge and unleash your highest potential. 

If you’re new to the Enneagram, read through the following leadership style descriptions and see if you can identify your own leadership style below. If you are a seasoned Enneagram enthusiast or student, then my offer to you, is to have a read of your "known" leadership style and re-affirm your strengths and areas of growth for a renewed focus. You may also find this blog helpful - The Enneagram in Organisations.

Type One - The Reformer 

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Type Ones tend to lead by moral example which can inspire others to reach the ideal. They are by the book leaders with perfect plans awaiting execution in a stage-by-stage fashion. The One leader wants to know who is responsible as they make the rules and bind people to systems.

This way of leading can often mean that people feel controlled and creatively stifled by the Ones regular meetings, reports, and inflexibility. They often hold a clear vision; however, they can prefer to dish out feedback (which can feel like criticism) rather than praise. Ones leaders are about the task first and foremost, the relationship is secondary.

Ones can be great facilitators and mediators as they are about giving all sides or stakeholders due process and a fair hearing. Many Ones like to work alone using lists, plans, and diagram. One’s also like to pour over the alternatives often with a trusted associate, which helps them to make decisions. Ones leaders can be too heavily focused on quality and at times can seem like they are beyond reproach for their actions.

What we love about One leaders are their clear expectations and their ability to communicate a higher purpose to work towards. They can be rock solid conscientious leaders with the end game in mind.

Type Two - The Helper  

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Type Twos are “I take care of my people” leaders. Twos are often called servant-leaders and are people of extraordinary presence. Twos appreciate people and are attracted to developing rising new talent on their way up the business ladder. Two leaders are ambitious about achieving a solid reputation and will align themselves with key figures.

Two’s are exceptional networkers where relationship and image is crucial. Twos believe it’s not what you know it’s who you know that makes the difference. Twos have an intuitive predisposition to feeling the needs of others, and they understand the line of least resistance is to align with power.

This leadership style emphasizes wooing the client rather than warring with competitors. A Two’s core strategy is to be the power behind the throne. It is easier to lead indirectly than to deal with face-to-face hostility and rejection. Two leaders need to learn to say no, and to step into visible leadership. Two leaders can also miss that their constant helping leads to people becoming dependant on them, often leading to the Two’s burnout.

What we love about Two’s is that they empower, engage, and light the fire in others. They are popular leaders whose personal charm and magnetism make it easy for people to follow them and want to achieve their outcomes. 

Type Three - The Achiever  

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Leadership is the preferred position for a Three. “If you don't want footprints on your back get out of my way,”is their mantra. They are Darwinist in their thinking… its survival of the hardworking, committed, and successful. Threes are often risk takers as they believe that any risk is worth it if you get there fast and first.

Threes are task orientated and lead by high profile, high speed and are goal orientated. Three leaders like to expand on known ideas rather than via innovation, they are not strong on originality and can buy into the status quo easily. Threes are great sellers and promoters and can tune out opposition easily because you can’t afford to second guess yourself at high speed. Instead of slowing under pressure Three leaders push themselves, and often staff must scramble to keep up. 

Three’s motto is “Just do it” which can mean that quality is sacrificed for efficiency. Three leaders don't have to like you to work with you, they just need to know that you are proficient and that you take your job seriously.

What we love about Three’s is that they are highly skilled at setting clear targets, assigning responsibility, and holding people accountable to it. They often match the kind of leadership required by the company as they can embrace other people’s objectives easily.

Type Four - The Individualist  

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Four leaders are powerfully passionate, intuitive, and uncompromising which makes them extremely bold executives. Fours have a strong hand; they know what they want, and they go for it. Fours tend to lead with vigour and a highly competitive edge when there is something to prove.

Four leaders can go for broke… “Why not go down in flames of glory” when there is a lot at stake! They are more effective at the point of risk than in maintaining the status quo. Four leaders are not shy about expressing their inner voice, and they encourage others to express theirs. Four’s strength and weakness is their unwillingness to compromise their vision.

Fours can be widely admired and influential and can be imperious and unapproachable. Moods are critical. Because they strive towards their vision, at times minor details like making a profit can fall by the wayside. They like to put radical ideas into action, or they can be those who stand in the way of progress and common sense.

What we love about fours is their gift in challenging others to be their best selves, they bring soul to business, and look for the deeper meaning in things to inspire others to new depths rather than new heights.

Type Five - The Investigator  

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Fives tend to lead from behind closed doors and control from a distance. They are usually found in a cooperative effort with more assertive types such as Threes or Eights, or more people orientated types like Twos and Nines.

Because Fives are not emotionally attached to outcomes, they may show no investment once the job is finished. Because they do not have the natural charisma of some of the other types, Fives often need help delivering the message to the masses. The Fives style of delivering messages without embellishment and stating the problem without softening the edges doesn't always land well with others.

Fives want to wait for others to volunteer input before they show their cards. The Five leader wants facts, and to get them they will dump a bloody carcass on the table and wait for input. Everyone in the room will want the Five leader to go first, to gauge where they stand, however this will not happen.

What we love about Five’s is their capacity for high-level abstract thinking where they can reduce a great deal of information to a core proposition. Fives can take charge, are great at delegation and can handle emergencies always remaining calm. 

Type Six - The Loyalist 

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Six leaders are masters at getting all the wagons in a circle to defend against a common enemy. Given Sixes issues with their own authority, many Sixes find it uncomfortable in the public role of a leader, and often are ambivalent about visible success.

The reluctant authority (who can be warm or authoritarian, but always thinking) takes protective action against the enemy. Six leaders want to avoid blame, they want to troubleshoot and to overcome obstacles. Six leaders are concerned with finding certainty before moving ahead and they want to eliminate doubt.

Sixes can pay more attention to areas of difficulty rather than the positive alternatives. They react to real and imagined provocation and watch out for a Six executive if the company is headed for trouble, they are unstoppable.

What we love about Sixes is that they lead with clarity and strength and strive to be loyal towards colleagues and employees. Six leaders come alive under adversity, they often rally around the underdog causes and they lead well when the success of the cause is defined by overcoming obstacles.


Type Seven - The Enthusiast   

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Sevens tend to lead by wandering around. They formulate a vision and they communicate it with charisma. Like Twos they think in terms of people networks, not hierarchies or organizational pyramids. Two’s network emotional exchange, Seven’s network ideas.

Seven leaders are terrific in empowering others, but they have as much trouble with authority as Sixes. Sevens do not like being the authority because that means being accountable, and Sevens don’t like being called to account… “I will work with everyone, but I work for no one,” is their motto.

Sevens rarely do well in command-and-control leadership roles when they are required to give direction, provide structure and report on the bottom line. Seven leaders need a right-hand person who is strong on follow through. If they do not then most of their ideas never materialize which is a shame, because they often have great ideas. 

What we love about Sevens is their ability to synthesize a disparate collection of known ideas into a brand-new unified system that couldn’t have come about by proceeding in a lockstep manner. Seven leaders are strong on networking, outreach, and positive big picture thinking. 

Type Eight - The Challenger  

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Type Eights have a dominant, assertive, and autocratic leadership style, and can display a "My way or the highway" attitude. They are magnificent and bold leaders who are naturally self-made men & women. Eights can be prone to micro-managing their teams, and often don’t realize the impact that they have on others.

Eights are protective of their team although they can be sparing with compliments and praise sometimes preferring to manage through dictatorship. Eights do not have much respect for the lines of authority; this is often because Eights consider themselves to be the authority.

Eights like to have a clear chain of command; they make good dynamic public figure heads of organizations and causes. Eights can hammer out agreements rather than trying to find a consensus. 

What we love about Eights is their capacity to rally the troops and leading an assault to hit the opposition as hard as they can. Eights are effective at taming unstable, uncharted environments where strong force and will is needed, and people want to follow Eight leaders during these times. 


Type Nine - The Peacemaker 

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Type Nine leaders know how to get the best out of their people; they are highly intuitive and believe in each individual’s competencies. Nines often lead by the book, they like to follow structure and procedure, and use this to assert themselves.

The Nines challenge is that they do not want to rock the boat; they find directive leadership difficult. They tend to go along with others and strive for consensus, which can be a slow process. Nine’s often don't communicate with others whilst they are in the process of making decisions, which can blindside people when they reach the final outcome.

It can assist Nines to be mindful of their ambiguous communication, as others do not always know what the Nine expects. Nines can be reactive, stubborn, and passive aggressive when they perceive that people are dictating to them. A Nine leader may write an email to all of the staff about ensuring they wash their coffee cups rather than addressing the issue with a particular employee.

What we love about Nines is that their leadership values participation, inclusiveness, and sharing the credit. Nine leaders tend to be non-directive, they coach, inspire, and unify the vision and then get out of the way for the magic to happen. 

If you would like to learn more about the Enneagram and how it can assist you in becoming the very best leader you can be, then reach out to us here at Modo!

Ginger pic new 150x150 1 - Enneagram and Leadership Styles

I have referenced some of Ginger Lapid-Bogda's work throughout this blog, someone whose work I greatly admire. As an Enneagram author, teacher and keynote speaker, as well as an organization development consultant, trainer and coach, Ginger works with organizations, leaders, and teams around the globe to create vibrant, productive, and sustainable organizations. Author of eight Enneagram-business books, she also offers global certification programs that enable consultants, trainers, and coaches to use the Enneagram effectively and accurately in organizational applications such as teams, leadership, conflict, feedback, strategy, organizational change and transformation, consulting, coaching, and personal and professional development.

Tamara Davidson

Tamara Davidson is an Executive Coach, Trainer and a Managing Director of Modo Coaching and Training, with over 20 years of experience leading large organisations. Tamara is a certified Meta-Coach, Master NLP practitioner and experienced Enneagram facilitator, and her passion is to facilitate people to discover and actualise their highest potentials in their personal and professional lives.

Tamara Davidson

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