How a popular self-assessment tool can strengthen your leadership and self-awareness

Chances are, the term “Enneagram” has popped up in your Twitter feed, on a podcast you listened to, or around your dinner table or water cooler at work. Some consider it the new Myers-Briggs. Some embrace it as a spiritual tool. One doctor suggests it as an approach to avoiding burnout. And some people are simply curious about whether the newly popular personality test can help them live better lives. Let’s break down what the Enneagram is and how it can benefit you.

Testing for behavior, and the motivation behind it

“At its core, the Enneagram helps us to see ourselves at a deeper, more objective level and can be of invaluable assistance on our path to self-knowledge,” according to The Enneagram Institute, formed in 1997 to further research and development of this tool. The goal is to understand yourself better, including your fears and motivations, and to help you better relate to people in your life, whether they be family, friends, colleagues, or employees.

The goal of the Enneagram test is to understand yourself better, including your fears and motivations, and to help you better relate to people in your life, whether they be family, friends, colleagues, or employees. Click To Tweet
The Enneagram is a self-assessment that identifies behavior and the motivation behind it, to classify you as one of nine types.

There are many Enneagram tests available to help you determine your “type.” The Enneagram Institute charges $12 to take a test on its site, but there are numerous free tests online as well. As with any self-assessment, these tests are not 100% reliable, warns Enneagram coach Lauren Gray. But taking the test together is a fun activity for your next staff meeting, like our team here at Rendia did!

While the test focuses on identifying the behavior, the Enneagram is actually more concerned about the motivation for the behavior, explains Gray in this podcast. For that reason, she advises reading the descriptions of the different types as well as taking the test. “It’s just a really great tool for self awareness.”

The nine different Enneagram types

There are nine Enneagram types. If you hear someone saying “I’m a three” or “That’s typical nine behavior,” that’s what they’re referring to. It’s not a ranking; no number is better or worse. Here are the brief type descriptions from The Enneagram Institute. Visit their web site for more in-depth descriptions, or read the book The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, recommends Gray. This article on interpreting your Enneagram test results may be helpful.

1: The Reformer. The rational, idealistic type: principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.

2: The Helper.The caring, interpersonal type: demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive.

3: The Achiever.The success-oriented, pragmatic type: adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.

4: The Individualist.The sensitive, withdrawn type: expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.

5: The Investigator.The intense, cerebral type: perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.

6: The Loyalist. The committed, security-oriented type: engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.

7: The Enthusiast.The busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.

8: The Challenger. The powerful, dominating type: self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.

9: The Peacemaker.The easygoing, self-effacing type: receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent.

We all have each of the nine types within us, however, one is most dominant. Each type is associated with a specific set of gifts and challenges, say Enneagram experts.

“Although we all have the nine types within us, one is most dominant, and with it comes its own set of unique gifts and challenges,” wrote Certified Professional Leadership Coach and Enneagram expert Catherine Hayes in a Forbes article. By understanding your basic personality type, you can let go of habits that aren’t working for you and learn to use your strengths. “As you become more aware of your type, you can move up the levels of growth and ultimately lead from your best self. You understand your reactions, preferences, and how you show up for your team,” explains Hayes.

Understanding your ‘wings’

It may come as no surprise that Type 1 is common among doctors. After all, perfectionism, logical thinking, and responsibility are all considered career strengths for doctors, points out an article in Psychology Today. Additionally, many doctors are Type 2, since medicine is a helping profession, after all. Type 2 strengths include perceptiveness, problem solving, and reliability.

What makes the Enneagram different from other personality tests is that it shows you the positive aspects of your type but also the negative aspects. For instance, negative aspects of Type 1 include the potential to be judgmental and self-righteous. A Type 2 person can veer into intrusiveness, manipulation, and self-deception. “Whatever makes you the most embarrassed probably is your type!” says Gray.

The Enneagram takes into account that no one is 100% one personality type; the adjacent, complementary elements are known as “wings”–considered the “second side” of your personality.

Another difference of the Enneagram is that it takes into account that no one is 100% one personality type. Usually, people are a mix of one or two other types; according to the Enneagram diagram, these are known as “wings,” and they are adjacent to your basic personality type. Your wing is the “second side” of your personality, and adds complementary elements to your overall personality, explains the Enneagram Institute.

For instance, a Type 1 may have a 9 wing, “The Peacemaker.” On the positive side, the 9 may enable the 1 to consider more viewpoints and be more collaborative. On the negative side, they may neglect things that are important but difficult, explains the web site integrative9.com. “By leaning into our wings … we expand our perspective and increase our emotional and behavioral repertoire.” Understanding your core personality type and complementary types gives you better insight into yourself and your interactions with others.  

Consider the Enneagram another tool in your toolbox for building an engaged, effective workplace. For more tips on managing employees and running a successful practice, check out our eBook, Top Secrets to Hiring, Training, & Retaining an All-Star Medical Staff