Self-awareness leads to better performance, influence, and authenticity. One tool we use to jumpstart self-awareness is a personality system called the Enneagram (ennea is Greek for nine and gram means figure or model). The Enneagram describes nine different ways people think, feel, and behave and sheds light on what is actually motivating our behavior most of the time. All nine personality types have tremendous gifts as well as challenges that can become derailers when not acknowledged.
There are no good or bad personality types. When we show up as a healthy version of our type (something the Enneagram points us to), we are in a much better position to lead others. The Enneagram “road map” of nine personality styles explains the unconscious, habitual ways we can keep ourselves stuck in patterns that started way back in childhood. By exploring our type, we can start to see how we repetitively think, feel, and do the same things as if we are running on autopilot.
When used within a team or organization, the Enneagram can have tremendous impact. Heather Getz, a Chief Financial Officer, has had many experiences of being able to avoid misunderstandings and false starts by considering how to adjust her natural style to best share information and deliver feedback to the people around her. Heather describes how the Enneagram informs her approach with her team:
“Leadership isn’t about technical skills; it is about leading people towards a common goal. The better you understand yourself and others, the more effective and efficient you can be at moving others towards that goal.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Realizing Your Personality Type
Landing in our personality type takes self-observation and a willingness to look at the true motivation behind our behavior. Some leaders quickly find their type while others need time to reflect and evaluate. Most of us can readily see the gifts of our personality type when first introduced to the Enneagram, but less positive qualities can be harder to acknowledge.
It’s important to know that only you can determine your type. You can look for clues in your 360-feedback or even more casual insights from family or colleagues to help you calibrate, but no one else can know your motivation. When I work with clients, we work through a process that starts with core questions such as:
If you were describing yourself, which 3-4 adjectives would you use?
What do you see as your greatest strengths?
What is challenging about you? What is something about your personality you wish you could change?
A number of tests and assessments are available to help you land in your type. Use caution and know that no test is 100% accurate. The best gauge of your Enneagram type is your self-observation. In our workshops and coaching engagements, we suggest leaders start with one of these helpful assessments:
David Daniel’s book, The Essential Enneagram, combines a paragraph test with a self-discovery and personal development guide.
The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI 2.5) is an online test that takes about 40 minutes to complete.
Enneagram and Leadership Development
Having a language for describing our differences and similarities makes it easier to communicate with others, give feedback, and approach conflicts in a constructive manner. The Enneagram gives us this language and reminds us that not everyone sees the world the same way or needs the same things we do. This subtle, yet powerful shift in thinking gives us more compassion and leads to better communication, engagement, and relationships. With no “one size fits all” approach to leadership, the Enneagram helps you become a better version of yourself...and a better leader.