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Unlock Your Potential with the Enneagram: Discovery Your Type to Embrace All of Your Brilliance

I recently facilitated an introductory workshop on the Enneagram for a women’s leadership group in Bend, Oregon. I always love sharing this profound system of human development with those new to the Enneagram. It reignites my passion and fascination for the Enneagram as a powerful tool of self-awareness. Learning about its many layers of insight offers guidance to unlock our potential, experience greater joy, and deepen our awareness about who we are and who we are becoming. 

Let me take you to the workshop to give you a sense of what we experienced . . . 

I stood in the doorway of the restaurant’s patio, holding time on my watch for the opening activity—our icebreaker designed to deliver on two goals: networking and connection and learning and development.

As observed the pairs of women in conversation, I noticed an upswell of yearning to wedge myself into a chatty dyad to participate in what sounded like a juicy exchange, but managed to hold myself back to simply appreciate what was being created. Some were leaning forward across umbrella-shaded tables and others were relaxing back into one of two Adrondike chairs nestled between ceramic pots bursting with rainbow-hued flowers. Their eyes locked on their partner as they listened intently and interjected jubilantly as if the resonance from their connection was too much to contain. 

Each pair had four minutes before I called time, gave them a new question, and mixed the combos again, directing the B’s to find new A’s to pollinate with their presence. The structure was contrived but effective. It was just goofy enough that it was disarming, allowing each person a hack to feel silly together and therefore more comfortable sharing intimately.

Together they shared their answers to these three questions :

  • What drives (motivates) you?

  • How do you show up when stressed?

  • What would your best friend say are your most wonderful qualities?

We had gathered to explore the Enneagram, and these simple questions offered easy feedback on how we experience the constraints of personality in our lives. Personality is simply a system of understanding human behavior. Understanding this is the key to embracing our inner power to be fully conscious, whole, creative beings living with a sense of alignment, aliveness, and joy. 

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a profound system of understanding human behavior, a system of personality typing that describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. At its core, the Enneagram helps us understand our own and others’ motivations, fears, and underlying drives. Unlike many personality frameworks that focus solely on behavior, the Enneagram delves deeper into the “why” behind our actions, offering insights into our core fears and desires.

A Brief History

The origins of the Enneagram are somewhat mysterious, tracing back to ancient wisdom traditions. It has roots in teachings from early Christian mysticism, Sufism, and even ancient Greek philosophy. However, the modern Enneagram as we know it today was developed in the 20th century by figures such as Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, who synthesized these ancient teachings with modern psychology.

The Shape of the Enneagram

The Enneagram symbol is a nine-pointed figure, often depicted within a circle. Each point represents one of the nine personality types. These types are interconnected by lines, which represent dynamic relationships between them, indicating how individuals may move or shift in their behaviors under different conditions, such as stress or security.

Centers of Intelligence

The nine types are divided into three centers of intelligence:

1. The Body Center (Types 8, 9, and 1): These types are primarily concerned with issues of control, autonomy, and instinctual drives. They relate to the world through their gut instincts and often experience anger as a core emotional response.

2. The Heart Center (Types 2, 3, and 4): These types focus on image, relationships, and emotional connection. They engage with the world through their feelings and often grapple with issues of identity and self-worth, experiencing shame as a primary emotion.

3. The Head Center (Types 5, 6, and 7): These types are driven by fear and anxiety, focusing on security, knowledge, and planning. They interact with the world through their thoughts and often seek safety and reassurance.


Each Enneagram type has two adjacent types, known as wings. These wings influence and add nuance to our primary type, offering a richer and more flexible understanding of our personality. For example, a Type 4 might have a wing of Type 3 (4w3) or Type 5 (4w5), each bringing different characteristics to the core Type 4.


The lines connecting the types within the Enneagram symbol illustrate paths of integration and disintegration, sometimes referred to as growth and stress points. When moving towards integration (growth), individuals adopt the positive traits of the type connected by the lines. Conversely, in times of stress, they may exhibit the negative traits of the other type. Understanding these lines helps us recognize our behavior patterns and develop strategies for personal growth.


The Enneagram also incorporates three primary instincts that further shape our personality:

1. Self-Preservation: Focused on safety, health, and material needs.

2. Social: Concerned with social belonging, relationships, and community.

3. One-to-One (Sexual): Driven by intensity in one-on-one connections and personal intimacy.

These instincts interact with our primary type, creating a subtype that further refines our personality profile.

The Enneagram for Leaders

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore why the Enneagram is such a valuable tool for leaders.

  1. Self-Awareness: Leadership begins with self-awareness. The Enneagram provides deep insights into your own motivations, fears, and habitual patterns of behavior. By understanding your Enneagram type, you can identify your strengths and areas for development, allowing you to lead more authentically and effectively.

  1. Empathy and Understanding: A good leader understands and appreciates the diversity of their team. The Enneagram equips you with the knowledge to recognize and understand the different personality types within your team. This fosters empathy, improves communication, and helps resolve conflicts more effectively.

  1. Personal Growth: The Enneagram encourages continuous personal growth by highlighting not only our strengths but also our blind spots and areas of potential growth. For leaders, this means constantly evolving and improving your leadership style better to meet the needs of your team and organization.

  1. Team Dynamics: Understanding the Enneagram types of your team members can significantly enhance team dynamics. It helps in assigning roles that align with individual strengths, improving collaboration, and creating a more harmonious and productive work environment.

  1. Stress Management: Recognizing your stress points and how you behave under pressure is crucial for effective leadership. The Enneagram’s lines of disintegration provide valuable insights into how you might react in stressful situations, allowing you to develop strategies to manage stress and maintain composure.

  1. Decision Making: Each Enneagram type has a unique approach to decision-making. By understanding your own and others’ decision-making styles, you can foster more inclusive and balanced decision-making processes, ensuring that diverse perspectives are considered.

The Enneagram is more than just a personality typing system; it’s a map for personal and professional transformation. For leaders, it offers a profound tool for understanding themselves and their teams, promoting empathy, enhancing communication, and driving personal growth. By integrating the wisdom of the Enneagram into your leadership practice, you can unlock your full potential and lead with greater authenticity, compassion, and effectiveness.

I invite you to delve deeper into the Enneagram and discover its transformative power for yourself. Embrace this journey of self-discovery and watch as it enriches your leadership and your life.



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