A diagram of the enneagram

What is the Enneagram?

I believe part of leadership development is understanding who you truly are. One of the best tools, in my opinion, is the enneagram. I’ve mentioned this before in my post Are Leaders Born or Made. I included a link to my favorite enneagram test there as well as to a basic book (paid link) that does a great job explaining the enneagram in detail. I encourage you to take the above linked enneagram test before reading any further in my series about the enneagram. If you’re interested in getting information similar to what I’ll be writing more quickly, get the book!

So what is the enneagram?

Put simply, the enneagram (pronounced any-uh-gram) is a psychological profile that takes your basic fears and motivations into account. I believe this is where the enneagram goes deeper than some other psychological profiles. The enneagram accounts for both nurture and nature in childhood development. Since this is an introduction to the enneagram, I will leave that there and address it in another post.

There are 9 types that interact with one another yet are distinctly different. Each type is a part of a category (called a center) of 3 types: gut, heart, and head. The gut types are types 8, 9, and 1; the heart types, or feeling types, are 2, 3, and 4; and the head types, or thinkers, are 5, 6, and 7. I will use this order when discussing any enneagram type in sequence.

Beyond the centers, there are what’s called “wings” for each enneagram type. A wing is always a number adjacent to your primary type and is notated with a “w” between the numbers. For example, a type 1 can be a type 1w9 or type 1w2. This is read as “type 1 wing 9” or “type 1 with a 2 wing.” Consider the wing as the “seasoning” to your primary type. Like salt on a meal, your wing helps bring out the unique flavors of your personality.

My personal beliefs about the enneagram

Above are just the basics, which we will go into more detail about in future posts. Consider the above points the “fundamental truths” of the enneagram. They most likely won’t change. But here’s where the enneagram gets fun for me.

I believe in specifically two additional truths of the enneagram. One is about wings and the other is what I call “tendencies.”

Wings:

Many people believe your primary wing, just like your primary type, never changes. I disagree. Just taking my life as an example, as a type 3, I notice my wing fluctuate between a 2 and a 4 almost on a daily basis. I do incorporate more 2 characteristics (a desire to help and serve and be useful), but many times my 4 wing dominates (creative, introspective, etc.). I mention this because I don’t want you to get pigeon-holed into a specific wing and have to try and reconcile what wing you are when you’re not feeling particularly like that type.

Tendencies:

In a similar vein of not getting pigeon-holed by your type, I believe in something I’ve started calling “tendencies.” While the enneagram is a diagram (see the image for this post) that is interconnected for the most part, you’ll notice that some types don’t connect to one another. This presents issues for when, for example, a type 3 exhibits strong type 7 characteristics. If we treat the enneagram as a percentage-based psychological profile rather than a circle with starkly disparate numbers, I believe we get a more accurate reflection of a person. I’ll discuss this more deeply in a future post, but for now, just know that other numbers can have very strong influences on your primary type. As an aside, I believe tendencies is what leads people to mistype or identify as the wrong type.

I look forward to exploring the enneagram with you in this series of posts. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out by following me on social media (see Connect in the menu) or going to my Contact page.

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