Enneagram and Me: Looking at the Enneagram and “What Type of Leader Are You?”

My classmates and I, part of the first cohort of the Executive Chief Learning Officer graduate certificate at George Mason University, are on the home stretch. We just entered the third module this week and are taking classes on Leadership and Learning Analytics and Big Data.

Our professors and coach.

Our professors and coach.

Our professors are seasoned leaders in business. Roy Hinton, an Associate Dean at George Mason University responsible for executive programs management, is our lead professor. Barry Melnkovic, Chief Human Capital Officer at Amtrak, is teaching us by sharing his experiences in executive leadership at various Fortune 500, 100, and private equity companies.

While not officially teaching the class as a professor, Neil Sicherman (who holds a PhD in Finance) is teaching us about the Enneagram model and how it applies to executive leadership. Neil is an executive leadership coach and consultant who frequently uses the Enneagram to aid him in his practice. You can learn more about Neil and his business, the Center for Intelligent Leadership, on his website.

And that leads us to the subject of this post: The Enneagram model, what it is, what my results of taking its assessments were, and my initial thoughts on it.



The illustration above is the Enneagram. Note the nine clock-like numbers and the lines connecting them.

As for what the Enneagram is, allow me to quote from Wikipedia.

The Enneagram of Personality, or simply the Enneagram (from the Greek words ἐννέα [ennea, meaning “nine”] and γράμμα [gramma, meaning something “written” or “drawn”[1]]), is a model of human personality which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. Although the origins and history of many of the ideas and theories associated with the Enneagram of Personality are a matter of dispute, contemporary Enneagram understandings are principally derived from the teachings of Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo’s theories were partly influenced by some earlier teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff. As a typology the Enneagram defines nine personality types (sometimes referred to as “enneatypes”), which are represented by the points of a geometric figure called an enneagram,[2] which, it is believed, also indicate some of the connections between the types. There are different schools of thought among Enneagram teachers, therefore their ideas on some theoretical aspects are not always in agreement.[2]

The Enneagram of Personality has been widely promoted in both business management and spiritual contexts through seminars, conferences, books, magazines, and DVDs.[3][4] In business contexts it is generally used as a typology to gain insights into workplace dynamics; in spirituality it is more commonly presented as a path to higher states of beingessence, and enlightenment. It has been described as a method for self-understanding and self-development.[3]

The Enneagram has been criticized as being pseudoscience and subject to interpretation, making it difficult to test or validate scientifically[5] and as “an assessment method of no demonstrated reliability or validity”.[6] The skeptic Robert Todd Carroll has characterized the Enneagram as an example of a pseudoscientific theory that “can’t be tested because they are so vague and malleable that anything relevant can be shoehorned to fit the theory”.[7]

When I first saw the Enneagram on the cover of our text, What Type of Leader Are You?, my first thought was, “What type of cult spawned this?”

I had never heard of the Enneagram before, and I must admit my skeptical side was on full alert. It had me thinking of experiences I’ve had – on all sides of the matter – regarding things ranging from the obviously ludicrous to things as all-pervasive in our profession as the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI (I’m an INFP, if you’re wondering).

The more I look at it, the more alarms keep going off – I could write an entire blog post about that alone. In fact, I must say I’m very skeptical, and was vocal about it in our residency session. However, after I voiced my concerns, I promised I would do my best to approach the topic with a beginner’s mind. I’m only two chapters into the book, so I’ll let you know my thoughts on it as I progress through its chapters.

What’s your core RHETI Type?

Before we started the course, and before I read anything in the book, Neil sent us a test – the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI). This was reminiscent of other personality type tests but different in a way I can’t quite put my finger on yet. The test took about 40 minutes to complete.

These were my results.

enneagram instituteyour rheti test results

rheti results

The email confirming these results also reported:

Your highest score was a tie between:

Type 2: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-2-1589070
Type 7: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-7-5561745

Your second highest score was a tie between:

Type 5: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-5-3972675
Type 4: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-4-3178140

What are your assessments/observations about your spider chart?

When we came to the class, Neil took our tests and printed them out in spider charts called “Personality Maps.” If my first thought of the Enneagram was of questionable pentagrams, my first thought of the personality map was of Naruto and Kabuto’s infamous ninja info cards.

Ahem. You can view my results in the image below.


In reading the descriptions of the types and my results on the spider chart, I find myself eerily amazed at how accurate the results are. For example, right now I’m writing a post on how I burned myself out giving everything I had to a company that was not my own for very, very little compensation relative to the things I was doing. Hey, burning out that way is a thing that Twos are prone to do.

I’m also equally the “futurist/visionary/super-ADD boy” that Sevens are described as being.

Does this Type ring true for you?

Are these results accurate?

I can only speak for me, but my initial readings of all this show the results are extremely accurate. I’ll follow up on this later, but, yeah, I think anyone who knows me well can testify that these results represent me pretty well.

I’m quite intrigued about this. How did that assessment work again? How’d they come to ask those specific questions? How did those correlate to these results?

Do you think this will serve you in your career and life in general?

Let’s just look at what we’re dealing with right now. One of the strengths of the Enneagram as compared to the MBTI is that you can not only identify where you are but where you can grow.

For example, Twos need to be aware they can deny their own needs and be prideful. Sevens need to stay focused, really pay attention to the details of any plans they make, and get things done early (instead of at the last minute). These are all things that I’m keenly aware of in my character and am actively working on improving.

I’m interested in seeing how this self-awareness will play in the coaching I’ll be getting from Neil and what the rest of the book has to say about how I can grow, both as a man and as a leader.

Do you think this will limit you in any way?

I’m not sure. But allow me to share thoughts – however tangentially related – on this matter.

When I was an undergraduate studying to be an English teacher, I once read a book I found very helpful called How to Learn Anything Quickly by Ricki Linksman. It was about (gasp!) learning styles.

Don’t leave just yet. I know a thousand instructional designers scream in agony every time someone mentions learning styles, these days.

In the nature vs nurture debate, I’ve always thought I was a product of my experiences growing up. Because those experiences weren’t what I would call typical, I’ve always felt a bit like an outcast. However, books like How to Learn Anything Quickly taught me how to make the most of my unique qualities and use those (tactile learner) skills to my advantage.

I cannot understate how much of an impact reading that book had on me. It was the reason I was able to successfully complete five years of school in three while juggling janitor, kid care, and gardening jobs. I was never good in school until I joined the Navy and went to sonar school – but that systems kind of knowledge did little to prepare me for undergraduate academic work.

How to Learn Anything Quickly, for all its quirks, perfectly prepared me to succeed as an undergraduate student, in no small part because it validated me and my quirkiness, so different from the mainstream.

Was I Edward Scissorhands or was I Willy Wonka?

Ricki Linksman helped me realize I could be Willy Wonka. Wonks and all.

How do you believe understanding the types can be of value to you as a leader?

There are several things that come to mind.

The first is the obvious: the more you know yourself and others, the more you’ll be able to meet the needs of yourself and others.

The second is less so, but only for those who don’t know me well. One of the first things I thought about, and I even got to share this with Neil during lunch on our residency day, was how this related to my HeartCore Model.

This post is already going on too long, but, for now, I’ll just leave this, a poster I presented way back in 2010 and 2011 (and started working on around the same time I read Linksman’s work), here.

The HeartCore Model.

heart core model preview

Closing Thoughts

Like I said at the onset, this whole thing is very similar things that, in the learning profession today, are oft-maligned (learning styles, MBTI, right/left brain, all the things that make Cathy Moore go crazy, etc.).

Still, I have to say I am quite intrigued. Those results didn’t just happen that way. There’s something to this, and despite my skepticism, I think it’s worth exploring further.

What are your thoughts on this?