9 types of people: Many ways to lead (a two-part series)


We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

— Anais Nin

I’m sure that you won’t be surprised if I state the obvious; not everyone sees the world the way that you do! Did you ever wonder why you see the world in a certain way and why others don’t? It is the lens from which you see the world and that lens impacts your leadership style as well as all other aspects of your life.

The Enneagram is a powerful tool used to raise self-consciousness. It is a dynamic personality system used for personal growth and development. More than a personality typology, The Enneagram is a deep map of the ego that describes nine different patterns of habitual thinking, feeling and acting which stem from a core belief related to personal survival and satisfaction.

Our core belief warps our perspective by magnifying certain aspects of our experiences and blinding us to others. This combination of magnification and blinding determines where we focus our attention and energy, which, in turn, drives our behavior.


For example, many of my Vistage members, as well as myself, identify with Type Eight, called the “The Protector.” An Eight believes that she lives in a hard and unjust world where the powerful take advantage of the innocent and impose their personal will on others. In such a world, vulnerability and weakness are dangerous, An Eight’s attention is hyper-focused on anything that is perceived as being unfair and on disarming any mal-intentioned individuals who could be a threat. Her automatic, unconscious reaction is to take the offensive, whether the situation actually calls for any action or not. At their worst, Eights can also be excessive, manipulative, impulsive, and angry most of the time. Eights are also comfortable being direct, strong and action-oriented, which can be great qualities of a leader.

The seemingly hard exterior of an Eight protects an inner sense of fragility and vulnerability which the Eight tries to deny. It’s no surprise, then, that their core belief blinds Eights to the “softer” side of life such as receiving love or affection.

There are nine personality classifications/patterns in the Enneagram system:

  1. “The Perfectionist” believes that the world judges and punishes “bad” behavior, so he must gain worthiness and love by being as good and perfect as possible.
  2. “The Giver” believes that he must give fully to others and minimize his own needs.
  3.  “The Performer” believes that he must accomplish and succeed.
  4. “The Romantic” believes that something vitally important is missing from his life and must be regained in order to relieve the pain of deficiency and loss of connection.
  5. “The Observer” believes that he must protect himself from a world that demands too much and gives too little.
  6.  “The Loyal Skeptic” believes that he must gain protection and security in a hazardous world that can’t be trusted
  7. “The Epicure” believes that the world limits and frustrates, causing pain from which no one can escape.
  8. “The Protector,” discussed above, believes that she lives in a hard and unjust world where the powerful take advantage of the innocent and impose their personal will on others
  9. “The Mediator” believes that in order to be loved and valued he must blend in to get along.

Whatever type you are, the majority of your thinking, feeling and behaving happens automatically and unconsciously and shapes how you lead. You can’t change what we are not aware of. The Enneagram is a great map to make unconscious patterns conscious so that you can affect real change in your behavior and leadership style.

Read how different personality types translate to the business environment in Part II of this series.

Category: Leadership

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About the Author: Cheryl McMillan

Cheryl is a Vistage Master Chair and Executive Coach. She has a passion for raising awareness in leaders about how their choices and unconscious actions impact their results. She leads two C-Suite peer advisory boards, comprised of CEO's or …

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