The Value of the Enneagram for Business Leaders

The Value of the Enneagram for Business Leaders

The Enneagram is a tool that has been getting increased attention in recent years.  And rightfully so.  It is a sophisticated system that provides a clear roadmap for individual development at a far deeper level than most development tools.  As a result, following the Enneagram’s roadmap for a leader’s particular type leads to sustained change in ways other tools simply can’t provide as effectively.

Unfortunately, because of its complexity the Enneagram is very often misunderstood, misused, or reduced to a surface level parlor game, and is rarely used in business settings for leadership or executive development.  But I want to make the case here for the Enneagram being the most powerful leadership development tool out there based on my many of hours of certification training and, even more importantly, my hundreds of hours coaching individual leaders and leadership teams in Nashville and around the country who have used it to innovate and collaborate in new ways that have led to increased business performance for their organizations.

I will focus here on just two of the main ways leaders can harness the power of the Enneagram for business success:

  1.  Conflict Management –  When leaders and teams struggle with conflict, it is actually more often about avoiding conflict that needs to be addressed head on rather than engaging in conflict in unhelpful ways – although the latter happens as well.  When teams use the Enneagram to prevent, manage, and engage in healthy ways with conflict, they do so in part by knowing what the core motivation is of their team members, coupled with the way they typically struggle when under stress.  The Enneagram teaches that there are nine core motivators in human beings and that every person’s personality is animated by one of the nine – hence the nine “types” on the Enneagram.  If I am struggling with someone whose core need is, for example, to be needed, that gives me helpful insight into what they will likely be looking for (consciously or unconsciously) in their professional relationship with me.  Similarly, if I know that same person’s Enneagram number (Type Two) tends to struggle with pride and deflecting responsibility when they are under stress, I can prepare myself for that response if it shows up as opposed to being blindsided by it.  The Enneagram can lead to more empathy and understanding by reminding all of us that every person (regardless of Enneagram type) has core strengths to leverage along with habitual struggles related to a personality they did not choose.  So with the help of the Enneagram, conflict can feel less competitive and more like a problem to be solved.
  2. Collaboration – To oversimplify things, the Enneagram is based on the premise that there are nine different lenses through which people see the world – nine different operating systems.  When leaders know themselves and their colleagues at deep and nuanced way by working with the Enneagram, they come to see that their way of thinking and doing life is only one way, and that every way comes with blind spots.  For example, if I know my blind spot is that I tend to be strongly drawn to the path of least resistance, when I am making business decisions I can know my tendency to “keep it easy” (Type Nine) may be a roadblock to innovation and increased business success.  Even better, if I know that someone on my team’s Enneagram number leads them to constantly be looking for new and different opportunities (Type Seven) I can collaborate with them when a business issues calls for that particular way of seeing the world.  Our working together and operating with our eyes wide open to what we do well and where we may struggle leads to a more creative and innovative decision than if the whole team stays quiet and operates only under the umbrella of the CEO’s worldview, which is mediated by his or her Enneagram number and only way to see things.

In sum, the Enneagram opens leaders’ field of vision to new and different ways of navigating the business world and also helps them to maximize their interpersonal effectiveness by learning how to more skillfully meet their team members – and themselves – where they are.

For a free strategy session to discuss how we can create a tailor-made plan for your own or your team’s leadership development by using the Enneagram and other tools, email us at ben@benjaminpapa.com.