Friday, February 20, 2009 by Dave Blum
Most everyone these days, at some point or another in their professional lives, has taken part in corporate team building activities centered around personality styles — whether it’s Myers-BriggsDisc Profle, or any of a dozen other systems out on the market.  It can be pretty useful stuff.  For example, my wife Jen (the Sociology Ph.D.) and I — psych geeks that we are — often use Myers-Briggs terminology in our relationship, as a kind of communication shorthand…

Jen:  “Okay, this is going to sound pretty ‘J’ of me, but I really want to have a plan for today.”

Dave: “Oh, come on, can’t you be a little more ‘P’!”


A lesser-known personality-style model gaining traction of late is the wonderfully insightful Enneagram.  Paraphrasing Enneagram-expert Ian Blei:  “Originating perhaps in the Sufi tradition, the Enneagram was studied by philosopher George Gurdjieff (1866-1949),  credited with being the first to convert the Oral Tradition to a Written Tradition.  The modern (and popularized) version of the Enneagram of Personalities (also known as Ego-Structure) emerged in the 20th century, from the Bolivian psychiatrist Oscar Ichazo, who was a student of Gurdjieff.”

To greatly simplify (the model has a LOT to it), the Enneagram divides people into these 9 personality types:

1. Reformer: I do everything the right way. Characteristic: “produces order”
2. Helper: I must help others. Characteristic: “humble goodness”
3. Motivator: I need to succeed. Characteristic: “Succ-esssss”
4. Romantic: I am unique. Characteristic: “tragedy queen”
5. Thinker: I need to understand the world. Characteristic: “full of disclaimers”
6. Skeptic: I am affectionate and skeptical. Characteristic: “fortress mentality”
7. Enthusiast: I am happy and open to new things. Characteristic: “dizzy flirt”
8. Leader: I must be strong. Characteristic: “I’m Stalin!”
9. Peacemaker:  I am at peace. Characteristic: “diversions”
(descriptions taken from

To be continued…