The Enneagram for Leaders (for Types 1, 2, and 3)

Achieving Goals, Confidence, Leadership Coaching
03/20/23 - Brooke McCord
Leaders gathering around

People often consider the Enneagram to be a personality test, but it’s more than that. Instead of talking about what someone does and if they’re extroverted or introverted, it gets to something deeper. It gets to the heart of our motivations – it gets to the heart of WHY we do the things we do. This increase of self-awareness allows us to become aware of our patterns, break habits, and become more of who we want to be.

Getting out of auto-pilot and tuning into what motivates you and what motivates your team can help you unlock your potential as a leader and elevate your team. In this Enneagram blog series, I will use my learnings from the IEQ9 institute to go through the 9 types of motivations, their blind spots, and what you need to look out for, not just for yourself but also for individuals on your team.

Today, we will go through Enneagrams 1, 2, and 3! See Enneagrams 4, 5, and 6 here. And Enneagrams 7, 8, and 9 here

1: The Strict Perfectionist

Overview: Enneagram 1’s want to be good and to avoid being bad, so they strive for perfectionism and have a great deal of self-control.

Core Motivation: they feel the need to be good and right. 1’s hate making mistakes, appreciate order and structure, and have a lot of integrity.

Typical Conflict style: They focus on what is wrong and the right way to move forward.

Blind Spots:

  • They can appear critical, even when they are trying to be constructive
  • They can overstep boundaries to fix the flaws that they see in others and in processes
  • 1’s tend to repress emotions (that’s the “right” thing to do in their minds), but their body language can tell a different story.
  • They can have a hard time seeing other people’s point of view because theirs is the correct one. 


  • Bring criticized
  • Others lack of follow-through or timeliness
  • Changes in plans

Defense mechanisms: 1’s believe it is bad to be angry or feel negative emotions, so they repress those emotions and will then do the opposite (smile, etc.) even when they are frustrated.

If you’re a 1, things to look out for and to improve:

  • You can be single-minded, so explore different options and embrace other’s points of view. 
  • It’s easy for you to repress, so process your negative emotions rather than repress them.
  • Focusing on yourself is very easy. Instead, focus on others’ needs first when it matters.
  • Balance your hard-lined principles with the larger purpose.

If your subordinate is a 1, things to know / how to help:

  • They struggle with perfectionism and have very high standards for themselves and others. This can lead to taking on a lot of work and a building of resentment if things don’t go the way they’re “supposed to”. They can also struggle with making mistakes. Let them know that mistakes are okay and that they can learn from them.
  • Encourage exploration, explain the importance of collaboration, when they make a mistake, give grace and the next steps forward.
  • 1’s struggle with criticism – this goes against their need to be “good and right”. So be soft in your feedback and give praise to balance the criticism.

2: The Considerate Helper

Overview: Enneagram 2’s deeply value relationships and are very people-centered. They get value from being loved and appreciated by others and will go to great lengths to get this. 

Motivation: the need to be liked and appreciated

Typical Conflict style: Very empathetic approach to conflict – they look for the positive in others

Blind Spots:

  • Ignoring their own needs
  • Having ulterior motives to their generosity and helpfulness
  • May overstep with unsolicited advice and help, which takes power away from others


  • Being taken for granted
  • Being excluded or ignored
  • Others being harmed

Defense mechanisms: 2’s will repress negative emotions and push down negative feelings to maintain a positive attitude. They also need affirmation, and will project that onto others and flatter and encourage them instead.

If you’re a 2, things to look out for and improve:

  • You can have a deep sense of pride – “I can be the one who saves you”. Remind yourself that people have tools to be successful on their own. Ask if they need help before assuming.
  • 2’s can manipulate others to fill a sense of love by using flattery to get what you want. Notice when you are flattering to get what you want. Or ask a close friend if this is something they see to build self-awareness of how you come across to others.
  • For 2’s, it’s hard to know what you want. Work to voice this and develop your personal power. 

If your subordinate is a 2, things to know / how to help:

  • Praise is important to them, don’t take them and their work/effort for granted. Verbalize the good work they did. 
  • Help them balance when to focus on their own work and self and when to collaborate. Help them not to overextend themselves to the point of burnout – they will because they can be so focused on others. 
  • Sharing their own thoughts can be hard, so ask them what their opinion is on topics within their expertise

3: The Competitive Achiever

Overview: Enneagram 3’s high-value achievement and want to be the best. They are hardworking, goal-focused, and very efficient. 

Motivation: they feel the need to be the best

Typical Conflict style: very efficient and competent. They are focused on the goal and also want to maintain a high image from others. 

Blind Spots:

  • Overly focused on image and may come across as inauthentic
  • Brush aside criticism
  • Can make others feel really rushed as they are very goal-focused
  • Don’t invite others’ perspectives


  • Being set up for failure or being blamed for others’ subpar work
  • Not receiving credit
  • Not looking good, personally or professionally

Defense mechanisms: 3’s can believe that they are what they do. It’s easy for them to throw themselves into work to reassure that they are the best

If you’re a 3, things to look out for and improve:

  • 3’s can over-focus on image and lose who they really are – they are what they achieve. Remind yourself that you’re more than that!
  • You can be overly goal focused and rushed and not hear others’ perspectives. Invite people into the conversation.
  • Showing emotions can be challenging. Connect to these feelings and share them when warranted rather than being who you think others want you to be.

If your subordinate is a 3, things to know / how to help:

  • They can struggle with collaboration, especially if they view others as less competent than they are. Remind them that they are part of a team.
  • 3’s need external validation – they worry about being worthless. Remind them that they are valuable to the team (their work, but also who they are).
  • Remind them that sometimes failure is a part of the process and that they can learn from it.

If you are ready to learn more about how the Enneagram can help you in your leadership, book a free consultation to learn more.

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