The Enneagram for Leaders (for Types 4, 5, and 6)

Achieving Goals, Confidence, Leadership Coaching
03/20/23 - Brooke McCord
team gathered around a table

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 4, 5, and 6! See Enneagrams 1, 2, and 3 here. And Enneagrams 7, 8, and 9 here

4: The Intense Creative

Overview: Enneagram 4’s value individualism and are very purpose driven. They are intuned with their feelings and create meaning in everything. 

Motivation: They feel the need to be unique and authentic

Typical Conflict style: Strongly react in order to be seen and known

Blind Spots:

  • They can push and pull people away and towards them in and attempt for connection but also to be different
  • It’s hard for them to see the positive as they always focus on what is missing
  • Very self-focused and others might view them as self-absorbed
  • Overly comfortable with emotions as others might not be


  • Being ignored or not receiving credit
  • Doing something that is inauthentic to them
  • Being in a situation that brings up their envy

Defense mechanisms:

  • Over-identifying with and defining themselves by the darker aspects of themselves
  • Creating dramatic versions of the truth to build up their self-image

If you’re a 4, things to look out for and improve:

  • 4’s can be too focused on emotions. As a manager, work to become more goal focused. Outcome and process goals can help here.
  • Focus on others, not just yourself. Use more “we” language than “I” language. Consider your whole team.
  • Structure can be hard for a 4. Have a game plan and create structure when you have deadlines and things waiting on you.

If your subordinate is a 4, things to know / how to help:

  • Help them create structure and build out a game plan to achieve goals and stay on task.
  • 4’s struggle with comparison and they can become very envious. They value individualism, so talk about the importance of collaboration and share with them how they uniquely bring something to the group.
  • They can lean too into their emotions and go inward, so talk about the importance of balancing emotions with the realities of what’s going on with their work and on their team.

5: The Quiet Specialist

Overview: Enneagram 5’s want to understand and make sense of the world around them. They are very rational and objective, leaning into facts and figures rather than emotions. 

Motivation: They have the need to make sense of the world

Typical Conflict style: Very rational and analytical approach to resolving issues.

Blind Spots:

  • They can detach from feelings and not be warm towards others, even if they feel warm towards them
  • Can come across as arrogant when explaining information
  • Opening up themselves to commitment can be painful – cycle of wanting contact and wanting to be left alone.
  • Can come across as selfish or greedy because they can fiercely protect their time and resources.


  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Incorrect information
  • Private information being shared
  • Being prompted for an immediate emotional response

Defense mechanisms: They can isolate to work through their thoughts and can over-compartmentalize to simplify their life

If you’re a 5, things to look out for and improve:

  • You can be too in your head, so open up to trusted others.
  • 5’s are easily withdrawn. As a leader, it’s important to engage and collaborate with others. Share your expertise and ask for others’ opinions and expertise in return. 
  • You can come across as arrogant, so invite others into the conversation. Open yourself up to others points of view.

If your subordinate is a 5, things to know / how to help:

  • 5’s can easily isolate. If they are a part of a team, discuss the importance of collaboration and sharing knowledge and resources
  • In meetings, if there is a question they don’t know, they might panic or get triggered. Let them know that saying “I’m not sure, let me find out and I’ll get back to you” is okay.
  • 5’s can morph into the background. Help them work up to taking up more space. This can look like working on public speaking or letting them lead team or client meetings if they’d like.

6: The Loyal Skeptic

Overview: Enneagram 6’s deeply value security and feeling safe. They are very loyal to those around them and expect the same in return. They are responsible and very prepared for all situations.

Motivation: They need to feel safe and be supported

Typical Conflict style: defensive and can overreact

Blind Spots:

  • Overlook the things that are going well
  • They can act in ways that are counter-intuitive to building trust
  • May appear resistant as they point out what can go wrong
  • Can put their fears onto others


  • Lack of commitment from others
  • Lack of authenticity
  • Authority abusing their power

Defense mechanisms: 6’s can project their thoughts and emotions onto other people in order to protect themselves from processing what’s going on internally.

If you’re a 6, things to look out for and improve:

  • 6’s are risk averse. Mitigate risk as much as you can and create processes you can trust, but also trust the process and see how things unfold.
  • Remind yourself that your fears are mostly self-imposed. Question your assumptions and ask yourself if there is really danger here. 
  • It’s easy to seek out support, but practice self-reliance and trust. You can trust yourself too. 

If your subordinate is a 6, things to know / how to help:

  • Empower 6’s that they can do things, and that failure is sometimes a part of the process. Nothing that’s broken can’t be fixed.
  • Let your subordinate know that you are there to support them, but also provide opportunities where they have to trust themselves.
  • Remind them of the things that are going well on the project.

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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