Category: The Enneagram in Business

Develop your Leaders Emotional Intelligence with the Enneagram

Posted on 04/30/12 by admin

Emotionally Intelligent LeadersI have been working with the Enneagram for the last 15 years. I have used it in my own company with great success and it has been a revelation on a personal level. I have worked with it, developed my understanding of it, and taught it to individuals, leaders and  teams over the years where it was received exceptionally well. When I came  across Emotional Intelligence in detail through my MBA studies – I had known about Goleman’s ideas for quite a while – it  immediately struck me that EQ was significantly improved by using the Enneagram.

The Enneagram maps out the individual differences via each of nine different focuses of attention. The Enneagram addresses all of  the areas described by Goleman through teaching an understanding of self, ones position under stress and relaxation, an understanding of others and an understanding of focal application area through the subtype. It helps break reactive habits an  promotes an understanding of those who do not think and feel as you do.

It was clear to me that if the Enneagram improves all these areas it has to improve Emotional Intelligence overall – and so I went on to  validate this hypothesis. In researching this I can across some work on Emotional Intelligence and Leadership which hold true even in our current turbulent times.

It is the really inspirational leaders who stand out in a crisis…Emotional intelligence is a big plus in hard times. Source: Sir John Egan, President of CBI, January 2002

Leadership is positively impacted by improved emotional intelligence. According to Goleman (1996) “Emotional intelligence is twice as important as IQ and technical skills… The higher up the organisation you go, the more important emotional intelligence becomes.” Salovey and Caruso, (2004) write in the Emotionally Intelligent Manager “emotion is not just important but absolutely necessary for us to make good decisions, take optimal action to solve problems, cope with change and succeed”

Improving Emotional Intelligence to improve leadership would seem to be an obvious path. Goleman (1998) also states: “Research and practice clearly demonstrate that emotional intelligence can be learned…To enhance emotional intelligence, organizations must …help people break old behavioural habits and establish new ones. This not only takes much more time than conventional training programs, it also requires an individualized approach” indicate the possibilities and practicalities of improving emotional intelligence.

Over the last few years I have developed and constantly improved, a number of programs to deliver the “Emotional Intelligence Advantage”. The key is that the learning is profound and partly experiential and it improves not just skills but behaviours. And these positively impact life as well as work.

Overview of the Origins of the Enneagram

Posted on 01/04/12 by admin

Much of the development of the ideas of the Enneagram in the modern sense is attributed to Gurdjieff (b. 1875) – a Greek Armenian working in the early 20th Century (Riso and Hudson 1999, Lapid-Bogda 2004, Kale and Shrivastava 2002) who is credited with assembling the first parts of the Enneagram from Eastern traditions. This work was built on researched by and added to from various classical and spiritual teachings by Oscar Ichazo a Bolivian Philosopher (Riso and Hudson 1999, Lapid-Bogda 2004, Kale and Shrivastava 2002, Maitri 2005) following his travels and was synthesised formally into a “system” in the mid 1950s.

We see the world through our type.

It is derived from the (Riso and Hudson 1999) “nine divine attributes as they are reflected in human nature” and these ideas are originally attributed to the Neo-Platonists and appeared in Plotinus’s writings “the Enneads” (3rd Century AD). According to Goldberg (1999) the Enneagram is very old. He claims Homer (ca 750BCE) knew the nine basic themes essentially as they are today.

Riso and Hudson (1999) explain that they found their way into the Christian Tradition as the seven deadly sins (to match the seven sacraments) and two others – fear and deceit. Ichazo traced early ideas about the nine divine attributes from Greece to the “desert fathers of the fourth century” who first developed the concept of the seven deadly sins and from there into medieval literature including the “Canterbury Tales” and Dante’s “Purgatorio”. Following studies of the Jewish tradition of the Kaballah and in particular “the tree of life” Ichazo assembled the basic template of the Enneagram as it is known today.

Helen Palmer in an interview posted on (1997) echoes this clarifying that the roots of the Enneagram are in the mystical wings of many sacred traditions. These roots are also found in Sufism (the mystical wing of Islam) and in the Judaic tradition however the Enneagram is especially prominent in the Christian tradition through the study of the seven capital tendencies. These in company with two generic or general tendencies that all types hold in common bring the total to nine.

In 1970 a noted Chilean Psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo (Palmer 1995, Maitri 2005, Riso and Hudson 1996) who was developing a program of Gestalt Therapy (the client is encouraged to experience his or her own feelings and behaviours in the here and now) was taught by Ichazo in Chile about the nine types or as he called them “ego fixations”. Returning to California he began to teach the enneagram with other psychological systems and began correlating the Enneagram with the psychiatric categories he was familiar with thereby expanding the concept.

Working with private groups initially Naranjo began to teach a version of the Enneagram in the Oral tradition and it spread rapidly from there through Naranjo’s Students, enthusiasts and the Jesuit retreat houses.

Wagner, Palmer and Riso were students of Naranjo and became the foremost thinkers on the Enneagram. Their work since the 1970s has added to the understanding of the Enneagram and with Naranjo’s work this has added a dept of experiential learning and understanding to the Psychological framework. According to Cutting and Kouzmin (2004) the Enneagram typology itself has been built up from experience and observing it over a long period of time.

Jerome Wagner PHD and author of the Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles (1996) summarises the origins nicely for the purposes of this study. He confirms that the trail of the Enneagram grows less distinct before Ichazo, but that it is evident that the parameters of the person as viewed through the lens of Enneagram theory have been recognized in some fashion across ages and centuries and across cultures, races, and genders. The Enneagram must tap into something universal in the nature and functioning of human beings. The fact that people from such varied places as Africa, Japan, Korea, India, Europe, North and South America and Russia etc can recognize these nine styles in their native cultures speaks to the generalizability of the Enneagram system.

Now being used through large multi-national businesses and organisations, its use is resulting in distinct improvements in many areas from financial metrics to leadership capabilities as well as teamwork. The Enneagram has become universally accepted a a key tool in Emotional Intelligence development.

Aidan Higgins

Success in hard times.

Posted on 12/01/11 by Aidan


Is it always true that if we work harder we will do better? In times like we are passing through now, if we put our heads down and push are we doing the right thing? What happens if we are already working very hard and if we are already expending more of ourselves than we like and leaving nothing for our personal lives  – the wringings from a dishcloth. Is this sustainable?

The term work smarter is very old. However the term applies still to the concepts of using your efforts more wisely.  What about working more intelligently? A friend of mine once said to me – smart is short term – intelligence is long term. I see a lot of well meaning managers and leaders, leading by example, burning the candle at both ends and bringing their people with them. For a time the work culture in  Japan for instance precluded you leaving the office before the boss left even if it meant staying until midnight. Corporate in Japan had to turn off the lights in their buildings to make people go home. Bosses mean well and often lead this way – “work harder and we’ll get through this!”

But what about working more Intelligently. What about waking up your people to Awareness and making them more Emotionally Intelligent? What about using training to improve the success of your people, who properly motivated use these new skills to be better in all facets of their jobs. We have been hearing for years that we need to encourage people to be leaders and to strive independently for their team in their own interests as well as the teams. Well what about giving them the tools to develop their Self Awareness, Self Regulation , Empathy and Social Skills, all of which are directly related to success.

In 2004 Stanford’s Graduate School of Business stated that “Emotional intelligence skills such as vision, building relationships and developing people are more important to leadership success than typical leadership traits, such as external/market orientation, financial acumen and planning“. This study involved 265 corporate executives, directors, managers, business owners, and consultants.  Sir John Egan, former head of the Confederation of British Industry, BAA and Jaguar is quoted as saying that “It is the really inspirational leaders who stand out in a crisis…Emotional intelligence is a big plus in hard times“.

I met someone the other evening – a small business owner  – who said that becoming aware of his personality type made an immediate difference to the running of his business. He said he was able to re-organise his and others work to match his strengths. I have watched how the processes that improve awareness and Emotional Intelligence build better teams, comradeship and networks in business.

Better still its something we can do something about. Its not “out there” with the financial difficulties, its internal. We can get our people awake and working better together by applying simple techniques and opening up their awareness of themselves and others quite readily.

And success breeds success.

Aidan Higgins

First Published 2009

Enneagram Applied to Leadership.

Posted on 06/04/08 by Aidan

Leadership and GrowthI spent most of last week with Peter O’Hanrahan, the globally reknowned Enneagram Teacher that Margaret O’Rorke and I brought to Ireland to conduct an advanced work shop at the marvelous Emmaus Centre in Swords, North Dublin. It was real, intense and an altogether enlightening experience.

We spent the week revisiting the types at an advanced level and working the interview typing process – which was an experience. Its very interesting that one must ensure ones own perception of the world is clear before one can judge others. What Helen Palmer calls the veil of illusion must be cleared before one can make a clear and precise judgement of others perceptional filters.

In offline discussions with Peter, I had a chance to explore the business applications further and we discussed a number of issues. Peter had interesting insights in the Application of the Enneagram to leadership and in fact he is taking part in a symposium in the Enneagram Leaders Conference in the US in September 2008 with other thought leaders.

The benefits to leadership centre around:
Learning the powerful interpersonal communication breakthroughs from working at “a new level of awareness and non-judgemental receptivity”.
Making REAL connections with people
Using the three centres of intelligence (mind, body and heart) fully.
Exploring the next levels of your potential effectiveness by increase self acceptance and management of reactivity.
Understanding how to work with each of the other Enneagram styles.
Appreciating the special nature of each of the other perspectives.

As a Managing Director I have applied the Enneagram in leadership by understanding my own gifts and weak points better and working to resolve the latter. It also makes a huge difference to have your team and the rest of the organisation Enneagram aware so they work better together, on their own or with you as a leader or manager.

It is also important to understand that leadership is also about context, as in the environment in which you find yourself and your organisation. When that changes do you have the ability to change your style in response – are you aware of it and of the emotional barriers you may have to hurdle to do so? As we all know now the only constant these days is change – so more important than ever to be able to change yourself. And all real change happens from within.

Aidan Higgins

The Enneagram in Business – Barriers to Acceptance

Posted on 01/13/08 by Aidan

enneagram wheelI have been using the Enneagram with business for over ten years now and it get clearer and stronger to me every day. Its general acceptance among the business community is becoming a reality – but slowly. Some of this is I believe is to do with the way it is taught and the language that is used to teach it. I know that if someone rolled into a business training session I was a part of, with their own spiritual agenda (whatever that might be) and tried to force it down my throat it would taint the taste of whatever I was taught and perhaps put me off it for life.

The fact that the Enneagram originated in Philosophical tradition (as did Psychology) and was taken forward initially by Jesuits in the US  (such as Don Riso of Riso and Hudson ) means that it has been taken by the spiritual community and has emerged from there to the business world. Having come from the business world to the Enneagram myself (the opposite route) it is obvious to me that the language used for teaching must be adapted to the new audience.

I have also come across attitudes that suggest that the business community does not need the Enneagram and in fact it may be harmful in the wrong hands. I would point out that there is a greater need than ever for the Enneagram in business and not just because of its impact on Emotional Intelligence and on the performance of the bsuiness. What about people being happier with their lives and their lot? Most Business is about dealing with or working with other people. Its 30% of our waking time so surely its a good place to start. Also the Enneagram is the sort of learning that is taken home from work and lifts the lives of others at home and in ones social circles too.

When I was researching the Enneagram for my dissertation I interviewed a lot of Enneagram trainees and almost all of them who were introduced to the Enneagram at work continued the learning on their own time outside work, perceiving its value. However when I broach the subject of the Enneagram to business people who have never seen it, I see a suspicious glint in their eye and the question that most often comes out is “is that like the Belbin thing or that Myers Briggs thing” and I have to say yes….but NO! There is a lot of history with those two models (fine for their time) of being labelled with no real benefit. Coupled with that is their immediate fear of being “found out”.

However they do get found out – by themselves. The Enneagram is about self realisation first and foremost and about self improvement. When you can identify the colour of the lens through which you view life you comprehend things very differently. As Helen Palmer repeats regularly “you can see things as they really are”. Often the most powerful of the revelations are based around the fact that the focus of attention is different for each type so you selectively perceive your own truth. Further you crave different certainties in life than other types – so you focus on getting them. It takes time and it takes awareness but the rewards are the understanding of what drives you, your resultant actions and reactions as a result and the understanding of how others differ from you in these respects. So you drive up your Emotional Intelligence and the resultant rewards can be considerable.

Heavy stuff ? It can be. Enjoyable? Certainly. But it requires change and this creates fear initially. So the language must be carefully chosen when the invitations are sent out. This is important stuff. Hardly Sales skills 101.

Aidan Higgins

The Enneagram in Business

Posted on 12/13/07 by Aidan

The Enneagram is all about improvement and uses levels of health and talks of stripping away the “Veil of Illusion” to see things as they really are which has Enneagram Symbolconsequential significant improvement on awareness and interpersonal interaction at work. 

As a Manager what would one give for ones team to have improved communication, conflict management and collaboration skills?

As a Leader in an organisation what is it worth personally to have a greater self confidence, self control and influencing skills?

As a team member how much better if you and your team mates understand one another better, are aware of each others moods and how to react to them and can build bonds better with one another. How much time is saved getting the team from forming to performing – this time could be reduced using the Enneagram training and even by applying it to build the team in the first instance.

Recent improvements in understanding of motivation and empowerment also indicate benefits to the Organisation of a workforce with a balanced lifestyle – where the elements of their personal life are operating in tandem. This alone has a positive impact on ones work performance. This is especially true over the medium to longer term and a good balance prevents burnout, stress and improves absenteeism and retention.

The Enneagram is seen by some as being a bit “West Coast” (US) and it suffers from credibility in terms of “pop” psychology. Further when introduced for the first time to the individual it can create a negative response related to fear of being labelled (and fear of change). Credibility is also hampered by some of the spiritual language used by some of its teachers – and while this is not of any particular doctrine – I have spoken to many to whom it was off-putting. However the Enneagram is gaining ground world wide and is used in some of the biggest companies in the world. It is also taught in Stanford and Harvard.

A difficulty with teaching the Enneagram surrounds the practicality of the typing process. The interviewees who describe the “Oral Tradition” training method talk about the feeling of trust, the time taken to properly understand, the honesty of the panel members etc. Delivering this in a business format can prove problematic given the time restraints and the competitive nature (and sometimes negative nature) of the Organisational environment. However the opportunity does exist to deliver a more structured and formal approach more suitable for business – one which I have been working with recently.

The value of the Enneagram is somewhat intertwined with its complexity and the revealing nature over time of the training. Value is described in revisiting it and renewing it. My own experience shows a direct correlation between its impact, time spent and the application.

However it was seen that taken as a short term course where the training is “bought into” by the trainees the Enneagram training has a significant influence. I have spoken to many people who were introduced to the course this way speak of the immediate benefits and recommend it highly.

The Enneagram can improve ones outlook so much so that many who were introduced to the course through work continue its study on a personal basis. I  have seen that employees often continue Enneagram courses on a personal basis after being introduced to the Enneagram at work and this begs the question why do their Organisations not provide a further program of training over a number of years given the benefits and the feedback they must be getting from their employees who benefit from the inherent focus on growth. 

Its a different way of training but then aren’t we supposed  to be embracing difference for competitive advantage?

Aidan Higgins

The Enneagram and the Team

Posted on 11/12/07 by Aidan

I have been working with the Enneagram for 10 years in and around business and I am fully convinced of its value in business and personal life. Often I talk about the fact that there is a huge overlap between personal and business life and the people factors that bring a better standard of life to employees and managers while at the same time enhancing business performance. In this instance I want to touch on the potential impact on the Team.

The Enneagram and the TeamThe Enneagram is shown to enhance, among many things, team performance and in my view should be used in the norming process in building projects teams.

I have seen groups of people sent on a training course, which included the Enneagram, show positive effects immediately with these positive effects continuing to grow over the period of learning undertaken. I have seen types who grate on one another suddenly having and showing understanding for one another and little issues which caused friction becoming just that, little issues. An understanding where you and just as importantly, the other person is coming from, is critical to this.

An example I can offer is where one particular manager in a company I worked for was absolutely and resolutely determined and hard working and often was the key person in either winning or completing a project. What was very interesting was that as the good news came in that a large contract which a team of four would have been working day and night on had been awarded to us, everyone would be delighted. Except our friend – who would be convinced that it was too good to be true and something was going to go wrong. Comments like “what a pain ” were thrown around and some, particularly the account managers would get annoyed and friction would develop.

What the Enneagram taught us all, the person in question and the team was that this was a natural route for a Type Six. Loyal, tough, detail oriented and great in a crisis the same person almost changes character when there is no challenge. Much more happy when they know where the danger is, they will prevaricate until they find the next challenge and when others worry they are taking it head on.

Learning this caused the team to lighten up, to recognise and laugh at the behaviour which improved communication, the slickness of how they operated, the overall motivation of the group and the camaradarie within the team.

One can imagine that in an organisation which has embraced the Enneagram it will be easier to form successful teams for two reasons.

The first is that knowing the type of the individuals in the group will allow easier understanding and resolution of difficulties as we have just seen.

The second, although it needs to be handled carefully perhaps, is the opportunity to form a team with certain types (healthy in their type of course) in certain roles, such as for example 9’s in the Chair, 8’s or 3’s using their energy to drive the project, 6’s or 1’s to check and deliver on the detail, 4’s or 7’s as the creatives etc. Enneagram expertise will not guarantee the success of the project but it certainly will improve its chances of success.

And given the myriad of uses of teams in Medium and Large organisations what value can you put on that………?

Aidan Higgins

What is the Enneagram?

Posted on 10/19/07 by Aidan

A brief overview by Aidan Higgins

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day
Bertrand Russell.

Like the better known Myers Briggs Type Indicator (Myers Briggs 1980) the Enneagram is a personality profiling tool. While both the Belbin Model and the MBTI are used to understand the individual and particularly their role in the team, the Enneagram is more involved as it approaches understanding oneself and others through ones core motivation, ones values, thinking styles and ways of problem solving. The Enneagram maps out the individual differences via each of nine different personality orientations – derived from nine different focuses of attention developed during childhood.

The focus of attention is that which a child focuses on most to ensure it survival and development and that selection is in theory a combination of nature and nurture based on the impact of the environment of the child and the capabilities of the child given by its genetic make-up. This selection is deemed to happen at an early age. The 9 categories fall into 3 groups or “triads” Head, Heart and Gut also known as the Thinking type, The Feeling Type and the Instinctual Type.

Peter Senge (1990) observed that the mental model each of us possesses determines not only how we make sense of the world, but also how we take action.

The main schools of the Enneagram are Riso and Hudson and Helen Palmer/David Daniels all of whom are widely published and read as well as being very well respected in their fields.

Helen Palmer (1995) one of the foremost experts on the Enneagram who teaches it at Harvard Law School considers the Enneagram to be extraordinarily precise and to give the ability to look deeply within our own character and to clarify relationships with clients, co-workers, family and friends. A key factor is that insight quickly turns to compassion when you compare your own bias with people who are unlike you.

Riso and Hudson (1999) explain the personality type as the main filter that we use to understand ourselves and the world around us. We also use it to express ourselves, to defend ourselves, to deal with our past and anticipate our future, to learn with, to rejoice with, and to fall in love with. The Enneagram is a system that enables us to discern our filters more clearly and take them into account and it can show us our core psychological issues as well as our interpersonal strengths and weaknesses.

So the Enneagram describes nine distinct and fundamentally different patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Daniels and Price (2000) tell us that each of the nine patterns is based on an explicit perceptual filter. This filter determines what you pay attention to and how you direct your energy. Underneath each of the nine patterns is a basic proposition or belief about what you need in life for survival and satisfaction.

Interesting stuff – and powerful. In my experience it takes some time to fully get to grips with the Enneagram, although you can start improving immediately. However like all things worthwhile it takes effort, and in my view the rewards are fully worth the trouble. So find your Mentor soon…..