When you understand what drives your employees – and yourself – you’re able to nurture a more engaged, thriving team. The Enneagram personality assessment is a powerful tool to help you make sense of your motivations and connect more effectively with your staff.

In last week’s blog post, we introduced you to the Enneagram and discussed its origin and significance, both individually and in the workplace.

I continued my conversation on this insightful personality assessment with Chelsie Sargent, certified International Enneagram expert and E3’s own Enneagram Trainer. We dove into what’s known as the “Gut Triad” – Types 8, 9, and 1. These numbers bring positive qualities, such as goodness, directness, and peacemaking, to a team. Below are highlights about these specific types from part two of our conversation.

Tune into Thrive By Design: The Podcast this week for the full interview with Chelsie.

The Enneagram

Chelsie: There are three triads on the Enneagram, and there are three numbers in each triad. The first one that we’re going to focus on, which is composed of 8, 9, and 1, is the Anger or Gut Triad. 

Styles 2, 3, and 4 make up the Heart or Feelings Triad. 

Styles 5, 6, and 7 comprise the Head or Thinking Triad.

It’s important to understand the different triads because people in these numbers are going to act from either their head center, their heart center, or their gut center.


Don: Let’s come back to the Anger or Gut Triad. Can you break each of the three numbers in the triad down? Can you talk about the 8s as leaders and how understanding this profile type might be useful in the workplace?

Chelsie: The 8s are known as the Challengers. They are the big thinkers in the room, and they can make things happen. 8s are very decisive and have a lot of energy. Out of all the personality styles that make up the Enneagram, 8s have the most energy. Many 8s will tell you that one of the worst things that can happen to them in the workplace is feeling like they are being controlled. They move things forward with gusto, they overcome issues quickly, and they are not afraid to challenge authority.

Don: Are these the types of individuals who feel like they’re smarter or know more than everyone else in the room, or have to add their own little bit of commentary on something – they just can’t seem to let something go?

Chelsie: Yes. They can also come across as aggressive because they sometimes have a hard time letting things go, or they have a powerful voice and take up a lot of energy in a room. They’re what people would call, specifically in the workplace, powerful leaders. In our Western business culture, a lot of CEOs are 8s. They’re bold, they’re blunt, and people really appreciate their directness.

Don: Is this the type of leader who employees would want to follow?

Chelsie: That’s a really good question. Employees are compelled to follow an 8, in a healthy sense. They are quick thinkers and they move things forward in a timely fashion. People want to get behind them because the train’s moving fast, and it is moving forward in a direction that is usually appealing to people. When 8s are not healthy, they can come across as aggressive, overpowering, and intimidating, which may make people feel scared or not seen working underneath them because 8s move so quickly.

Don: I’m assuming there are healthy and unhealthy expressions of each personality type. Can you talk more about that?

Chelsie: Absolutely. There are people living into the healthier parts of their personality and those who are in unhealthy parts of their personality. Healthy personality types possess self-awareness. For example, healthy 8s are self aware of how much energy they take up in a room and they understand this is not how everyone functions.

Don: Is there a gender-based disadvantage for 8s who are women?

Chelsie: Such a good question. Male 8s are often praised and encouraged in the workplace. Female 8s in CEO positions or in higher levels of management have a lot of woundedness about their more aggressive personality stance within the workplace. They have been told over the years that they need to calm down or back off, or that they’re “too much.” They often see their male counterparts getting praised for the same personality traits, so female 8s feel like they have to walk a fine line of being who they really are and using their powerful energy, but not coming across as too aggressive.

Regardless, self-awareness is key. When an 8 understands their personality, and knows how they’re coming across and what they bring to the table, it helps them to practice a healthy personality. Not all personality types are going to respond well when 8s are blunt or powerfully expressing their feelings. It doesn’t necessarily mean an 8 has to morph into a different person when they’re around others. But, it does mean they have a good understanding that not all people are going to respond well to that behavior. Healthy 8s can bring different parts of themselves to harness in some of their energy, or put that energy into healthier ways when leading their team.


Don: Let’s talk about 9s as leaders, and how understanding this profile type might be critical for people in the workplace to understand.

Chelsie: There’s a fascinating transition between 8s and 9s. When 8s come into the room, they bring all the energy. 9s, on the other hand, have the least amount of energy of the personality styles on the Enneagram. They are known as the Peacemakers. 9s value harmony and want to avoid conflict at all costs. They also value things working well and going smoothly, and don’t like drawing attention to themselves. 9s like to go with the flow, and they are very easy to get along with. One of the things that I often hear from people who are being led by 9s is that it’s easy to relate and talk to them. 9s are inviting and good listeners, and they are enjoyable to have conversations with.

Don: But there’s a downside here, isn’t there? 9s may not be as willing to have those tough conversations with team members to get them back on track if they’re underperforming. Is there some potential conflict avoidance on their part?

Chelsie: 9s don’t like to rock the boat. They are wired to avoid conflict at all costs. When I work with leaders who are 9s, one of the big things that we address is their conflict avoidance. When 9s are in their healthier spaces, they are going to recognize that tendency and build their skills to have healthy conflict and address difficult issues with their employees.

As we all know, you can only suppress feelings of anger or resentment for so long before there is going to be some sort of an explosion at some time. 9s very rarely come across as angry or having issues with something. But, because they have a hard time talking about their feelings, or if they feel like an injustice is happening towards them, it can come out sideways at times. It’s definitely something 9s need to be aware of.


Don: Let’s talk about the 1s as leaders.

Chelsie: 1s are known as the Perfectionists or Reformers. They are the people on your team who are going to bring the high ethical standards. 1s value high-quality results and are very detail-oriented, results-driven, and logical. 1s also really take you at your word, so if you say that you’re going to perform in a certain way or have results ready by a certain time, to really honor a 1, it’s a good idea to get within that time frame.

It’s also the 1’s job to realize when they are coming across as rigid or they are having a hard time being flexible. Unhealthy 1s can come across as being overly pragmatic or really strict rule-followers. This is where perfectionism can come in for them. The way I reframe that for 1s is they are great additions to your team because they’re going to walk into the room and see all of the potential of what could be really good in this place. Sometimes they get too focused on what they think is “right” and “wrong,” and they want everyone to follow those rigid rules. On the other hand, healthy 1s can back up and really look at how the whole team is working together. They can bring in a lot of goodness to the team because they are ethical and focused on positive results.

Don: This really isn’t a case where the ideal employee is a 1, or an 8, or a 9. Instead, it’s really about understanding the workplace is made up of all of these personality styles. They each bring special characteristics that once we understand them we can maximize them and work with those employees better.

Chelsie: That is a key understanding of the Enneagram – there isn’t one number that is better than the others. All of the styles are good, and we need all of them incorporated into our lives, specifically in the workplace.

In the next two episodes of this podcast series, we will be exploring the remaining six personality types, their key characteristics and motivations, and how the Enneagram can help you lead with greater self-awareness. Stay tuned for those episodes on September 25 and October 2.

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Key Takeaways:

  • The Enneagram styles 8, 9, and 1 compose the Gut or Anger Triad. Their goodness, directness, and peacemaking qualities are critically important to a strong workplace team.
  • Healthy 8s are decisive, energetic, and move things forward, which helps them to be powerful leaders. Unhealthy 8s can come off as aggressive, overpowering, and intimidating, so they must learn to get a handle on their energy and understand that not everyone functions in that way.
  • 9s who are in a healthy state are skilled in building relationships, are easy to relate to, and are good listeners. Unhealthy 9s avoid conflict at all costs. It’s essential for them to build their skills in having healthy conflict and addressing difficult issues with staff.
  • 1s bring ethical standards and high-quality results to the team. When they are unhealthy, they can come off as strict rule-followers or rigid. 1s need to realize when they are having a hard time being flexible, and become open to other ideas and ways of doing things.


How the Enneagram System Works, The Enneagram Institute, EnneagramInstitute.com. 

More on the Gut Center, The Enneagram Depot, TheEnneagramDepot.com.

Type 8 ~ The Protector, Dr. David Daniels, DrDavidDaniels.com.

Type 9 ~ The Mediator, Dr. David Daniels, Dr.DavidDaniels.com.

Type 1 ~ The Perfectionist, Dr. David Daniels, Dr.DavidDaniels.com.

(Image credit: Enneagram Institute)