When we think of highly successful entrepreneurs, we often think of bold and fearless personalities, people full of confidence, extraversion, and, to a degree, bullishness. Having these qualities is certainly advantageous for entrepreneurs, but this doesn’t mean all successful entrepreneurs have or need these traits. Qualities that might be perceived as liabilities in the business world, such as introversion, sensitivity, and diplomacy, can also help entrepreneurs create thriving enterprises.
Enneagrams are nine personality types that describe individuals’ basic fears, motivations, passions, and temperaments. Each personality type includes healthy and unhealthy tendencies, which align with an individual's mental, emotional, and ethical maturity.
People in the business world have long valued the examination of personalities—when managers better understand their subordinates, they can leverage the strengths of their employees while exercising patience with their weaknesses. This examination also helps team members better understand their colleagues, and everyone gain a better understanding of themselves.
Accepting and working with your own fears, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses can help you live up to your greatest potential, both professionally and personally.
The nine Enneagram types range from the Type A achiever, to the angst-ridden artist who feels perpetually misunderstood. There are also the peacemakers and the helpers, types you might not think possess the wherewithal to build businesses from the ground up, but it's never wise to mistake kindness for weakness.
Of course, people’s psyches are nuanced, so everyone can ultimately be seen as a composite of all nine personality types. But most people have one dominant personality type, and it’s worth uncovering this.
Here are the nine Enneagram personality types along with a successful entrepreneur for each. If you’d like to take a test to determine yours, you can do so easily online.
The Reformer: Elon Musk
Also known as the idealist and perfectionist of the Enneagram types, The Reformer makes changing the status quo their prime mission, and, on first glance, their aspirations may seem outlandish and unattainable. Reformer’s have a strong work ethic, as well as a near-pathological level of meticulousness in all their endeavors, making natives of this Enneagram well-suited for entrepreneurship. More than anything, Reformers want to change the world to align with their ideals.
Elon Musk is a perfect example of the Reformer. When he learned that NASA had no intention of going to Mars, he invested $100M of his own money to engineer reusable rockets to get there himself. People scoffed at his vision, but by December 2017, a reused SpaceX rocket traveled to the International Space Station. Seeing our country’s massive need for rapid ground transport, he came up with the "hyperloop", which would place passengers in pods and transport them to their destinations at hundreds of miles-per-hour inside a tube using suction technology. The idea sounds absurd, but he's determined to bring it to fruition.
I have OCD on product-related issues. I only see what's wrong. I never see what's right. It's not a recipe for happiness.
Musk has publicly spoken about his perfectionism. Given this, it’s no surprise that Musk has been described as difficult to work for, which is typical when working with or for a Reformer.
The Helper: Ben Cohen
As the title suggests, The Helper wants to help others as much as they want to succeed. These individuals are, at their core, caring, empathetic, and warm-hearted. A tendency to overextend themselves in lieu of their own happiness can be their Achilles heel if they're not careful.
For me, the only thing that is a meaningful use of my life is to work to improve the quality of life for people who are disadvantaged.
A good example of the Helper is Ben Cohen, Co-Founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. (Fun fact: Cohen didn’t have the strongest sense of smell—and therefore taste—so he decided to shove as many unexpected ingredients into Ben & Jerry's ice cream so he could enjoy it, hence the birth of flavors like Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, and the infamous Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.) Cohen spends much of his time as a philanthropist and activist, and both he and his co-founder Jerry Greenfield started a nonprofit foundation back in 1985 called Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which is an employee-led grant-making foundation that works to promote social and environmental justice.
The Achiever: Janice Bryant Howaryd
The Achiever is the kind of individual that triumphs over hardship—no one can stand in the way of their vision. They are motivated, charismatic, powerful, adaptable, and will rise up to any challenge. When they’re operating at their healthiest, they become gracious and helpful, positioning them to be excellent role models. Achievers must remember to stay grounded and temper their drive for success so it doesn't blind them with power hunger.
My personal business protocol, my life mantra: Never compromise who you are personally to become what you wish to be professionally.
Janice Bryant Howaryd, CEO and Founder of the Act 1 Group, is the ultimate Achiever. She’s the first African American woman to run a business that’s generated $1B in revenue, and she built the business all on her own in 1978, just two years after showing up to Los Angeles with only a handful of cash. Over the years, she built the Act 1Group into a staffing corporation with 17,000 offices worldwide, edging out established competition. Resolute and resilient, Howyard now dedicates some of her time to both philanthropy and helping others achieve their goals as business owners.
The Individualist: Lora Arellano
The Individualist epitomizes the artistic temperament, and it's also been dubbed The Romantic. Many Individualists are writers, musicians, visual artists, and actors. As the title implies, Individualists see themselves as separate and different from their fellows, which they at times wear as a badge of honor and at other times see as a flaw. They can struggle to find a sense of self and experience intense bouts of emotionality, but at their healthiest, they are full of imagination and creativity, which they can channel into sublime artistic works.
I didn't have the patience for anything except makeup.
You can just look at Lora Arellano, CEO and Co-Founder of Melt Cosmetics, and sense her artistic and individualistic nature without even hearing her speak. A trained makeup artist, she co-founded Melt with Dana Bomar, a friend she met while working the cosmetic counter at Nordstrom. Arellano took to makeup because was fascinated by how she could transform peoples' faces.
Covered in tats and often sporting pink or blue hair, she’s amassed a over 1M followers on Instagram. As a successful businesswoman, Arellano exemplifies a healthy individualist, one who’s embraced and made peace with her individuality, leveraging it to build her own company. With Bonner in charge of the business nuts-and-bolts at Melt, Lora is able to freelance as a makeup artist from time to time, doing work for huge celebrities like Rhianna.
The Investigator: Bill Gates
The Investigator wants to get at the root of things, tear ideas apart, and figure out how everything works. These are the scientists and engineers of the Enneagram personalities, concerned more with observing and solving problems than expressing themselves like the Individualists. Because of this, Investigators tend to be more cerebral than emotional, which can certainly be helpful when dealing with the frustrations that come with building a business. However, Investigators can also resort to being emotionally distant and secretive, straining their relations with others.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone in this world. If you do so, you’re insulting yourself.
Bill Gates is a shining example of an Investigator. Fascinated by his school's computers at a young age, he taught himself how to code and developed his first computer program at age 13. A voracious reader, Gates is rumored to read about 50 books a year to educate himself. He dropped out of Harvard after two years to found Microsoft, stating there was nothing more to learn at college. Obviously, he's still on the quest for knowledge and learning, he just wants to do it on his terms. Gates has been known to remain distant and isolated from his employees from time to time—typical behavior of the Investigator.
The Loyalist: Vera Wang
Loyalists crave stability, and they consider relationships with others to be of supreme importance. These are individuals who will have your back and go the extra mile for you. They are also strong-willed and tenacious, and remain loyal to their dreams inasmuch as they remain loyal to those in their lives. At times, Loyalists can grow fretful and unsure of themselves, and they might end up seeking approval from others to determine whether they're on the right path.
My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day.
Vera Wang fits this profile of the Loyalist. Before launching her fashion empire—and becoming the most prominent bridal gown designer alive—she was the youngest senior fashion editor at Vogue for 13 years, taking on the role at 23. The fashion world certainly isn’t for the faint of heart—it's known to be one of the most cutthroat industries, but Wang has persisted in spite of this, always staying true to her own minimalist aesthetic and remaining a notably positive and kind person. She’s admitted that she feels pressure, pressure to continue to evolve her brand as time passes, but she puts for the work every day to ensure this growth occurs.
She credits much of her success with the influence of her so-called Tiger Mom, who adored fashion, infecting her with the fashion bug.
The Enthusiast: Ferran Adrià
Enthusiasts are first and foremost curious. With a thirst for exploration and hunger for new experiences, they don’t stay glued to one endeavor for the rest of their lives. Instead, they feel compelled to change things up and pursue multiple projects of varying natures, otherwise, they get bored. These individuals are often extroverted, friendly, and intelligent, but when less evolved, they can grow scattered and disorganized, hopping from one project to another without seeing anything through.
When people think science and cooking, they have no idea that it's not correctly expressed. We're actually applying the scientific method.
Ferran Adrià is a chef and restauranteur who exemplifies The Enthusiast. Often dubbed The Father of Molecular Gastronomy, Adrià is, without question, one of the most influential chefs of all time. His restaurant elBulli, located on Spain's Costa Brava in Catalonia, was named Best Restaurant in the World five times, and it thrived for 27 years. Typical of the Enthusiast, Adrià shut down elBulli during its height to embark on an entirely different course—he transformed the restaurant into a culinary lab filled with computers instead of pots and pans.
Now, he’s working with technologists, designers, and scientists using digital technology to dissect gastronomy in the hopes of understanding the creative process. The entire project remains a bit elusive to the average person, but given Adrià's track record, his work at the culinary lab will likely help us see cooking, eating, and creativity in an entirely new light.
The Challenger: Steve Jobs
As the title suggests, the Challenger won’t back down in a fight and will push to get their way no matter the consequences. There are definitely healthy challengers who don’t break people in order to get what they want, but this can be the path some fall prey too. These individuals are the most determined and stubborn of all the Enneagram types. When they’ve achieved an optimum level of healthy evolution, they can be inspiring and display remarkable self-control.
The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.
Steve Jobs is infamous for browbeating his employees in order to create products that never before existed. It’s obvious that Jobs has a good dose of the Reformer in his personality in addition to the Challenger, but his willfulness and demanding nature is what helped spawn the Apple products we all love today. Did he have to be that domineering to encourage the engineering of things like the MacBook Pro or the iPad? This will remain an age-old riddle.
The Peacemaker: Oprah Winfrey
The Peacemaker Enneagram has also been dubbed the Healer. When you think of a peacemaker, it’s easy to envision someone with a mild or even meek temperament, but Peacemakers are often extremely powerful and driven individuals, hence their ability to effect change.
My focus has never, ever, not for one minute, been money.
Oprah Winfrey clearly has traits of the Achiever, the Reformer, and the Enthusiast, but when you look at what truly motivates her, it’s creating peace in our world. In February 2017, she interviewed seven Trump voters and seven non-Trump voters on 60 Minutes, trying to shed some light on the divide in America. She also partnered with renowned author and spiritualist Eckhart Tolle to publish a webcast called A New Earth, named after Tolle’s book, which details how you can transform the world through your own spiritual evolution. Between these effort and gifting her audience members everything from cars to free trips, it’s clear that she wants to make this world a better place.