Typing others is tricky business: often we miss the mark or deny others the opportunity of self-discovery. Such concerns carry less force when typing well-known figures. Public figures — like politicians and celebrities — voluntarily submit themselves to a certain level of scrutiny in exchange for their positions of influence.
Appropriate discussion of the Enneagram types of people in the public arena advances learning and generates enthusiasm in these teachings. By appropriate, I mean that such discussions should be evidence-based, respectful, and offered with humility, given that certainty is not possible. In the end, all people, including public figures, ought to be given the opportunity to awaken to their Enneagram type patterns as part of their own personal development.
Temperament is, and ought to be, fair game in politics in particular. Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said the 2016 U.S. presidential election is “a race about temperament.” And news icon John Dickerson wrote, “A president’s temperament is his [or her] most important quality and it is the hardest to measure in the candidates who desire the office.”
The goal is not to debate policy or to promote any particular candidate. (Full disclosure: my politics are progressive.)
Rather, the goal is to investigate the Enneagram’s power to disclose personality dynamics, motivations, and decision-making behavior, and to better identify its nine personality styles in our own lives by seeing them embodied in public figures.
During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I created blog posts about the Enneagram types of Barak Obama, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton. I am including these posts in this updated version of the Living Enneagram website. As the 2020 election heats up, people are again questioning the candidates’ temperaments to be Commander In Chief.
The inquiry gets skewed, however, to the extent it focuses on which kind of temperament is inherently superior to any other. Any temperament can lend itself to public office, and none are intrinsically better than any other.
The proper question is which candidate has the most integrated temperament — the one most internally balanced and healthy — regardless of what kind of temperament it is.
Integration & Disintegration
Each of us potentially manifests our ennea-type patterns in a way that is integrated, wholesome, and helpful. At times, each of us also can display these patterns in a way that is less integrated, less wholesome, and less helpful.
The more consistently integrated our personalities, the more connected, fulfilled, and whole we feel. ‘ME-centered’ concerns dissolve. Our personality patterns are used in service of wisdom and compassion.
When less integrated, we are driven by obsessive self-concern. We feel separate, isolated, and alienated. Our personality patterns organize around a strong sense of ME and react habitually, unconsciously, and unskillfully in furtherance of ME.
Pioneering experts Don Riso and Russ Hudson mapped nine paths of development for each of the nine types, grouped in three categories: the high-healthy, average, and low-unhealthy. These posts draw heavily on their work.
Key to the level of integration of any ennea-type are the ennea-types on its “connecting lines.” For example, Type 8 is connected to Type 5 and Type 2. When more integrated, we recover resource from, and run the higher patterns of, our sister ennea-types along these connecting lines.
One could vote for a leader who has the particular ennea-type befitting the era. Another approach is to ask: which leader displays the most integrated temperament, most often, regardless of ennea-type?
Leaders who are less integrated tend to be self-serving tyrants who exploit those they serve. Leaders who are more integrated tend to be magnanimous visionaries who serve those they lead.
Periods of disintegration are natural and necessary. When met fully, honestly, and compassionately, disintegration vitally contributes to deep transformation. Disintegration is the catalyst of change and the ground of new growth.
While each of us moves up and down our personality type’s levels of development, we tend to operate mostly at one level. The pertinent question: At what level of development are we — and our leaders — primarily operating?