Friday, January 11, 2008

Obama's Enneagram Type by Brad Spencer

Did you know that when you reach a website through an internet search, the site owner can see what you searched for (and what city the search came from)? Well, it's true, and we have our fingers on the pulse of the two main things people want to know about the Enneagram. Clocking in at a strong number 1, you want to know what type is compatible with yours, or whether a particular type is compatible with yours. Our number 2 most popular, and gaining, only started the day after the Iowa Caucuses: since then, there's been a steady stream of people who reach this site by searching for Barack Obama's personality type. I can see why; I wish I knew myself, as I expressed in this post, and this one. So when Brad Spencer who writes the website Enneagram Book contacted Cindi and me about swapping posts, one of topics we suggested was Obama. That's the topic Brad chose; more about his site after his artcle:


Obama's Enneagram Type

When Cindi and Mary Beth approached me with the idea of writing down my thoughts on Obama's Enneagram type, I thought that the idea of guessing about Obama would be fun. Even though I haven't kept up with the races too much, I have seen a bit of Obama, or at least enough to give me an idea of where he's coming from. Based on the speeches I've seen of Obama, I'm going to have to guess he is a 3w2 or 2w3. Now, of course you want me to back it up, so I'll give it my best shot:

Most people in politics are a Type 3. Having lived with many type 3's and known many 3's very closely, I can assure you that they are the type built for politics. The 3 is always making small talk, putting people together, and consulting their inner stylist. In order to make it to the top of the political totem-pole, you have to be concerned about how others perceive you and work to make people like you. Welcome to the world of the Enneagram Type 3.

So why a wing 2? Well, Obama has always come off to me as somewhat of an underdog. And I don't think that's a mistake. Often times, Obama has been heard saying things like, "This is all about the voters. I don't even want to be here, you've put me here." This is classic 2-speak. It's all about the other person, except that the other person is supposed to be forever indebted to the 2 for taking the role on.

Alright, so I'm aware that all of this sounds like I'm just beating up on the types. That's not my intent; not at all. But my tongue-in-cheek description of the types is because of the way I approach the Enneagram, which I discuss on my website, I think that each of the Enneagram types, which are also known as fixations, are just in the way of us being more open, free, and able to communicate with ourselves and others in a truer way. That's why we study the Enneagram, to break free of the shackles of our fixation.

My point is, although it might sound harsh toward Obama, I really like the guy and think he'd make a good President. Hell, I can't think of a better President than a 3 wing 2. And, I fear the day they put a 7 like me in office.

-Brad, A Columbus Ohio Web Design Firm, Musings on the Enneagram


Go check out Brad's site. Apparently, Brad is writing a book about the Enneagram, and is taking submissions of writings from people as representatives of their types, both for the book and for the website. He also has a list of good links for Enneagram beginners and various original articles, including one on the five most common objections to the Enneagram.


Anonymous said...

Thanks again for swapping posts! I'd also like to hear what type other people think Obama is too!

-Thanks, Brad

Cindi said...

No problem, Brad! We'll send something your way soon. Over at the Enneagram Institute discussion board (, most people seem to think Obama's a 9. I guess a really healthy 9 would manifest some 3-ishness due to integration.

Anonymous said...

When Obama first came upon the scene, I thought he was a Three, no doubt about it. But in doing more reading on the man and watching him in action in debates and video of speeches, I am convinced that he is a Nine. I was very surprised to learn this, and pleasantly and excitedly so, because I am a Nine myself! In reading the article, "The Conciliator" in the New Yorker" a couple of weeks ago, I found myself exclaiming time and again, "that's just like me!" Hey guys, this one's for real (Obama, I mean); with Nines, truly, it's what you see is what you get. He is sincere in his desire to get the country together again, and to get everyone's voices heard in the debate for SOLUTIONS to the nation's problems. For me, Obama seems not to have his ego in this race at all. He doesn't seem to care if he gets to be President, but he does seem to care about healing the nation's divisions and get us all working together and thinking of each other as Americans, as family. As a matter of fact, in the above mentioned article the author tells of how Obama wasn't sure he wanted to deal with the "hassle" of a campaign! I howled because that's such a Nine sentiment! :-) But, when we are called to lead--which Obama was (he didn't seek this)--we can really stand up to the job. Without it being "all about us".

I love seeing this because so often Nines are given a bad rap, as some kind of slugs or something. Not true. At lower levels of health every type is a bit...of a mess. But Obama? He's a healthy Nine with a strong integration of Three.

Anonymous said...


"Some such Nines are able to take on leadership roles because they wear their fixations lightly. Perhaps they enjoy the benefits of a fortunate upbringing or perhaps their work on themselves has borne fruit. Sometimes Nines who take on leadership roles seem to be the living embodiment of a solution that has been offered to us from the depths of the collective unconscious. They represent the only possible answer to the exigencies of a time in which the forward path cannot be determined by aggressive self-assertion or even by clarity of intellect. Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the greatest of America's presidents, could modestly state "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me." Healthy Nines are in touch with their depths and are able to maintain their sense of self even in the face of the most forceful opposition or the most appalling conflict. Even as they rule, they serve those they lead."

Obama's a Nine.

John said...

Pretty sure Obama is a Nine as well.

There is the characteristic calm that is quite charismatic and attractive. Obama gives the sense that he seeks comfort and harmony in each moment. Nines rub most other types the right way because they usually don't have the rough edges and overt aggression that puts people off.

However--we have to remember that Nines are anger types--and any particular Nine either has owned their darker emotions--or remain unconscious to them. Bing Crosby is an excellent example of surface calm and hidden rages.

I have known several Nines who have associated with very poorly intentioned friends and associates. Perhaps they see these folks as proxies for their deeper un-owned aggressive instincts--people who can act out feeling that the Nine doesn't fully own. Similarly, the Nine can be so accepting that they don't filter these bad actors out of their lives. A strong character requires a solid sense of self that is capable of taking strong positions against people and acts that are sub-ethical.

So a comfort-seeking demeanor and an avoidance of conflict and express aggression suggests to me that he is a Nine.

Einsenhower was a good Nine president.

Don't know enough about to tell whether Obama has a passive aggressive, hidden vindictive streak so I personally still have a question mark in my mind about him as a candidate until I understand him more.

Hillary’s free floating One anger is always there and is always apparent. That is what puts more people off about her. She is most accessible as a person when she goes to Seven and lightens up (eg, Saturday Night Live). One anger is unpleasant—but at least it is predictable in the same way Eight anger is (McCain?).

Anyone who has been zapped by a delayed passive aggressiveness of a fixated Nine knows that the Nine brand of hidden anger can be surprising hurtful.

I hope that Obama has a good handle on the unique character of his Nine anger and internal storms—if he does, he could be a great leader.

If not . . .

grace said...

I agree that Obama is a 3 with a 2 He had to learn how to present well and to achieve/perform to survive moving between so many environments (Indonesia, Hawaii, prep schools, black churches, Harvard, the South Side etc. etc). In shape shifting and performing in such dramatically divergent contexts, he discovered commonaility in the diverse forms and standards and thereby found true value along the path of learning to present well,representing the type in its highest form. I don't see him as a 9's as they don't have the self-focused drive to rise to the tope in politics. I disagree with earlier postings about Clinton being a 3 or a 9. I would say that Clinton has 7/8 energy with the narcissism, gluttony, relentless pursuit of desire and self deluding capacity coming through the 7 and the leadership, anger, lust, appetites and power drive and ruthless/unconscious actions in the service of staying on top coming through the 8.

Anonymous said...

I'm unimpressed. Three? Many politicians are not Threes, Bush 6, Clinton, McCain 1 all included. Nine? Does he look like a Nine? I do not consent that Ike was a Nine, either; possibly One with nine wing. How about Six? In stress you'd see image stuff of a 3, in security you'd see nine, you might see 5 study/policy wonkishness, and 7 options love. Fear rules underneath, that conservative underlayer one sees in Obama, yet stick-it-to-the Establishment surfaces too.

Anonymous said...

pretty sure obama is an eight.
eights have strong values, challenge others to think about the world, and can be very idealistic.

he is definitely NOT a three. obama has a very strong personality, with a clear sense of self. threes draw mold their person based on what they think others want, or trying to find ways to be successful. obama has a strong intuitive core. so he would either be an 8,9, or 1.

best guess definitely an 8.

Lara said...

Hi, this is from the "anonymous" that posted on January 3oth (don't know why my name didn't come up). Back to give more evidence that Barack Obama is not a Three. Would a Three with a law degree choose community activism (salary, what, #36K?) to a six-figure salary at a Wall Street law firm. Now way!

An Eight?! Maybe an Eight wing. As for being an anger type, let's please remember that anyone can get angry. Nines deny their anger. Even intended insults can go right over their heads because they just don't have that much of a strong ego to defend. What gets Nines with Eight wings angry, finally, is seeing injustice, especially when innocence is taking advantage of. Nines can certainly get angry on the behalf of others! :-)

What can get a Nine angry as well is a lack of consideration, whether for themselves or for others who have a hard time standing their own ground. To the person afraid of Obama's denied anger, I don't think it's something to be concerned about. Read Richard Rohr's description of the Nines as being the most trustworthy of the types because they don't have a strong personal agenda of their own that they are determined to make happen.

Scott90277 said...

Interesting that so many different types identify with Obama.

In watching how he responded to various difficult situations, I became certain he is a type 5. They quickly described him as calm and cool, no drama, but it took them awhile before describing him as highly intelligent and analytical. Warren Buffet emphasized that, and said he had the keenest ability to listen to the ideas of others and be able to piece the most important aspects of all of it together... in a way that few people have the ability.

Add to that those who have mistaken him as aloof, and you're close to a 5. He's a highly functioning 5, for sure, and probably was early on, as I was.

Another thing, Obama mentioned that during college he spent almost an entire year doing nothing but studying and didn't talk to many people that entire year. That's not a 9, nor an 8, and he absolutely isn't a 3 or 2.

Many examples of how I related to him when watching and listening over the year, but others have said the same here.

Just my quick take, but I'd bet the farm that I'm right.