Leading by the Numbers: What Your Enneagram Says About You as a Leader (Type 1: The Reformer)

Leading by the Numbers is a nine-part series.

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a leader is imperative to not only leading others, but also leading yourself effectively. But the make-up of great leaders doesn’t just lay in the balance on the pros and cons scale, it is the amalgamation of intricate character traits and personal tendencies that make each of us uniquely equipped to be the leaders we are called to be.

One of the best tools available to understanding our unique make up is the Enneagram of Personality. Enneagram, derived from the Greek word ennéa or nine, predicates that human personalities can fall in to one of nine separate personality types. Discovering your Enneagram type is a great way to recognize your personality tendencies and how they affect interaction with others.

These are the nine Enneagram types. To find out yours, take this free quiz or a more in-depth version.

  • Type One – The Reformer
  • Type Two – The Helper
  • Type Three – The Achiever
  • Type Four – The Individualist
  • Type Five – The Investigator
  • Type Six – The Loyalist
  • Type Seven – The Enthusiast
  • Type Eight – The Challenger
  • Type Nine – The Peacemaker

During this series, we will examine each of the nine Enneagram types and how they relate to leadership, including opportunities for growth and pitfalls to avoid. First up, The Reformer.

Type 1 – The Reformer

This group of individuals strive for order, serenity, and demand perfection from themselves and others. They pride themselves in completing a job well and expect the same level of professionalism in others.

Famous Type 1 leaders include: Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher


Enneagram Type Ones are natural-born leaders. According to The Enneagram Institute, they are the “rational, idealistic type,” driven by the characteristics of being “principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.” The Reformer’s strong sense of purpose gives them a unique ability to leave comfort in order to strive for higher values, embracing a sense of mission. Here are a few of their strengths:

  • Wise/Discerning
  • Rational/resonable
  • Self-disciplined
  • Desire Justice
  • Strong Sense of Responsibility


Because of the Reformer’s nature, what they expect from others may not be realistic. When others around them or on their team don’t meet expectations, the Type One person can struggle with resentment or anger. However, due to the Type Ones need to stay in control, they tend to struggle with “reaction formation,” or feeling one thing yet expressing another, causing passive aggression. These are a few attributes to look out for and avoid to ensure you maintain healthy levels and be an effective leader:

  • Self-righteous
  • Absolutistic
  • Judgmental
  • Workaholic
  • Nitpicky

Developing into Your Best Self

Understanding where the Type One leader may struggle is the first step to avoiding those pitfalls and focusing on being the healthiest version of the Reformer. According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Ones, when at their best, “become extraordinarily wise and discerning. By accepting what is, they become transcendentally realistic, knowing the best action to take in each moment. Humane, inspiring, and hopeful: the truth will be heard.”

As leaders, it’s important to not only embrace your internal qualities, but to cultivate and mature that which makes you who you are. Instead of falling into the pitfalls of negative habits, consider empathizing with others when delegating tasks or setting expectations. The Reformer is an effective leader who is straightforward and diligent; however, not all others work well with this. Some need more emotional connection while others may not be open to learning opportunities. Accept who you are and learn to also give grace and patience when working with others.

Relating to Type Ones

If you aren’t a Reformer, it’s good to fully understand best practices when working with and relating to Type Ones. The Narrative Enneagram encourages others to follow these guidelines with Type Ones:

  • Take their concerns seriously
  • Respect their integrity
  • Be responsible and honor your agreements
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Recognize that Type Ones are especially sensitive to criticism

In the next article of the Leading by the Numbers series, we will examine the Enneagram Type Two personality, The Helper. These individuals are caring and generous individuals who lead through humility and altruism.

Which Enneagram type are you? How has learning more about yourself and your character tendencies helped you better lead others around you? Let us know in the comments section below!

2 Responses to Leading by the Numbers: What Your Enneagram Says About You as a Leader (Type 1: The Reformer)

  1. Diana November 5, 2019 at 7:19 am #

    I Love the enneagram. I’m a 9. I have a long wait until we get to my type.

  2. Stefany Early November 5, 2019 at 9:39 am #

    This is the first I’ve seen or heard of the enneagram. After reading the characteristics of Type 1, I am most certainly a type 1. I know that as I have aged I have become better with grace, accepting that mistakes will be made and everyone does the job in a different way than I would but as long as the job gets completed that is the main goal. I still want the employee to learn from the mistake and try not to make the mistake over and over again.

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