Leading by the Numbers: What Your Enneagram Says About You as a Leader (Type 4: The Individualist)

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.

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. Fourth up, The Individualist.

Type 4 – The Individualist

These individuals are self-aware, sensitive people who tend to be reserved and introspective. They tend to have a strong sense of self-identity and pride in their uniqueness. Due to their innate need to set themselves apart and express their individuality, some Fours pursue creative outlets like music, writing, art, and design. They are driven by self-expression, are in tune with their feelings, and allow their emotions to direct decisions, while withdrawing to attend to personal emotional needs before working on anything else.

Famous Type 4 leaders include: Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Edgar Allen Poe, Bob Dylan, Virginia Wolf, Anne Frank, Frida Kahlo, Tchaikovsky, Miles Davis


Enneagram Type Fours are creative individuals with a strong sense of self and purpose. They are usually open to exploring different avenues and ways to accomplish tasks, always searching for the most ideal version of themselves. They carefully evaluate personal and leadership decisions based on their own values, ensuring action and emotion align with one another. Due to their introspective nature, they inspire others with unique ideas that help the common good. Because of their own innate internal emotional intuition, they can be good at understanding others emotions with tact, gentleness, and compassion. Their unique connection with their emotions and self-awareness can create a balance between vulnerability and emotional strength.

Here are a few of their strengths:

  • Creative
  • Imaginative
  • High Emotional Intelligence / Emotionally Honest
  • Authenticity
  • Value-Driven
  • Inspiring


Due to their self-focus and uniqueness, they tend to feel no one truly understands their emotions or identities. Because of this, Fours can struggle with connecting with others and may revert to withdrawal and seclusion. By struggling to fit in with groups, they identify as separate from others. Instead of connecting with team members and working collectively for the greater good, Individualists can focus more on their own well-being and sense of story. When Fours experience failure, they may become self-inhibiting and angry with themselves for their shortcoming. In extreme situations, they struggle with isolationism, while pushing away those around them who try to help. Other Enneagram types may view some Fours as emotionally intense and overly expressive with an insatiable drive for self-expression and uniqueness.

If you are a Four, here are a few traits to anticipate and avoid to help ensure you maintain healthy levels and be an effective leader:

  • Dramatic
  • Self-absorbed
  • Temperamental
  • Moody
  • Negative self-image / low self-esteem
  • Lack of identity
  • Self-destructive

Developing into Your Best Self

Understanding where the Type Four leader may struggle is the first step to avoiding those pitfalls and focusing on being the healthiest version of the Individualist. According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Fours, when at their best, are “profoundly self-creative, inspired, self-renewing, and regenerating. Healthy Fours are able to transform all their experiences into something valuable. They are sensitive and intuitive both to self and others: gentle, tactful, compassionate.” When Individualists are able to let go of their need to be set apart and “special,” they become highly effective leaders, bringing their out-of-the-box thinking and unique creativity to the collective, while inspiring those around them to explore their own creative outlets.

According to the Enneagram Institute, Fours should focus on development and personal growth in these ways:

  • Do not pay so much attention to your feelings; they are not a true source of support for you.
  • Commit yourself to productive, meaningful work that will contribute to your good and that of others. Working consistently in the real world will create a context in which you can discover yourself and your talents.
  • Even if you start small, commit to doing something that will bring out the best in you.
  • Practice healthy self-discipline and stay with it.
  • Instead of spending time imagining your life and relationships, begin to live them.

 Relating to Type Fours

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

  • Appreciate their emotional sensitivity, creativity, and idealism.
  • Reveal your own feelings and reactions; avoid being overly rational.
  • When they are upset, don’t take everything they say too literally since they may be expressing a momentary feeling.
  • Return to the present and be positive while acknowledging their experience of what is missing.
  • Seek to understand and empathize without necessarily agreeing.

In the next article of the Leading by the Numbers series, we will examine the Enneagram Type Five personality, The Investigator. These individuals are independent, insightful, and innovative individuals who lead through intelligence, vision, clarity, and expertise.

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!


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