Leading by the Numbers: What Your Enneagram Says About You as a Leader (Type 3: The Achiever)

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.

  • Type One – The Reformer Click here to read about Type 1
  • Type Two – The Helper Click here to read about Type 2
  • 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

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. Third up, The Achiever.

Type 3 – The Achiever

This group of individuals are self-assured, charming people who are highly ambitious and driven for advancement. They live with an underlying need to prove themselves, often worrying about their image and what others think of them. While they can be authentic role models when at their best, they tend to struggle with workaholism and over-competitiveness.

Famous Type 3 leaders include: Augustus Caesar, Bill Clinton, Condoleeza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali


Enneagram Type Threes are driven, inspiring leaders. According to The Enneagram Institute, “threes really can and do achieve great things in the world. They are the “stars” of human nature, and people often look up to them because of their graciousness and personal accomplishments. Healthy Threes know how good it feels to develop themselves and contribute their abilities to the world, and also enjoy motivating others to greater personal achievements than others thought they were capable of.” The Achiever is motivated by the desire to be affirmed, distinguish themselves from others, attention, admiration from others, and to make good impressions. A healthy Three believes in themselves and their own value. Here are a few of their strengths:

  • Self-accepting
  • Authentic
  • Self-assured
  • Competent
  • Adaptable
  • Charming


Because of the Achiever’s nature, they tend to focus on their success and how they are perceived over others’ needs. Because of this, Threes can become extremely image-conscious while trying to impress others through their own accomplishments, regardless of being grounded in reality or perception. When at unhealthy levels, their fear of failure and humiliation can cause jealousy toward others, narcissistic tendencies, and problems with vulnerability, sincerity, and intimacy with others. When not acknowledged for their attributes, they have a tendency to become exhibitionistic and seductive to gain attention and approval from others. And in the most extreme cases, Threes can attempt to sabotage others to gain a competitive advantage on them.

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

  • Fearful of failure
  • Narcissistic
  • Arrogant
  • Negatively opportunistic
  • Delusionally jealous
  • Vindictive

Developing into Your Best Self

Understanding where the Type Three leader may struggle is the first step to avoiding those pitfalls and focusing on being the healthiest version of the Achiever. According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Threes, when at their best, are “self-accepting, inner-directed, and authentic individuals and are genuinely everything they seem to be. Modest and charitable, self-deprecatory humor and a fullness of heart emerge, healthy Threes are highly effective leaders that others are motivated to be like.”

Achievers are successful and well liked, achieving grandiose goals due to their ability to believe in themselves, while also developing their talents and capacities. Of all the types, they become quintessential role models due to their drive to achieve success, as well as their socially valued qualities.

As leaders, it’s important to not only embrace your internal qualities, but to cultivate and mature that which makes you who you are. According to the Enneagram Institute, Threes should focus on development and personal growth in these ways:

  • For real development, be honest with yourself and others about your feelings and needs.
  • Develop charity and cooperation in your relationships.
  • While ambition and self-development are good attributes, it is good to balance them with rest periods to reconnect more deeply with yourself.
  • Develop your social awareness and work with others toward goals that transcend personal interest is a powerful way of finding your true value and identity.

Relating to Type Threes

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

  • Let them know that you care regardless of their accomplishments.
  • Encourage them to pay attention to feelings.
  • Show and tell them what is really important to you.
  • Express your appreciation for what they do.
  • Join them in being active, getting results and earning recognition.

In the next article of the Leading by the Numbers series, we will examine the Enneagram Type Four personality, The Individualist. These individuals are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved individuals who lead through creativity, inspiration, and individualism.

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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