Leading by the Numbers: What Your Enneagram Says About You as a Leader (Type 8: The Challenger)

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 of 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 your Enneagram type, 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. Eighth up, The Challenger.

Type 8 – The Challenger

These individuals are highly determined, goal-oriented leaders who lead through competence, influence, and strength. With a dominant personality, they have a need to control their environment and situations, which can cause others to feel intimidated. Eights are driven by the desire to be self-reliant and prove themselves through strength and control, while resisting signs of weakness and limitations.

According to the Enneagram Institute, Eights are labeled The Challenger because more than the other eight Enneagram types, they enjoy challenges most of all and encourage others around them to offer opportunities to be challenged.

Famous Type Eight leaders include: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Oscar Schindler, Martin Luther King, Jr., Barbara Walters, Ernest Hemingway, Aretha Franklin, and Susan Sarandon.


Enneagram Type Eights are charismatic individuals who lead through strength, stability, and control. Because of their innate ability to thrive under pressure, they are natural leaders who inspire others. Challengers are very protective of others, as well as themselves. They are motivated through self-sufficiency and financial independence. As leaders, Eights are hardworking risk-takers that are the “wheelers and dealers” of the world. They tend to be pragmatic in their managerial approach, while denying their own emotional needs and desires. Their can-do attitude can be contagious to those around them, which in business can create a culture of progress driven by results. Like their namesake, they love a challenge and gain energy by rising to the occasion and working through issues or crisis.

Here are a few of their strengths:

  • Self-confident
  • Assertive
  • Protective
  • Resourceful
  • Decisive
  • Straight-talking


Due to their nature, Eights have the tendency to become domineering and lead through intimidation. Their need to resist weakness can cause them to try to control all aspects of their environment, using ego-centric means to do so. This can lead to becoming unjust, hard-hearted, and belligerent, while demeaning others to retain strength and control. Unhealthy Eights see vulnerability as a weakness and avoid it at all costs. Due to their use of power to gain respect, they begin to believe no one truly respects them and start do distrust those around them. Challengers may also get to a space where they feel as though everyone else is out to get them or the whole world is against them. This causes an unhealthy Eight to attack others to maintain control and alienate dissenters who may disagree with them or haven’t completely conformed to their will.

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

  • Dictatorial
  • Combative
  • Confrontational
  • Threatening
  • Megalomania
  • Reckless
  • Intimidating
  • Delusions of Grandeur
  • Egocentric

Developing into Your Best Self

Understanding where the Type Eight leader may struggle is the first step to avoiding those pitfalls and focusing on being the healthiest version of The Challenger. According to the Enneagram Institute, Type Eights, when at their best, are “self-restrained and magnanimous, merciful and forbearing, mastering self through their self-surrender to a higher authority.” They become “courageous, willing to put self in serious jeopardy to achieve their vision and have a lasting influence.” Healthy Eights can be successful, natural-born leaders who are decisive, self-confident, protective, and honorable, while becoming champions for others and lifting up those around them with their strength.

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

  • Understand that you can be a more effective leader by practicing self-restraint, obtaining loyalty and devotion by showing greatness through care instead of raw power.
  • Although difficult, learn to yield to others occasionally. When little is at stake, the need to dominate is unnecessary.
  • It is important to concede that the world is not against you; allow others in. Otherwise, you may alienate those around you who do care for you and your success.
  • Understand that though you have the inherent need to be self-reliant, you depend on others around you to be successful. Trust your peers and employees and offer up some autonomy.
  • Be careful to not overvalue power. Eights have a tendency to use power to feel important and to leverage it into being respected and obeyed. However, by relying on this in your relationships will cause a false sense of loyalty and distrust between all parties.

Relating to Type Eights

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

  • Be direct and forthright, yet flexible and open.
  • Stay steady and present in the face of confrontation and conflict; hold your ground.
  • Call them on destructive or threatening behavior, while being empathetic to their underlying hurt feelings.
  • Express your own feelings, including softer, tender ones.
  • Join them in getting things moving in work or play.

In the next article of the Leading by the Numbers series, we will examine the Enneagram Type Nine personality, The Peacemaker. These individuals are easy-going, harmonious, and non-confrontational leaders who lead through an others-focused style, while weighing both feelings and facts.

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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