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Leader Archetype #8 | The Challenger

Daniel Montgomery self awareness

SARAH BRAUD 
Contributor & 
CEO Braud Creative

Leadership Style of an Eight

The Challenger. The Protector. The Boss. All these title descriptors couldn’t encompass the larger-than-life style of the Eight leadership archetype. These assertive, confident, powerful people came out of the womb knowing what they wanted and who should get it for them.

Sometimes aggressive, Eights are motivated by the desire to control their environment, for good or evil. These black & white decision makers easily fill the leadership void wherever it may be and makes up the majority of CEOs in the US as their personality is focused on strength, avoiding weakness, protection for the underdog, and moving the ball forward at any cost.

While many find Eights to be intimidating, Eights are often surprised to hear that others fear them because in their core, this archetype is incredibly sensitive. They are drawn to defending the oppressed and look to challenge the entire system that marginalizes or causes injustices. In fact, nothing causes them more righteous indignation than injustice.

These assertive, confident, powerful people came out of the womb knowing what they wanted and who should get it for them. #enneagram8 #leadershipreality @braudknows Click To Tweet

The Problem with an Eight Leader

You don’t have to look much further than the Presidency to find an archetypal Eight leader, no matter your political leanings. Lenin once said, “Trust is good, but control is better” — an aphorism likely adored by Trump, and most Eights alike.

Often perceived as bullies, Eights have to work hard to hold themselves in check, only feeling the freedom to be 100% themselves in the company of other strong leaders.

If you are an Eight, you are a hard worker and are connected to your body. You feel things at a gut level and know in your soul whether or not people or situations are safe. Others around you often submit to your gut, because they’ve learned to trust that feeling in you as somatic wisdom.

The greatest challenge for Eights is to have the self-awareness to see their natural bent toward acquiring power and use it in a way to benefit others, while learning to trust others to not betray them.

Invitation for Eights to Grow as Leaders

Invitation: It’s okay to trust others.

Eights, your weakness is your greatest strength. Gaining loyal followers is only trumped by gaining trusting and trustworthy friends.

Coury Deeb, a film producer and founder of Nadus Films, told me about his experience as an Eight archetype:  

“I imagine not all leaders are Eights, but the ones we most remember are. And they’re remembered by how they wielded their power for good or bad. Eights have great power, and for me, knowing this, accepting it while harnessing it in a way to where goals are met but not at the expense of people, keeps me calibrated. All great leaders are transparent, honest, humble but strong in how they handle situations. Leaders are not weak. Therefore, sharing your emotions in a transparent way is not weak but a sign of strength. By leading well, through showcasing your strength in getting things done, not harming others and being real and honest, should invoke trust both in others and others toward you.”

But trusting others is hard work. Liz Hager, another Eight, who I met while she was earning her MDiv at Westminster Theological Seminary and now is a patient educator at a Dominican University of California, confirms that the Eight struggle is real.

“I think that I feel I need to be sure of the importance of the position before I am vulnerable in sharing weaknesses and trusting others (ie. is this a simple group exercise with people I may never see again or is this for a job–what is the context?). Once I have an idea of the context, I weigh how much to share and when in order to move the group towards the intended result.”

Liz’s strategy for vulnerability is certainly more robust than my verbal voms that seem to happen involuntarily (*sigh* #Enneagram4Life). We all have our work to do though, right? Eights, you’re up to bat!

Eights, and leaders in general, can find themselves separated and lonely due to the weight of responsibility upon their shoulders. @courydeeb @nadusfilms #enneagram8 #leadership Click To Tweet

grid of nails connected by string

5 Steps for Enneagram Eights to Become Better Leaders

  1. Practice being a listener. You naturally have ideas, plans, and strategies, but often feel like it’s all up to you to execute them. Instead, slow down and listen to others’ plans, which may garner some good will and potentially the help you need to execute and not leave you holding the bag every time.
  2. Moderate your power. Before going in guns-a-blazin’, ask yourself how much power is actually needed to get the intended outcome. Instead of overpowering, try a little self modulation. Maybe instead of a 10, a level 6 will do for now.
  3. Hear and believe you won’t be betrayed. This is a tough one. The existential groan of all Eights: Do not betray me! Depending on your system of belief, this is likely part of your spiritual practice: believe that you are fundamentally lovable and therefore will not be abandoned, not matter what the circumstances may look like. Faith, in this case, is like a muscle that must be exercised.
  4. Re-interpret your anger. Being an Eight means you have an inherently intimate relationship with your anger. All other emotions? Not so much. However, this inclination to experience life through anger can be remedied by re-interpreting your anger to yourself. Feeling mad? Take this as a signal that something else is going on. Perhaps in reality what you are experiencing is exhaustion, sadness, or abject grief. These are not easy feelings, and anger has been a garrison around them. It’s time to lower the drawbridge and invite some of these new feelings in and integrate the body, mind, and heart of who you truly are.  

Rachelle Starr founder & Executive Director of Scarlet Hope, a nonprofit based in Louisville, Kentucky, that exists to serve women in the adult entertainment industry says this about being an Eight:

“I love talking about integration of someone’s entire self.  I have been in a leadership development training for the past 3 years and it’s bringing up things I didn’t even know about myself. For instance my childhood experiences, my adolescent experiences all impact how I lead as a leader today. How I respond to the people I lead, how my personality style interacting with other personality styles, how I experience negative and positive experiences is all part of my whole life experiences. I have had to learn to recognize where something comes from, own it, process through it and grow from it. Owning where I’ve come from and even hurt and pain from my past has helped me integrate all facets of me so that I am more integrated as a person.”

5. Ask for honest feedback. Self-awareness does not come easily for Eights. This might be surprising to hear if you are an Eight, but the adage is true: you cannot read the label from the inside of the bottle. Asking for honest feedback is like a BOGO sale at your favorite shoe store: you get self-awareness and a way out of the loneliness that comes from being at the top!

“Eights, and leaders in general, can find themselves separated and lonely due to the weight of responsibility upon their shoulders. Combating this requires self awareness, actions to combat isolation, and faith that the next day will be different than the previous.”
Coury Deeb, Nadus Films

“As an Eight I have had some hard learning lessons that in order to be aware of my “Eightness” I must seek outside feedback about how people experience me. Getting this feedback and processing through it allows me to be more relationally aware as a leader. Trusting people is definitely an ever growing challenge for me. Even more so vulnerability. It’s hard to trust that people around me will accept me for who I am and be able to handle me. Trust for an Eight (for me) tends to need to be earned more than freely given. As an Eight I lead and trust people by my gut instinct however I feel that’s a strength and a weakness. The best thing I have learned to do as an Eight is to be among other personality styles and get honest feedback.”
Rachelle Starr, Scarlet Hope

Conclusion

Eights are body people. They experience life at a visceral level and live from a ferocity unlike any other archetype. To be fully you, there is no need to minimize your strength, but rather elevate the parts of you that often don’t get to shine (ie. the mushy middle).

John Wayne, an archetypal Eight, renegade, cowboy, and all-around American guy reminds us what it takes to do the hard work of change:

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.”

And just because I can’t resist, and it encapsulates the soul of an Eight, I’ll share one more quote from The Duke: “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.”

Further Developing Your Awareness

Books for Eights

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan

Think You Might Be an Eight?

Sign up to take the Enneagram Test with Leadership Reality and know for sure. If you’d like your team to hear an overview about the enneagram and how it can be used to improve their  leadership skills, consider at Lunch & Learn Enneagram Workshop for Your Team!  For either request, email us at [email protected]

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