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Steve Jobs Was an Unusual 7-8 Binary Type

Ginger’s Introduction
I’ve invited additional blogs that speculate on Steve Jobs’ Enneagram style to encourage a productive and open dialogue about typing and famous people. Peter Zappel offered to write one with a different twist on Jobs and his type. In this blog, Peter suggests that Jobs is not a pure type but a combination 7 and 8, which he calls a binary type. I’m going to have to really ponder this concept (as it doesn’t fit with how I learned and know the Enneagram), but I will say that I have met a few (not too many) very aware people who were so close to two types (often wings of one another) that discerning their core type from the wing has been a challenge for them. I’ve seen this more with type 5 and 6 than any other, but also with a few other combinations (including a few people having confusion among their arrows, especially the 3-6-9). So I think you will find this blog a good read, well thought-through, and perhaps Jobs was a binary 7-8, perhaps a 7w8 or an 8w7, or even something else. Thanks for your effort in writing this, Peter! Does anyone else want to write a well-researched blog on Steve Jobs as another enneatype? Thus far, we have type 4, now a binary 7-8.

Peter’s Blog
A great deal of controversy exists in the Enneagram community regarding the late Steve Jobs, one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history. The confusion stems from the fact that he possessed a combination of distinct characteristics which are closely associated with several Enneagram Types, most notably 7, 8, 1, 4 and 5: visionary, strong, perfectionist, artist and thinker all wrapped into one. What has baffled many Jobs’ watchers is that a fairly strong case can be made for each of these types (type 5 being least likely, although he had several distinctly 5ish tendencies too). But, most interestingly, when these five types are blended, we seem to get the “real” Jobs, a hybrid, a composite seemingly defying any single enneatype.Indeed, in fact, I believe he was a rare hybrid. In this blog, I will suggest that when Jobs is looked at carefully, as an unusual 7-8 binary type (equal parts type 7 and 8), that this explains his confusing (at least to us) presentation, especially when the connecting types to 7 and 8 are considered. Although the binary type is not an officially recognized category in Enneagram theory as it stands today, I believe that there is no theoretical reason why a person could not possess equal parts of two adjacent types. And in the case of Jobs, this hypothesis seems to fit and is supported by strong evidence. Furthermore, notice how types 7 and 8 are connected to type 5, while type 7 is also connected to type 1, which then connects to type 4. Looking at these connections, I believe, explains his anomalous personality.

An overview of the “Jobs persona” is a good starting point. The following descriptors come to mind and have been thoroughly documented in numerous books, articles, interviews, documentaries, movies, biographies and stories about Jobs from those who knew him best: brilliant, inventive, perceptive, intelligent, idealistic, perfectionist, up-tight, focused, practical, uncompromising, progressive, visionary, convincing, charismatic, arrogant, narcissistic, elitist, megalomaniacal, Machiavellian, charming, inspiring, deceptive, opportunistic, aesthetic, unique, driven, relentless, dominating, brutally honest, merciless, unfair, critical, blunt, rude, pushy, selfish, excessive, expansive, lecturing, argumentative, dictatorial, combative, pitiless, workaholic, moody, unpredictable, melancholy… loner. From this list, one thing is clear, Jobs was an incredibly complicated man leaving many people scratching their heads… especially Enneagrammers.

Some in the Enneagram community are convinced that Jobs was a type 1 perfectionist and point to his unwillingness to compromise on his idealistic vision. Jobs believed, like most 1s, that any small flaw diminishes the whole (when it came to his creations) and should not be tolerated. Those who worked for him understood that he would not back down from his idea of what the finished product should do, look like and feel like in the hands of users. Good was never good enough for Jobs, who always demanded excellence. Any employee falling short of Jobs’ standard of perfection was in for harsh treatment, a nasty lecture… and possible firing, often publicly. Most who worked for Jobs lived in constant fear. It has been said that prior to any formal or informal meeting with Jobs, everyone held their breath…wondering what his mood would be.

Although perfectionism, hard work and idealism were big parts of his makeup, type 1 doesn’t actually fit him for several reasons. First, Jobs had a reputation as a “bad boy,” rebellious, contrarian… distinctly non-compliant. As one of the “compliant types,” along with types 2 and 6, the 1 strives to be “inline” with some external standard or authority. Jobs was a rebel. His ideas were revolutionary, not improved “me too” products more typical of type 1 entrepreneurs. Also, 1s want to be “good,” while Jobs obviously didn’t seem to care whatsoever about being “good” personally, except to the degree that his ego was a reflection of his “good products.” His reputation for bad behavior was legendary. His trampling on people was commonplace. Jobs answered to nobody and followed only the rules and regulations which suited him. He was an enterprising, confrontational, visionary, maverick and an inspiring bully, hardly a compliant 1. Also, if Jobs were a 1, he would have had either a 9 wing (highly unlikely) or a 2 wing (not likely, although he knew how to groom and mentor talent).

In the early Apple days, he often went barefoot, unkempt and distinctly needing a bath, according to many who worked for him (nobody, it appears, really worked “with” him). Again, this does not fit the 1 profile. Furthermore, 1s, more than any of the other types, tend to control their anger, which they feel is not “right” and reflects poorly upon them. 1s also value self-control, and Jobs was often totally out of control. Jobs’ anger and rage surfaced suddenly and frequently and, most often, inappropriately. He didn’t seem to care who he hurt or what anybody thought of him. Many people found him to be unbearable, oppressive, combative, and downright terrifying. And although, yes, he was a humorless perfectionistic task master, I don’t believe 1 fits. His perfectionism was not a general personality pattern, but only an orientation to his creations (his idealized ego-self). All of the types can be “perfectionistic” in certain (often unusual) ways.

Some Enneagrammers type Jobs as a 4 because of his great concern for aesthetics, beauty, design and functionality. They also are quick to point out that Jobs felt, and openly boasted, that he was an incredibly “special” person destined for greatness. Further, they note that he was moody, melancholy, isolated and totally self-absorbed, like many 4s. And they say his narcissism was boosted by his supposed 3 wing, as were his vanity, charm and deception. The Riso/Hudson moniker for the 4w3 is the “elitist,” which definitely fits. However, although the word elitism does describe Jobs, I don’t see Jobs as a 4.

First, 4s are rarely openly loud, aggressive and confrontational (although sexual subtype 4s can be very passionate). Even the most extroverted and dramatic 4s are not relentless, domineering task-masters. A brilliant, but stressed, 4 will introject problems and become somewhat detached, depressed and solicitous of people, as they move to their arrow line at 2, seeking a “re-connection” rather than a confrontation. This is the opposite of Jobs’ pattern of direct confrontation and demand for quick resolution. This direct-demand orientation suggests the desire of enneatypes 7 and 8 to resolve issues quickly and to move forward.

In addition, the 4’s speech style is often indirect, symbolic, referential, and aimed at drawing out information from another which might reveal deeper meaning. Jobs’ speech style was always direct, goal oriented, specific and motivational (or threatening). Stressed 4s usually seek resolution through reconnection, healing wounds and rekindling lost intimacy… or uncommunicative bridge burning. Stressed 7s and 8s seek resolution through concrete actions, revised plans and re-framed beginnings… or firings. Throughout his life Jobs consistently “planned” experiences with drugs, travels, meetings with gurus, revolutionary products, companies, strategies, moves, comebacks, revenge, victory and ultimate glory. This was his whole orientation to life, 7 planning for ultimate 8 glory, marketplace domination and supremacy, and proof of worth – for example, his statements to his parents about the mistake they made in giving him up for adoption some psychologists suggest.

I see Jobs as a combination of incredible vision and optimism about his personal unlimited potential at type 7, combined equally with the strength of will and determination to see it through at type 8. Under stress, he moved to type 1, and this resulted in the lecturing, correcting and single-mindedness. His ambition, bluntness, opportunism and objectification were all indications of his equally powerful 8 aspect. Stressed-out 7s become demanding and critical at type 1. Stressed 8s go into hiding at type 5. His movement to type 5 was either during times of focusing on new comeback plans from the stressed 8 position, but also in his quiet times of introspection and when he was engaged in imagination and the generation of new ideas (the way in which many 7s use their arrow line at type 5). In addition, in times of security the 8 moves to 2, helping, mentoring and charming new talent, like Jobs did. And in security, 7 moves to focused innovation at 5, the source of his brilliant revolutionary ideas.

Diagnosis: Enneatype 7-8 binary, Enneafield 3 (Enneafield is the dominant external field influence flavoring enneatype).

Peter Zappel is an entrepreneur and freelance writer/photographer who has been both published in numerous major US and European magazines and exhibited widely in galleries and museums. As a co-founder of three Silicon Valley startups, he has been an avid “Jobs watcher” for a very long time. In addition, he has published nearly a dozen articles about the Enneagram. www.peterzappelimages.com

16 Responses to Steve Jobs Was an Unusual 7-8 Binary Type

  1. Tom Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Wow! What a well-thought-out, impressively fact-based analysis. I also like Peter Zappel’s open-minded approach to the Enneagram in positing the binary type. Nonetheless, I think there is reason to question the need for a new concept to explain the wide range of Jobs’s behavior.
    I like the idea of thinking of the Enneagram as an ever evolving tool to help us understand human behavior. So, new concepts, such as the binary type, should be welcomed for consideration. To treat the Enneagram as static dogma would be a mistake. Using a Buddhist concept, it would be like thinking that the Big Dipper we see is the sky is really a big dipper. Of course, like the Enneagram, it is merely a useful and interesting pattern.
    I wonder why does all of Jobs’s, or anyone’s, behavior need to be explained by the Enneagram? We have many other useful concepts. Would it not be adequate to explain that Jobs was a Seven with One and Five Lines, a strong Eight Wing and a palpable Six Wing? His Fourish behavior is easily explained by non-Enneagram concepts such as learning, context or rewards. In other words, Jobs the Seven could have learned that life often called for expressing himself (like a Four) and he wisely responded. The context within which he worked may have made self expression more welcomed. He WAS the idolized inventor. Or, early in life, someone important to him may have lavishly rewarded him for self-expressive behavior.
    Occam’s razor comes to mind, the law of parsimony, the economy of succinctness. It urges the thoughtful to select the simplest explanation. We do not want to become Enneagram fundamentalists, treating the Enneagram as received truth within which all must be explained, forcing the development of more and more elaborate doctrines. It is okay if the Enneagram falls short of completely explaining someone’s behavior.
    The above notwithstanding, kudos to Peter Zappel for inventiveness and, perhaps, starting a very important debate which just might prove me and Occam to be wrong.

  2. Anonymous Monday, April 2, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    The fact that there is so little consensus among Enneagram experts on Jobs and other celebrity Enneagram types suggests to me that there is a lack of consensus with respect to type definitions and typing methodology.

    One does not see this sort of disagreements using such scientifically based typing systems as the Five Factor Model.

    I suspect that the Enneagram community would benefit from a more rigorous approach to underlying definitions and methodology. I believe this can be done without trying to turn the Enneagram into “science”–which it is not and never should be. Mario Sikora’s recent article on typing methodology is a step in that direction. More consensus among experts means more credibility for the Enneagram.


  3. Tom Friday, April 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I wonder why Anonymous believes we should not treat the Enneagram as a science. A quick google search gives a definition of science as “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world.” Other areas of inquiry, for example, social sciences and, even, biology use a similar method of study called Ethnography. In Ethnographic studies data are collected through participant observations, interviews, questionaires, etc.

    While lack of consensus or other uncertainty may be frustrating, it is a normal part of scientific inquiry. Think of the poor quantum physicists trying to figure out where that darn electron is and how fast it is moving. They are reduced to statistical analysis, never to be absolutely sure. (Which reminds one of the joke asking why quantum physicists are so poor at sex? Because when they find the position, they can’t find the momentum, and when they have the momentum, they can’t find the position.) Or, pity the poor scientist trying to save lives by predicting California’s next earthquake. Or–back to sex–how frustrating must it be for marine scientists not to know the breeding habits of the Whale Shark!

    I certainly agree that increasing rigor in the method of Enneagram studies is valuable. Those using the ethnographic method are always challenged to be disciplined. But dealing with uncertainty does not mean one is not dealing in science.

    • Mario Sikora Friday, April 13, 2012 at 9:19 am #


      I can’t speak for Anonymous but since he or she referenced me I’d like to comment. You and I are pretty much on the same wavelength, I think. “Science” is of course a generic term and when we use it in relationship to the Enneagram (or any soft or social science) we need to be clear about what we are discussing. Hard sciences such as chemistry and physics allow for much more certainty; soft sciences such as anthropology and psychology require much less. I believe that the Enneagram falls into the latter category, of course. As I was very clear in stating in the post that Anonymous referred to, I hold my assessment of Jobs’s Ennea-type provisionally, and think that we should hold all such assessments provisionally. While I’m always leery of analogies that invoke quantum physics (QP doesn’t apply at the macro level), I believe we can only make best estimates of someone’s type based on the evidence available.

      My disagreements with Peter’s blog are two-fold: His assessment of Fours as being somehow incapable of being leaders of large organizations does not seem consistent with my observations of Fours (I have been an executive coach for nearly 15 years now), and his creation of a new category of Ennea-type (binary types) seems both inaccurate and unnecessary. You’re correct, Peter does violate Occam, who urged not that we embrace the simplest explanation, but that we not add factors unnecessarily. That is, if we can explain something using (x) steps, we should not do so in (x+1) steps. I think Peter violates this advice, not by proposing that there are exceptions to the consensus understanding of the Enneagram but by doing so without the necessary rigor to justify the invocation of (+1).

      And this is the heart of my article to which Anonymous referred: While no model of personality is (and I doubt ever will be) a science with the same degree of certainty of physics, the community as a whole needs to do a better job of at least defining its terms and being more rigorous in the assessment of data. This is not to say that everyone needs to use the same terminology, but individuals must be internally consistent in their criteria for what constitutes a particular type rather than rely on an intuitive interpretation of a general gestalt of what makes one a Four or a Seven or an Eight. Clearly defining criteria allows one to follow a consistent methodology, which will increase the credibility and validity of conclusions.

      Yes, not everyone needs to have the same view of the Ennea-type of a public figure, especially one unknown to the viewer beyond the subject’s public persona. The Enneagram, as a social science, is not an exact science. We can’t simply check the math and see why someone came to the wrong conclusion. However, it does not have the inherent complexity of weather or plate tectonics, and even ethnographic studies establish some methodologies and rigor.

      My hope for the Enneagram community is not that the Enneagram become a hard science or that the community agree on a standard model or who is what type, but that we start embracing a more rigorous mindset–yes, a more “scientific” mindset. Rigor, even at an individual level, benefits the person doing the analysis, any client the person may be working with, and anyone who may be reading the musings of a theorist. It has the added advantage of increasing accuracy of prediction, meaning that people rigorously assessing the topic will come to similar conclusions more frequently. Though it is not my top concern, such an outcome would help satisfy the needs of Anonymous and many others who view the Enneagram skeptically and thus miss out on its benefits.

  4. Erin Friday, June 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I don’t know much about astrology, but Steve Jobs’ astrological data might provide some insight. His sun sign is in Pisces, which gives someone an intuitive, emotional, imaginative, romantic, and adaptable character; and his Ascendant is in Virgo, which would give them an industrious, practical, reserved, and analytical bent. Pisces and Virgo are opposite signs in the zodiac. The Sun sign is what you present to those who know you best, when you’re in your comfort zone, and your Ascendant is what you present to strangers, when you’re getting to know someone. One might find it useful to study the astrological data of very aware people who know their Enneatype, especially to see if opposite Sun sign/Ascendants have anything to do with being binary.

    • Anonymous Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Steve Jobs, was I high performing Type 4 who happened to be in the right place (silicon valley) at the right time (60’s and 70’s) and meet the right people (most importantly Steve Wozniak). He often referred to himself as an artist, who wanted to make a dent in the universe, and his art was making products. To make these products he inspired/bullied others, he most certainly didn’t do it on his own. After being kicked out of Apple and loosing millions with Next he learnt many valuable lessons about business. His passion was the products not the business.

  5. Martin Hawkes Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 5:16 am #

    Great analysis Barry – your argument has a natural and compelling flow.  It alerts me to the complexity of sexual 4’s.  It has always struck me as odd that Naranjo (or was it Ichazo origianlly) should characterise this subtype with the negative label of ‘competition’ or ‘hate’.  Surely on the other side of the sometimes challenging and difficult sexual 4’s I encounter must reside a charisma, brilliance, and passion  such as Steve Jobs seemed to possess in spades?  And your analysis is a prompt to revisit my assumptions as to one  particularly challenging (and creative) 8 who may in fact be a 4?  Thanks

  6. Gjef Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    As a self-identified Type 7 Wing 8, I very much appreciate your analysis of the 7/8 type, particularly the flows and connections with 1,2 and 5. There is no need to call it “binary” though, as it requires an intimate understanding of childhood trauma to discern the core type from a very strong wing. 
    I suspect Jobs was a Type 8, because of his instinctual basis of anger, and ending on note of anger, like firing an employee. A Type 7 would end all the yelling with a word of encouragement and appreciation, reminding them that they are integral to the team, and because 7s fear the repercussions (like not having the human resources necessary to get the job done). 

    In terms of management styles, Jobs was clearly not a Type 7. 7s manage with their visionary abilities, inspiring and setting the course, and if they have an 8 wing (like myself) will express their anger and dissatisfaction of inferior performance/product (not the person); then they will remind everyone of the purpose, vision, and requirements – encouraging and demanding. Incompetence is never tolerated, but a lack of energy and inspiration can be rekindled. A type 7 would strive to maintain positive relationships, even with former employees. A type 8, well, they just don’t care as much. 
    As such, Jobs was most likely a Type 8 with a strong 7 wing.

  7. SeventhHeaven Friday, May 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

    Gjef I totally agree with your analysis, Gjef. I am also a 7 w8 and concur with all you said about managing subordinates. I have owned several businesses and managed many people and I know for certain that none of my employees ever feared public retribution or humiliation. Sevens avoid the negative and focus on the positive, and when necessary to point out obvious deficiencies, we focus on our unhappiness with the result, not the person.

  8. SeventhHeaven Friday, May 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    Like Gjef, I’d diagnose Steve Jobs as an 8/w7. Sevens don’t denigrate others, except in direct retribution to an assault.We are not built that way. However, we will not tolerate being bullied, thus the 8 influence.

  9. SeventhHeaven Friday, May 30, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    @Tom Interesting interpretation…when I was first introduced to the concept of Enneograms, and had not yet read any of the defining literature, I immediately self-diagnosed as a 7 with 4 components, although I remember saying to my teacher at the time that I could see aspects of all 9 elements in my personality. After multiple tests showed that I was a  predominant 7 with strong 8, 4, and 5 leanings, I could easily understand how Steve Job’s enneagram could be similarly complicated. Sevens are Renaissance types into everything, thus not easily defined. Don’t put Baby Seven in a box, to paraphrase Dirty Dancing!

  10. SorayaLouisaPutra Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    CORE- Type 7 with an 8 wing – The Realist…SECOND- Type 4 with a 3 wing – The aristocrat…
    THIRD- Type 8 with a 7 wing – The Maverick.
    I seem to have a similar pairing….

  11. JnnBBowles Monday, May 4, 2015 at 7:14 am #

    I am a 8w7 and have been compared to Steve Jobs. I don’t think it is a particularly flattering statement, but the man was a genius.

  12. Oratio Monday, June 27, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    Steve Jobs was a brijant inegrated 5-4. Many enterpreneurs can combine software and hardware into a “generic” product. Only the five four wing can combine special twitched software  and beautful twitched software into a product that the world wants to buy.
    An exclusive quality found only in 5-4. 
    His problems with John Scully (a 3), his stubborness to give in, the motivation to prove his excellence by starting his own company, the quality to do it twice Mackintosh iphone, etc all indicate the same thing.

  13. Dare07 Monday, February 27, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    I am a selfdiagnosed 7 with strong 8 wing. I logged here only to bring some clarity in here. I’ve never cared about apple products or Steve Jobs because I have always hated the lack of freedom these products have. However I am learning a lot of interresting things these days which motivates me to investigate it from a different perspective.
    It is true that I encourage people instead of firing them and that I work with motivations of people. But what you don’t see is the struggle inside with the ego. I am naturaly highly motivated but I have been proceeding to my own goal a lot lately and the stregth it gives me is hard to tame. Only deep meditation helps me to find the peace of mind.
    My point is that a clear goal and a vision to achive it changes 7 with 8 wing drasticaly.
    If you combine that with the high position he was in, then it creates a highly explosive coctail with the omnipotent taste.
    He was no binary type. He was just so focused on the future many years ahead that he could simply justify doing anything today. So he stopped caring in one way. Makes the life easier and simpler.
    He couldn’t be 8. They plan the future differently. With less thoughts in it. I know it because my wife is 8 (with 9 wing though).

  14. Shakti Skye Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 1:15 pm #

    He was absolutely an 8 focused into the future because he was brilliant. I have an extraordinary mind and I know many 8’s that do. To put Enneagram types into boxes that they don’t fit neatly into only goes to show that there is an expansiveness to the mind that is not yet understood. I’m an 8 with a 7 wing and I plan with extraordinary precision. I’m an 8 with almost all of Steve Jobs personality characteristics. However, I’m not a Narcissist and neither was he. My background is Doctorate of Psychology – Art – and Spirituality. The Enneagram is your FIXATION not who you really are. Once you move into the world of your True Self, much of the fixation shifts . Many readers on here seem to misunderstand that the Enneagram is a wisdom tool nothing more.

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