The prevailing thought among many Enneagram teachers and Enneagrammers has been that Steve Jobs is/was an ennea-type 7. I always wondered about that – seeing him listed as an example of a 7 on more lists of famous people than I can even remember.
Since his death, many people have emailed me about what type I think he is and asked if I would write a blog about this. I’ve hesitated for a number of reasons: in general, I don’t really believe in “typing” people I don’t know, especially famous people (although I do this at times); I’ve never been convinced that he is a 7 (or convinced that he is not); and he was so public and so private, both at the same time, how could we know? And then, I’d remember stories about him from people who worked at Apple, I’d see his photograph, and I’d wonder.
Since Isaacson’s new book was recently published, we have much more “original source” information about Jobs, information Jobs chose to allow Isaacson to have and use. So, I am reading this book in great detail, and plan to write a blog about Jobs and his possible ennea-type after I finish. But in the meantime, I wanted to write a pre-blog, using some information from two sources: one is a friend (client) who is an IT heavyweight, met Jobs multiple times, and knows the Enneagram very well. The other source is the eulogy written by Mona Simpson, Steve Jobs’ sister.
My client, who is a 7 himself, does not think Jobs was a 7. His exact words: “Jobs had much more focus, presence and power than any 7 I’ve ever met. I could imagine him as an 8 with a 7 wing or even possibly a 4.” This comment got me to thinking.
The disclaimer to his sister’s eulogy is this: Jobs was adopted at birth, and he reconnected with his sister in his 20s. Consequently, she didn’t know him growing up. However, he was extremely forthcoming with her, and they shared a strong and ongoing relationship until the time he died. Here are some excerpts from his sister’s eulogy, followed by my Enneagram comments:
Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.
He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks.
He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.
Enneagram commentary: These remarks sound less like 7 and more like 4.
When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited. He was hurt but he still went to work.
He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.
Enneagram commentary: These remarks sound more like sexual subtype 8 or 4, but could be also true for some counter-phobic 6s. If he were a 7, the main possibility here would be a sexual subtype 7 – the dreamer – because they are the most emotionally intense subtype of 7.
His relationship to love
Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.
Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”
When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”
Enneagram commentary: These remarks sound like a sexual subtype of almost any type, but they do not sound like a 5 of any subtype because these would be considered highly intrusive by 5s. A sexual subtype 5 might think this, but would they actually say it to someone they don’t know really well?
Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures.
He was the opposite of absent-minded.
Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him.
Enneagram commentary: These remarks make Jobs sound very work-oriented and focused, not so much like 7, but possibly 3 (depending on how he framed his failures – for example, as learning experiences) or even 4 (possibly sexual subtype or self-preservation subtype). They are not inconsistent with some counter-phobic 6s, 1s, or 5s.
Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic.
He was willing to be misunderstood.
Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.
Enneagram commentary: There is clearly a strong dose of perfectionism noted here, which could be 1 (or an arrow line to 1). The “willing to be misunderstood” could be a remark about his being so ahead of his peers that he was used to being different, or it could be ennea-type 4. Although we are used to 4s not being willing to be misunderstood, the fact that she uses this word might mean Jobs accepted being misunderstood as a way of life. The first comment (never…) doesn’t mean he was positive in outlook, but the lack of cynicism and pessimism does suggest that he was probably not a 5 or 6.
In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.
Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?
Enneagram commentary: Is this the 7’s eclectic orientation, the 4’s inspiration for beauty and symbolism, or the 5’s interest in uncommon topics of interest? Or is it something else?
So what type was Steve Jobs? Just based on these comments from his eulogy – and I purposely left out any other information I know, simply so Mona Simpson’s words could speak for themselves – Jobs does not seem very much like a 9 or a 2. Just based on the eulogy, he seems more like one of the following: 8, 4, 7, 1, 6, or 5. I plan to write a 2nd blog after reading Isaacson’s book.
If you want to read the eulogy as published in the NY Times, click here.