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.
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