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.
I appreciate your reluctance to type someone you don’t know, and your exploration above is exactly how we need to approach imagining what someone’s Enneagram style might be. The learning is in the questions, isn’t it? I think it would be splendid, though, if Jobs was a Four. What an icon for those who feel on the outside looking in. Thanks, Ginger. I had read his sister’s eulogy, now I think I’ll read Isaacson’s book.
I agree that there is learning in the question. As long as we approach typing such public or famous figures with an open and respectful manner, we can only gain by the discussion, acknowledging that there is no absolute certainty to our conclusions or answers. As a mathematician and theoretician, I have to disagree with anybody who doubts the usefulness of the Enneagram Axiom that every person has one and only one, Predominant or Dominant Type or Style as being a theoretical flaw. It actually allows for meaningful discussions and clear categorization, and gives a starting point from which to… Read more »
“These remarks make Jobs sound very work-oriented and focused, not so much like 7”
Ginger–not sure whether this short list of 7s (from Condon) would agree with you on how you see 7s Ginger.
Francis Ford Coppola
I honestly don’t think too much about the types of famous people because (1) I think it is so easy to be so wrong; and (2) before i even speculate, I really dive deep into them – for example, watching them on video, reading what they say about themselves, reading what others say.
So that said, the only person on this list that I know a lot about and who I think is not a 7 is Richard Branson. I really think he is a counter-phobic 6 with a 7 wing.
Agree with anonymous. All enneagram types can be work focused or workaholics. Just for different reasons. It’s the motivations we’re looking for.
I’ve read the Isaacson Jobs bio. It’s very eye opening and honest.
My guess is that Steve jobs is a sexual subtype seven. A seven with a
very strong 8 wing.
I’ll write more on why after your next post.
Watch him in this old unedited interview and you might agree he has head type mannerisms.
I’ve just finished reading “I, Steve,” quotes of things he said in interviews over the years. From these quotes he seems very much a One, whose focus is on quality work for a better world. I’ve known many Ones who integrate Seven (inventiveness) and Four (aesthetics) qualities in their vision quest. Ginger, you’ll probably read Isaacson’s biography of Jobs before I do (I’m #80 on the library reserve list), so I’ll look forward to your observations.
I just finished this book, and I’m a seven and Steve is nothing like me, not even close. In the beginning I felt he acted like an 8, then as I kept reading about his emotional upheavals, crying, his passion looking for the right partner I leaned towards Steve being a 4. My wife also read it, she is a 1, and felt he was the 4.
I only Read untill page 151, but i really think he’s an 8. Just focus on how He interacts with other People especially His employees.
I think he was a nine precisely because he has characteristics of every type and confuses everyone. A nine who found his true calling would love his work so much he might resemble a 3. This quote suggests to me a nine who overcame 9 ish tendencies: ” Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” and “don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your inner voice and most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” I… Read more »
I agree, it is a delicate matter when typing Public figures, I find it useful to observe them., listen to The Language they use, which is often more indicative of their style of Perception and their centre (Head, Heart or Body) . I believe his last words described fun/joy. And I look forward to your Second Blog on this Ginger, thank you for your insights
When I read Issacson’s Biography I felt Steve as a Four [I am a Four with a Five Wing] with a very predominate Three Wing and a strong connection to One and a weak connection to Two. His One showed up in the precision of his creations and even in the detail he put into the manufacturing facilities. One was also visible in his outbursts of anger and in traditional Chinese medicine anger is held in the liver which is where his cancer manifested. His saving grace could have come with a connection to the higher aspects of Two with… Read more »
After Steve’s untimely death, there was a memorial in the
courtyard of Apple headquarters. With a 50’ high poster of Steve in the
background, Nora Jones walked up to the piano, sat down and performed John
As she sang the verse “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m
not the only one” you would swear that this song was about Jobs.
Steve Jobs may have been little of everything, but in his
heart and soul he was a 4.