I wrote an earlier blog questioning whether or not Steve Jobs was an Enneagram Seven, since this was then a surprisingly common assumption. My early consulting experience at Apple suggested he was not a Seven, as did my reading of his sister’s (Mona Simpson) eulogy and my reading of Isaacson’s book. More important to me than “nailing” his type (which was not at all compelling) was to engage in data-based inquiry rather than stereotypes. Too often I had heard others say: “Jobs was a Seven because he was an innovator.” From my perspective, this runs the risk of basing type on unwarranted assumptions: are all innovators Sevens?
I was going to write a blog after I finished reading Isaacson’s book, but then something great happened. Barry Ahern, an Enneagram teacher from Ireland (a Four himself), wrote me that, based on the book, he (Barry) thought Jobs could be a sexual subtype Four. More than that, Barry had well-thought-through facts and a real insider understanding of these from the Four perspective. As a result, I invited Barry to write this blog, and you can read it below.
Mario Sikora has also written a recent blog on Jobs as a Four, and Mario uses some similar and different data points, yet comes to the same conclusion as Barry. Are Barry and Mario both correct? Who knows, but they both have solid reasoning behind their conclusions. I think a good case could be made for Jobs as a counter-phobic Six with a Seven wing, or even an Eight or a One. So I would invite other blogs (well-conceived and data-based) about Jobs’ Enneagram type, and would be happy to publish them to encourage the dialogue.
I’ve been very resistant to typing public figures. Why does it matter? While many of us might do it privately, going public needs care. In one sense there is certain arrogance about it. This is especially true where there isn’t much evidence to back it up. It’s so easy to label someone using superficial evidence. For instance, just because people might have a reputation for perfectionism doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re Ones.
Over the years I’ve seen very experienced Enneagram practitioners completely mistype people, including my wife, who had known her type for years, while she was attending an Enneagram conference some years ago. I know several people whose type still eludes me. One of them has identified herself as an Eight, yet her adult children see her as a type Seven. One of her best friends, a Seven, can’t see her as that type. However, the best clues are often found in the subtype. In the end we don’t need to know someone’s type to have good and productive relationships with them. So, it’s worth asking the question why we do it? Is it just for ego satisfaction?
My initial reactions to Jobs (as I read Walter Isaacson’s recent biography) were quite negative. He comes across as a very driven man who was ruthless in making demands on others. There is a volatility of temperament that runs though all his relationships. He often lacks empathy in dealing with friends, employees and lovers. He could quite readily verbally abuse his staff for work he considered inferior, whether it was warranted or not. Interestingly, his former girlfriend, Tina Redse, his first true love, thought Jobs suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
While Isaacson’s biography is excellently researched, I’d still love to have been given the opportunity to talk to his family and his closest work colleagues. I’ve used sources in addition to the biography, in particular many video clips of Jobs speaking, interviews by the author and anecdotal evidence from those who worked in the movie industry during his time at Pixar etc.
Two former CEO’s of Apple, John Sculley and Joe Amelio, described their first impressions of Jobs. Sculley observed that, “He seemed more a showman than a businessman. Every move seemed calculated, as if it were rehearsed, to create an occasion of the moment.” Amelio saw him, “rather like a boxer, aggressive and elusively graceful, or like an elegant jungle cat ready to spring at its prey.”
As I was about two thirds of the way through the biography, I began to notice a pattern emerge around three areas: a) his great capacity to envisage the wonderful possibilities of technology; b) his desire for perfection; c) his insistence on the aesthetics – even hidden elements of the devices were to be aesthetically balanced. Those who didn’t reach the high standards or buy into his vision were given short shrift. This seemed to mirror possibilities around the 1-4-7 inner triangle. You can see all of these at play on YouTube during his presentation at the launch of the iPhone in 2007.
However, when I began to reread some of the early passages, everything began to fit so clearly into the woven fabric of the book that I was quite surprised at how I had missed the clues all along.
By the end of the exploration, I had warmed considerably to Jobs and began to admire his achievements and his struggle to become a more rounded human being.
Throughout his professional life Jobs seemed driven to achieve something that could transcend what had gone before. He wanted to bridge the gap between technology and the humanities. In one of the early retreats while setting up his new company Next, at age 31, he reflected on his motivation for setting up Apple:
“One of the things that made Apple great was in the early days it was built from the heart…we didn’t always use our heads…one of my largest wishes (sic) is that we build Next from the heart and the people who are thinking of coming to work for us or who are buying products or who want to sell us things feel that. That we are doing this because we’ve a passion about it.”
In a Playboy interview with Jobs (when he turned thirty), he referred to himself several times as being an artist. He spoke about wanting “…to live your life in a creative way, as an artist.”
Isaacson says, “Jobs was more intuitive and romantic (than Gates)…had a passion for perfection, which made him fiercely demanding, and he managed by charisma and scattershot intensity.” He noted he “craved control and indulged in the uncompromising temperament of an artist.”
In many ways Jobs’ management style reminded me of the opera composer Richard Wagner. Wagner was a major figure in the operatic world. Just as Jobs revolutionised the power of technology combined with the liberal arts, Wagner’s musical language overturned all the accepted concepts of harmony, and his work is without a doubt one of the pillars on which Western music rests. He, like Jobs, wanted total control of his product as both of them knew they were breaking new boundaries and opening up new frontiers, and they became totally frustrated with others who were unwilling or unable to participate with them on the journey. Just as Jobs demanded that all parts of his technology should be perfect and aesthetically pleasing, both the seen and unseen parts, Wagner sought to build an environment where his works could be performed to their maximum potential. The Bayreuth theatre in southern Germany has a singular world status, beginning with the fact that it is the only theatre built from the ground up to the strict specifications and whims of one creative talent; it was erected to present exclusively the handful of works of this composer. Jobs, too, micromanaged the aesthetics as much as the technology and stipulated that Apple products should be closed to other systems so that their integrity could be preserved. Wagner was possibly a Four. If you listen receptively to the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, you’ll get a sense of the ecstatic longing and melancholy that Fours inhabit. In Jobs’ case, I came to the conclusion that he was a sexual subtype Four.
I want to say at the outset that this is purely a hypothesis. Typing others should enable us to gain a sense of compassion and appreciation of the person being discussed, while providing insights into type behaviours then the exercise might be worthwhile. But it is always conjecture, and here’s mine:
Fours constantly search for what is aesthetically pleasing – whether it’s in the arts, technology, sport etc. Jobs was continuously striving to create a product that was beautiful. At his Stanford Commencement Address in 2005, he reflected back on the time he spent as a student at Reed College and his discovery of calligraphy. He talks about how “every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed… It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating…ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me… It was the first computer with beautiful typography.”
When it came to designing the logo for Next, he hired Paul Rand and fought with him regularly over the aesthetics. Many of the volatile sessions with his colleagues, during which he often stormed out, were around issues of colour and design. He was concerned that the unseen parts of the product should be crafted beautifully. He was constantly developing the décor and furnishings of the new offices. He held back on his home furnishings as he felt the craftsmanship wasn’t up to his standard. He was also a master at making the presentation at product launches dramatic and hired theatrical producers to help with this.
Mona Simpson, Jobs’ sister, made constant references in her eulogy to his quest for what was beautiful: “Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.” “His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: ‘Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later’. Steve always aspired to make beautiful later. Once, when referring to a new computer project, he told her he was ‘making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.’“
The Driving Force: Envy
A key element when looking at type is try to understand the driving force, usually called the passion or the vice, and to see how this relates to particular type behaviours. In the case of the Four, the essential energy of envy is depressive; it’s a kind of suffering that comes from a feeling of loss, of being unlovable and empty. I’ve heard Fours say they don’t feel they’re wired the same as others.
The sexual Four tries to compensate for this by seeking to connect with others so they can unite in their quest for something that will fill this gap and become fulfilled. They can be aggressive towards those who oppose them, even hateful, and also be extremely competitive. They crave something that can transcend the ordinary and the mundane, which they seek to avoid. The thought of someone else sabotaging their vision of what they perceive to be special or unique is an anathema to them. When Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple and one of Jobs’ close friends, wanted to leave Apple and start a project of his own, Jobs flew into a rage when he saw the designs Wozniak was working on. Jobs recalled telling the design company, “that working with Woz wouldn’t be acceptable to us.” The Wall Street Journal at the time quoted Woz as saying, “Steve Jobs has a hate for me…” Claudio Naranjo sees the sexual Four as the most vindictive of all the types.
This subtype can ooze a seductive charm that seeks to dominate in an arrogant and overpowering manner. They can have a vampirish quality that seeks to seduce you into co-operating with them. They can be very charismatic and hold you in thrall as they try to transport you with their visionary ideas that can create a lot of intense excitement.
Throughout the biography, people refer to how Jobs used to almost mesmerize people with his stare, one that held them captive as he held forth. The Four can feel elated and likewise the recipient. Others can also feel drained or overwhelmed by the experience. Joe Amelio noted a “…phone call with Steve was like inhaling the flavours of a great bottle of vintage wine.” However, “victims” can be discarded when Fours have achieved their goals. The photo of Jobs on the cover of the biography (see the photo on this blog) captures this determined, aggressive expression. Note, too, the underlying expression of sadness in the eyes.
The aggressiveness of the sexual Four can also make them look like Eights. And, like Eights, you have to learn how to stand up to them. Jobs’ colleagues had to learn to do this.
People who worked with Jobs regularly talked about his “reality distortion field,” through which Jobs persuaded others to enter his world and work with him towards the achievement of his goals. After publication, Isaacson gave a video interview in which he said, “Steve Jobs is able to be very persuasive and people at Apple used to call it his reality distortion field. He’d say we have to finish this project by the end of next month. They’d all say ‘no way’ and he’d say ‘yes it can be done’ and lo and behold they would do it.”
Drama and the Push Pull
Fours can move towards something they desire and sabotage themselves by pulling away from it because they fear being isolated and abandoned if it doesn’t work out. This comes from the perception of a false poverty which can result in being mean towards someone they really like. Those at the receiving end can feel confused as they don’t know if they are in or out of favour. Finding a balance in between is hard to locate.
Isaacson recounts the time Jobs was dating Joan Baez which illustrates this push pull effect. Joan Baez and Jobs were dating for a while. She found this behaviour perplexing and recounted how one evening, he talked about a beautiful red dress he saw in a store that would be perfect for her. When they got to the store, he went on to buy shirts for himself and told her that she should buy the dress. She told him she couldn’t afford it. He didn’t respond and they left the shop. Likewise, when he bought her flowers, he always told her they were leftovers from an office event. Baez summarised this behaviour as wanting to be “romantic and afraid to be romantic.”
The push pull dynamic can be very self-sabotaging. Fours deny themselves what they want, yet can manifest a seething resentment towards others because they project the notion that they’ve been deprived of an idea or a relationship, etc. Because the need for connection still remains, the Four might resort to deception, manipulation, sarcasm, vindictiveness and more in order to avoid the fear of being abandoned.
John Sculley was the president of Pepsi Cola when he and Jobs first met. Sculley later became CEO at Apple which led to Jobs’ departure from the company. The two men had an intense period of getting to know each other during which they bonded firmly, and the feeling was mutual. “Steve and I became soul mates, near constant companions,” said Scully. However, when Jobs began to see Sculley’s shortcomings, in particular that he had different views on people (especially when it came to talented people which Jobs was particularly good at), things began to fall apart. Jobs became very controlling and insistent on having his way, especially when “his aesthetic passions and controlling nature kicked into high gear.” When Fours become overly attached to a project and then lose control, events can turn very nasty.
Jobs began to manipulate his relationship with Sculley by leading him to believe that he (Sculley) was more exceptional that he was. They ultimately had a showdown at the board level. Jobs was forced to leave Apple because of his erratic and micromanaging behaviour with management. The sexual Four can become very attached to every aspect of whatever project they’re engaged in and will manipulate others to bring them on board. Jobs tried to organise a coup against Sculley, which ultimately failed. In the end, people demanded that Sculley take control and the board asked Jobs to leave.
Sculley felt Jobs’ mercurial personality illustrated his inability to hold back or filter his feelings and that the big mood swings – ones that ranged from ecstasy one minute to depression in the next – was a reflection of a mild bipolarity. Sculley’s wife described the expression in Jobs’ unblinking stare as “…a bottomless pit, an empty hole, a dead zone.”
The biographer noted this cycle of embrace and abandonment included his relationship with his estranged daughter, Lisa, whom he didn’t acknowledge for a number of years to those with whom he worked. Indeed at the launch of Next, the company he formed after his exit from Apple in the 1980s, Jobs poked fun at his own foibles: “A word that’s sometimes used to describe me is ‘mercurial’. …characterized by unpredictable changeableness of mood…’ which was much more satisfying than the antonym which is ‘saturnine’.“
Fours search for a connection with people and/or projects that are deeply meaningful to them. When this happens, Fours can become overwhelmed by the experience – a huge sense of longing takes over and the heart feels deeply moved by the desire to connect with a source that is beyond the self. The drive to create a sense of the authentic and the unique in everything they do can arise from this. A lot of time can be spent internally pondering the possibility of being inspired or awakened.
In her eulogy, Mona Simpson, Jobs’ sister, described the romantic in him. “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.” She saw him as “an intensely emotional man.”
Throughout the book there are many instances of Jobs being moved to tears. When he moved back to Apple, he spent a lot of time clearing the decks and bringing in his own team. In July 1997 he called Lee Chow, the creative director at Chiat/Day with whom he had worked before, and even years later his memory of this time moved Jobs to tears: “It choked me up, and it still makes me cry to think about it… Lee cared so much… Every time I find myself in the presence of purity – purity of spirit and love – and I always cry. It always just reaches in and grabs me. That was one of those moments. There was a purity about that I will never forget. I cried in my office as he was showing me the idea, and I still cry when I think about it.”
Jobs’ deepest professional creative connection was with Jonny Ive whom he described as his “spiritual partner at Apple.” They both shared a fundamental understanding about what they were trying to create. Ive summed it up: “Simplicity…involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go deep. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”
Some would say Fours are the idealists of the Enneagram. Ive observed that Jobs had “a remarkable sensitivity.” Ive believed “that there was a gravity, almost a sense of civic responsibility to care beyond any sort of functional imperative.” He described Jobs’ legacy as a “victory for beauty, for simplicity and for giving a damn.”
Being with people they can’t connect with at important moments of their lives could be unbearable for Fours. As Jobs faced his own passing, his sister Mona noted, “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.”
As he lay on his deathbed unconscious, she noted: “…he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic.”
Barry Ahern lives in Ireland and loves using the Enneagram with businesses and community organizations. He also contributes modules on the Enneagram to educational institutes up to and including post-graduate level. www.enneagram.ie