Contributor & 
CEO Braud Creative

Leadership Style of a Three

In 2017, Tom Cruise made $43 million. He is not only a Type 3 in real life, he plays one on TV. Top Gun, Jerry Mcguire, The Color of Money, Rain Man, Days of Thunder. Don’t even get me started on the Mission Impossibles.

The archetype of an #3 Achiever is the standard profile for the American charming CEO. These leaders are known for their drive, their short sleep cycles, and their raging need to win.

Understanding Your Needs

Our COO here at Leadership Reality, Lauren Tharp, is well aware of her drive to achieve and how it impacts her daily life. Understanding her enneagram number “has validated and solidified what I knew were my strengths, but also shone a light on areas I ignore or constraints that can undo me. Typically I do well with moving things forward, but I have such a strong propulsion to move, act and create that I struggle to stop and rest. I have to fight to unplug, to not be thinking productively, to go on a walk without a to-do list. I make everything around me efficient, which is good and bad. It can be amazing at work, yet can leave me tired and anxious.”

Three’s don’t have time to feel and can often not understand them when they come, though they are actually driven by their emotions more than their thoughts or actions. Anyone remember the movie Broadcast News? Holly Hunter was fabulous as a driven three who ran herself hard, and then she would cry in the shower all the tears collect during the day. A very efficient, yet likely unproductive way to deal with undeniable emotions.


It’s okay to rest.

The invitation for growth for Three’s is an invitation to stop the compulsive productivity. This is the direction of integration for Achievers that want to grow. I asked Lauren how it feels to get invited into rest by someone. “I either want to hug them,” she admitted, “or punch them in the face.” Both expressions reflect a deep longing to collapse without consequence.

Call to Action: 5 steps

  1. Slow Down.
    The pace you have chosen seems impossible to alter, but your body will often choose a total halt if you neglect your health. Maybe the best way to slow down is by asking yourself what you fear in the stillness. What will happen if you stop or slow down? Could you perhaps find what it is you are trying to get through all the doing? (hint: LOVE!)
  2. Make friends with failure.
    Leadership Challenge: authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have drawn conclusions from hundreds of thousands of responses to leadership surveys which suggest that the overall quality of work when people have a chance to fail. (Leadership Challenge, 181.) [bctt tweet=”The ability and freedom to fail can often give us the fuel and clarity we need to be highly effective leaders. #enneagram3″ username=”LeaderReality”]
  3. Develop hobbies that can’t be measured.
    Often, Three’s are so embodied that they don’t even know that the “rest” they choose is not rest at all, but just a different form of achievement. Golf, online poker, or any competitive game or hobby that requires bettering, winning, or drawing attention to yourself just reaffirms a need to find your identity in your performance. Here’s some other options: Non-competitive birding (you laugh, but we all saw The Big Year. Type 3 Birders is apparently a thing!), painting, poetry, hiking. Drop the biking kit, put a basket on your cruiser, and ride around town.
  4. Define yourself by something other than your work or your team’s achievement.
    Who are you? What do you want? What do you value? How do you want to live? For Three’s asking and answering these questions, says Beatrice Chestnut in her book The 9 Types of Leadership, could “literally save their lives.”
  5. Put away your to-do list. Being present is a skill that must be given attention. Incessant list-crossing keeps you in the future and in an imaginary space. Reality is only now. Give now and the people around you the gift of being present.

By understanding your Archetype, #3 types of leaders can learn to move from fear-driven actions that are motivated by image and success to finding fulfillment and reaching their highest potential when they learn to add rest into their productivity schedules. The benefits of this move beyond personal health to the entire organization they lead.

Further Developing Your Awareness

If the enneagram interests you, several sources are available for developing a deeper understanding of your type. Here are just a few we here at Leadership Reality love:  


Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen (Lauren’s book rec: the chapter specifically about loneliness to solitude) 

Overworked and Overwhelmed by Scott Eblin 

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Fiction books – get lost in a story!

Think you might be a Three?

Sign up to take the Enneagram Test with Leadership Reality and know for sure. If you’d like your team to hear an overview about the enneagram and how it can be used to improve their  leadership skills, consider at Lunch & Learn Enneagram Workshop for Your Team!  For either request, email us at

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