Further Thoughts on Steve Jobs’ Ennea-type

Mario Sikora
Mar 11, 2012

I received an interesting response to my blog on Steve Jobs’ Ennea-type on a Facebook group page, so I thought I’d share my response to it here (see my original blog here). The writer asserted that my assessment of Jobs’ as a Four was off base; that Jobs was actually a “healthy Seven.” My response is below. I’m reprinting it here because I think it is important to not just say what one thinks, but to describe how one came to the conclusion. I also think it is important to be open to debate, and that assertions should be debated vigorously. As I say below, I agree with Hume that “truth springs from argument amongst friends.” I am open to the thought that I might be wrong about Jobs’ type, but I haven’t yet seen a compelling argument that convinces me so. Thus, I’m still sticking with my prior hypothesis, provisionally held pending further data.
Before getting to that, however, I wanted to share something else: For those interested in more information on Jobs, I highly recommend Evgeny Morozov’s essay “Form and Fortune: Steve Jobs’ pursuit of perfection–and the consequences” in the March 15, 2012 issue of “The New Republic” magazine. The article seems to reinforce my assessment of Jobs; I couldn’t help but smile when reading these passages:
“He considered going to a monastery in Japan, but declared that, were it not for computers, he would be a pie in the exceedingly unmonastic city of Paris.”
“‘Pure’ was the ultimate compliment that Steve Jobs could bestow. The word and its derivations appear often in Isaacson’s book. “‘Every once in a while,’ says Jobs, ‘I find myself in the presence of purity–purity of spirit and love–and I always cry.’ For Jobs, ideas and products either have purity–and then they are superior to everything else–or they do not, and then they must be rejected or revised.”
And finally, this gem:

“Products have an essence to them, a purpose for which they were made. If the object were to have feelings, these would be based on its desire to fulfill its essence.”
Of course, it’s easy to cherry pick quotes to try to prove a point, but these quotes are, I believe, representative of the whole article, which reads to anyone familiar with the Enneagram as an almost parodic description of a Four. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that Jobs’ was a Four, but I still think that the case for Jobs as a Four is far stronger than that for him being any other type.

Below is my response to my correspondent from the FB group:

Dear ______,
     Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my blog on Steve Jobs. I agree with Hume that “truth springs from argument amongst friends,” so I always enjoy differing points of view and a rich debate of ideas. 
     I must say, however, that I’m not persuaded by your argument. You say that I fall into a “trap” of typing by behavior and projecting the motivation behind that behavior, but that when you type people you look at language use, facial expressions, facial shape and archetype, behavior and motivation. I’m not sure how language use and facial expressions are different from behavior (they seem like types of behaviors) and I’m not sure what facial archetypes are, but facial shape seems a very dubious way to assess Ennea-type to me. So I’m not sure what you did differently in identifying Jobs as a Seven since you only offer some very broad anecdotal evidence and a variation of the “no true Scotsman” argument to support your assessment (more on these shortly).

Regarding motivation, I’m not sure exactly how you are defining that term, but I would never make assumptions about anyone’s motivation, whether I know them or not. In fact, since most of our motivations are instinctual or nononscious, I wouldn’t even make strong statements in assessment of my own motivations:).
Instead, I agree with Claudio Naranjo, who in “Character and Neurosis” refers to the Ennea-types as “adaptive strategies”–ways of solving problems and approaching our world. I view the adaptive strategy of the Four to be one of “striving to be unique,” a pattern of solving the “problems” of life through differentiation. The Seven, on the other hand, is “striving to be excited,” a pattern of solving life’s problems through the creation of pleasant, diverting stimulation.
All of the literature I have read about Steve Jobs over the years has focused on his drive toward differentiation, his obsession with aesthetics, his narcissism, jealousy, and self-pitying. I have never read about him having the lightness of spirit and humor so often seen in Sevens. Further, while I have not worked with Apple, I do have clients who are vendors to Apple, and the Apple culture is notoriously cutthroat, insensitive to the well-being of the vendors, and, in general, difficult to work with. This is a tone that Jobs cultivated. Further, Apple is a notoriously difficult place to work. As Adam Lashinsky wrote in “Inside Apple,” there is a saying that “Everyone outside of Apple wants to get in; everyone inside of Apple wants to get out.” The turnover rate for staff in the first couple of years of service is said to be exceptionally high, based on Jobs’ view that it should be miserable so that only the best and most driven survive. This widely written about assessment of Apple’s culture does not seem consistent with the kind of work place usually created by Sevens (compare the Apple environment with the environment cultivated by Sevens (admittedly an assumption) such as Richard Branson at Virgin or Herb Kelleher at Southwest, for example).
I was also surprised to see you identify Jobs as a “healthy” Seven, as “healthy”is not an adjective I would have used to describe Jobs. Again, the literature points to a long history of turbulent relationships, frequent meanness of spirit (though, yes, he had a generous side as well), and profound envy (I encourage you to read Barry Ahern’s excellent article on this same topic on Ginger Bogda’s blog for a detailed account of this and I won’t bother repeating it here.)
You invoke your tri-type model in defense of your assessment and as it seems more like a post-hoc rationalization or simple label for WHAT you believe Jobs’ type to be rather than providing a robust explanation for WHY you believe he is that type, I won’t address the theory further.
All you’ve really offered for evidentiary support for your view is the anecdotal invocation of the opinions “many adult friends who have worked with Steve.” Since you don’t elaborate any details of what they say or any facts that would be useful in assessing his type other than that he was viewed as “cool,” and since all of the examples of his behaviors that I have identified (and that Barry Ahern has also identified in even greater detail) practically scream “Type Four,” I’m unswayed by your case that he was a Seven.
Finally, I’ll point out the trap that I believe you have fallen into: Your inability to see him as a Four because you believe that “4s rarely lead companies or are serial entrepreneurs.” Granted, you’ve qualified your statement with the word “rarely,” but you still offer it as one of the main reasons you think Jobs was a Seven Perhaps Fours are not as commonly seen at the top of organizations as some of the other types, but this is hardly a compelling reason to disqualify Jobs as a Four. He is simple one of a smaller group. The statement also is an example of the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. In 15 years of coaching executives in numerous organizations in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, I have learned that there is no job that can’t be done by people of any particular type, and that there examples of all the Ennea-types in just about any role one can imagine. That Jobs couldn’t have been a Four because he was entrepreneurial and a CEO is just not a valid argument.
I’ll close by repeating that I am always open to changing my mind on Jobs’ Ennea-type and being persuaded by a compelling argument. I don’t see that in your post, however.

Recent Posts

Ignorance: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

By Mario Sikora Part of an ongoing series of articles on clear-thinking skills, excerpted from “How to Think Well, and Why: The Awareness to Action Guide to Clear Thinking” by Mario Sikora (available at www.awarenesstoactionbooks.com). In the last set of articles, we...