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Controversial famous examples ...

How do we determine someone's type?  Unfortunately, there are many disagreements in this area, even among the most renown Enneagram authors:


Riso/Hudson's view*

Tom Condon's view**

Bill Clinton


9, both wings

George W. Bush



Barbara Streisand






Jackie Onassis



Princess Diana



Leona Helmsley



Paul Newman



* From "The Wisdom of the Enneagram".  ** From

Tom Condon explains some of his views in his Enneagram Movie guide, and his essay on Clinton.  This page includes some of my own essays on particularly interesting or controversial people:

Albert Einstein
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Bruce Lee


Could Einstein be a self-preservation 9w8?

audio clip of Einstein (427 kb)

"I simply enjoy giving more than receiving in every respect, do not take myself or the doings of the masses seriously, am not ashamed of my weaknesses and vices, and naturally take things as they come with equanimity and humor.  Many people are like this, and I really cannot understand why I have been made into a kind of idol."  - Albert Einstein, in Einstein, a Life by Denis Brian, p. 389.

"...we know from daily life that we exist for other people - first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent." - Einstein, in Einstein, A Life, p. 196

"I feel so much a part of every living thing that I am not in the least concerned with where the individual begins and ends."  - Einstein, spoken to Heidi Born, wife of physicist Max Born Einstein, A Life, p. 159.

An agreeable, childlike demeanor:

It may seem heretical to question whether Einstein, that epitome of scientists, is actually a 5, the epitome of scientist personality types.  Einstein was clearly an introvert and a shy person, like many 5s, but the other withdrawn types 4 and 9 can appear shy as well, particularly self-preservation subtypes.  Many who knew Einstein were most struck not by his intellect, but his cheerfulness, child-like demeanor, agreeable good-humor, playfulness, plain-spokenness, and absent-mindedness.  Close friends, neighbors, children, and complete strangers universally noted these qualities in him.  These qualities, for better or worse, are often seen in healthy 9s, but it is rare for even a healthy 5 to be so widely seen in this way, for so long, and by so many people, and I challenge anyone to give me an example.  One contemporary journalist said:

"...Einstein is a jolly fellow in company.  He enjoys a good joke and readily breaks into peals of rollicking, childish laughter, which momentarily change his eyes into those of a child.  His remarkable simplicity is so charming that one feels like hugging him or squeezing his hand or slapping him on the back..."  (a jounalist quoted in "Einstein, a Life", p. 151)

This is just one of many such reports.  The writer Upton Sinclair noted:

"I report him as the kindest, gentlest, sweetest of men.  He had a keen wit and a delightful sense of humor and his tongue could be sharp - but only for the evils of the world."  (ibid, p. 215)

A family friend, Thomas Bucky, recollected:

"With Einstein, there was always humor.  Almost everything was turned to be funny.  The face was always smiling ..." (ibid, p. 290)

The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (a social 5), once spoke to Einstein for two hours.  Afterward he judged Einstein to be:

            "Cheerful, sure of himself, and agreeable ... very pleasant.  He understands as much about psychology as I do about physics." (ibid, p. 157).

Stories about Einstein's neglectfulness and absent-mindedness are legion in his biographies (e.g. forgetting his own address, failing to notice a broken vase in his house for 3 years, etc.).  Both 5s and 9s can seem absent-minded, for different reasons, so this point does not decide the issue on its own, but just adds another wrinkle to our view of Einstein.

What 4 wing?
One might argue that Einstein's gentle qualities came from having a strong 4 wing.  However, Einstein's emotionality lacked the drama of most 4s, and I can find almost no specific evidence of a 4 wing in Einstein.  His emotionality seems to have been more positive than 4s, or 5w4s, who are more likely to explore both positive and negative extremes of the emotional spectrum.  It is notable that other 5w4s, like Freud, had strong introspective tendencies which they used to great advantage, while Einstein did not, and wrote that introspection was not particularly important to him.

Comparison with other 5s:
Einstein lacked the intellectual combativeness of some prominent 5s.  For example, Freud (a social 5) fought mightily with dissenters, and had titanic disagreements with professional collaborators such as Jung and Adler.  Einstein, by contrast, seems to have maintained relatively serene friendships, both personal and professional, throughout his life, despite having prominent critics and disbelievers (e.g. Nikola Tesla).  Of course, Einstein's profession, physics, is based more on empirical verification than Freud's arena, and hence Einstein had less need to assert personal authority to prove his point.  But Einstein's interests in later life expanded into the political sphere when he became interested in world peace and Zionism.  Even in this more politically charged arena, he still coexisted amiably with an wide range of people.

Unification and World Peace:
Science is an intellectual pursuit, which attracts many 5s.  But science is also about explaining nature, which draws many 9s.  Einstein's Theory of Relativity is particularly notable for its pervasive unifying principles: it weaves time and space together, and equates mass with energy (E=mc2).  But Einstein didn't stop there - he spent the last decades of his life searching for a grand unified theory of physics, as well as world peace; both were attempts to resolve conflict in the world.  Today many physicists are seeking a grand unified theory of physics, but Einstein was one of the first to see it as an important goal, possibly because his personality was already oriented in that direction.

Couldn't Einstein be an extremely healthy 5w4, who overcame the cynicism of the average 5 and the inner emotional turmoil of the average 4?  Perhaps, but Einstein did have some unhealthy qualities, including his absent-mindedness, and benign neglect of his first wife and their two children.  I find it hard to believe that any 5 can be both healthy enough to transcend the average 5's cynicism and acquire an upbeat and soothing 9-like effect on others, while also deteriorating so much as to reject the 5's alertness and adopt a 9-like absent-mindedness, neglect, and forgetfulness.  It seems simpler to suppose that Einstein was simply a 9.

Every-man appeal - an 8 wing:
Finally, I think Einstein has more of the 8 wing than the 1 wing.  The 9w8 expresses more of the plain-spoken, straight-shooting, "homey", yet passionate quality in Einstein's conversations and writings, unlike the 9w1 which is often less spontaneous and more cautious.  9w8s are not usually considered intellectual, and it may be hard to imagine a 9w8 as genius.  However, Einstein was considered a thick-headed youth - he did not show the early brilliance of his 5 contemporary Freud, a brilliant student even as a boy.  This was part of Einstein's charm - that such an "ordinary" person could also have done such great work.  It is notable that Einstein came from a Jewish heritage (as did Freud) that emphasized intellectuality and learning, which may also have influenced the expression of his personality.

Caveat: I am a self-preservation 9w1, similar to the 9w8 type I'm arguing for Einstein.  Many people have biases regarding their own type, and I cannot rule out such a bias in my own view.

George W. Bush

There is more disagreement in the Enneagram community about George W. Bush than anyone else on this page.  Condon views George W. as a 7w8.  Riso and Hudson view him as 9w8.  A lot of people believe he is a counterphobic 6.  I've also heard arguments for 3, and even 2.  Why does this matter?  Well, Bush's personality may be why he is in office - for more, click here.

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Bill Clinton - 9->3 (on the integration line between 9 and 3)

    "America may find people who do this job better than I have, but you will never find anybody who loved doing it any more."

                                    - Bill Clinton, reflecting on his own presidency

We all know that Bill Clinton has a highly flexible personality, but which one?  Tom Condon views Clinton as a 9 with both wings.  Riso views him as a 3w2.  My opinion is that Clinton belongs on the integration line between 9 and 3, not squarely in either type.  In fact, analyzing Clinton brings out the major flaw in the Enneagram: it encourages a one-dimensional view of personality, reducing it to a single number, which in Clinton's case is an obvious mistake.  Tom Condon has a very good essay explaining Clinton's 9 side.

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Madonna  ... a female Howard Stern? (7w8)

    audio clip of Madonna, complaining to Sandra Bernhard (516kb)

"When I was a child, I always thought that the world was mine, that it was a stomping ground for me, full of opportunities.  I always had the attitude that  I was going to go out into the world and do all the things I wanted to do, whatever that was."
        - Madonna, a Biography by J. Taraborrelli, p. 10

"Do we want an R or X rating?    (pause)   X!!!  for eXtra fun!!!"
        - from "Truth or Dare", a documentary of the Blond Ambition tour

"It's a great feeling to be powerful.  I've been striving for it all my life.  I think that's the quest of every human being: power."

"I'm tough, ambitious, and I know exactly what I want.  If that makes me a bitch, okay."
        - Madonna, Unauthorized, a biography by Christopher Andersen

Is she a 3?  Madonna has reinvented herself many times, going from "material girl" to "spiritual girl", which seems consistent with the chameleon-like qualities of 3s.  The problem with this interpretation is that Madonna did not follow anyone else's definitions of success or fashion, as far as I could tell.  She defined herself, often in defiance of others, and other people had to deal with it, whether they liked it or not.  Madonna's various re-inventions are more about exploring boundaries (7-ish), controlling her own destiny (8-ish), and defying authority (8-ish or 6-ish) than about being successful per se.  In fact, several of her exploits (e.g. repeated attempts to act in movies) have been reliably, almost comically, unsuccessful.  Madonna's early flamboyance was much more "in your face" than most 3s, particularly female 3s - for example, Britney Spears bares her navel like Madonna, but is otherwise quite conservative compared to the 1980's Madonna.  Madonna may reinvent herself every few years, but average-to-unhealthy 3s reinvent themselves whenever someone new enters the room, and Madonna doesn't do that.  Some have argued that a strong 4 wing could make a 3 more provocative and outlandish.  Perhaps, but a strong four wing would also lend an introspective, self-aware, mysterious quality that seems to be the very antithesis of Madonna.

Is she a 2?  Although portrayed as a flirt and a "boy toy", Madonna does not seem to pull heartstrings in a 2ish way.  Her early relationships were not so much about emotional intimacy as about sex, fun, mutual exploitation, and domination.  She comes across as far too independent-minded, even as a teenager, compared to other 2s.  Of course, 2s want love, and Madonna indeed wanted the love of billions.  But one must ask, "loved for what?"  Average 2s want to be loved for their emotional importance to others - they want to be indispensable, someone you can't imagine living without.  Madonna wanted to be loved in spite of her shocking personna, more like Howard Stern (a 7w8) than any other 2 I know of.  The 2's desire for love, albeit intrusive at times, also carries a personal touch that is missing in Madonna.

Arguments for 7:  The average-to-unhealthy 7 is the most prone to excess and sensationalism, while the average-to-unhealthy 8 is the most domineering and confrontational.  Both types often challenge established norms, and both seem to fit Madonna's 1980s mixture of sex appeal and shock appeal.  Many of us have forgotten how shocking Madonna's lyrics, videos, navel, and cone bras were, because those things have become more common, partly thanks to Madonna herself.  Even 3s like Elvis, living up to a "rebel" image, did not push so far beyond what others around him were doing.  Madonna's concerts were once banned in major cities like Detroit and her videos censored by MTV - she was denounced by the Catholic church and the nation of Italy (Madonna is ethnically half-Italian).  Religious, political, and cultural authorities all felt threatened by her, and in the movie-documentary "Truth or Dare", she seems to walk around with worldly bemusement at the whirlwind of notoriety around her.  This seems consistent with the 7's sense of adventure, and the 8's sense of defiance.

Howard Stern, a male 7w8, used shock appeal to an even greater degree than Madonna, was similarly censored by major institutions, and seems similarly bemused by all the notoriety surrounding him.  Madonna's recent works are more low-key, private, and serious, which seems consistent with a 7 moving toward 5.

Bruce Lee (8)

"From boyhood to adolescence, I presented myself as a trouble-maker and was greatly disapproved of by my elders. I was extremely mischievious, aggressive, hot-tempered, and fierce. Not only my "opponents" of more or less my age stayed out of my way, but even the adults sometimes gave in to my temper. I never knew what it was that made me so pugnacious. The first thought that came into my mind whenever I met somebody I disliked was "Challenge him!". Challenge him with what? The only concrete thing that I could think of were my fists."

Bruce Lee, quoted in a Taiwanese newspaper, ca. 1972

I could say more, but the above quote speaks for itself.  Bruce Lee died of a brain edema shortly after speaking this quote.  At his death, he was only 32 years old, and had made only 4 movies as an adult, but in his short life he had become synonymous with martial arts and Gong Fu.  His influence is seen even today, in movies like The Matrix, and Charlie's Angels, just to name a few.