Back to Enneagram theory and research

20th Century American Presidents

Years in office

President

Enneagram type

Variant

1993-2001

Bill Clinton

9 or 3*

social

1989-1993

George H. W. Bush

6

 

1981-1989

Ronald Reagan

9w8

self-pres+social

1977-1981

Jimmy Carter

3w4

self-pres.

1974-1977

Gerald Ford

9

?.

1969-1974

Richard M. Nixon

6w5

self-pres.

1963-1969

Lyndon B. Johnson

8

sexual

1961-1963

John F. Kennedy

7

social

1953-1961

Dwight D. Eisenhower

9w8

?

1945-1953

Harry S. Truman

6 or 1

?

1933-1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt

8

social

1929-1933

Herbert Hoover

possibly 1?

 

1923-1929

Calvin Coolidge

possibly 5?

self-pres.

1921-1923

Warren G. Harding

9w1

 

1913-1921

Woodrow Wilson

1

 

1909-1913

William Howard Taft

6

 

1901-1909

Theodore Roosevelt

7 or 8

 

This table is a summary of types according to Riso/Hudson, Tom Condon, and myself.  There is consensus on most major presidents, but several types are controversial.  Tom Condon considers Bill Clinton a 9 with both wings, while Riso and Hudson view Clinton as a 3.  You can read Condon's article here.  I view Clinton as belonging on the line of integration between 9 and 3, and not squarely in either type.  Theodore Roosevelt is considered an 8 by Condon, and a 7w8 by Riso/Hudson.  Condon considers Harry Truman a 1, whereas I consider him a 6.
 

1.  9s and 6s are the most common presidential types

Depending on whether you count Clinton, there were either four or five type 9 presidents in the 20th century: Harding, Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, and perhaps Clinton.  There were also four type 6 presidents in the 20th century: Taft, Truman, Nixon, and George H. W. Bush.  The high prevalence of 9s and 6s is surprising, as leaders are often assumed to be overwhelmingly aggressive types such as 8s and 3s.

Have 9s and 6s been good presidents?  On average, these presidents have been ... well ... average.  Harry Truman is the underdog hero among this list, who was counted out many times by his opponents but whose achievements have stood the test of time.  Eisenhower and Reagan have been relatively well-regarded by historians, but neither ranks among our country's "greats".  Warren Harding is by overwhelming consensus one of our worst presidents ever - a rambling, unfocused leader who largely neglected his highly corrupt advisors.  Clinton's historical role will be debated for a long time to come, but so far the reviews are mixed - he managed the economy well, and blocked the excesses of right-wing forces.  However, Clinton's self-discipline problems, and avoidance of conflict, led to many lost opportunities and unnecessary setbacks.


2.  8s or 8-winged presidents may be the most influential

Although 9s are the most numerous type, type 8 presidents have been in office during the most eventful times in our nation's history, such as the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights era, the War on Poverty, Vietnam war, and now the War on Terror.  This is not a coincidence - in some cases, an aggressive president galvanized the nation to fight, while at other times, hardship prompted the nation to seek a forceful leader. Every president who was an 8, or had an 8 wing, served more than 4 years in office.  FDR served 12 years and Lyndon Johnson served 6 years, while Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan all served two terms.  The total number of years that America spent under an 8 or 8-winged president totals an incredible 42 years.  And this is not counting Clinton, whom Condon views as a a 9 with both wings (8+1).  If one includes Clinton, America spent 50 years out of the 20th century under a leader with some 8-like qualities.

3.  "Gut" types are most common, "feeling" types are least common.

The most common presidential types are 9, 6, and 8 in that order.  Hence, the gut triad (8, 9, 1) is conspicuously common among the presidents.  Feeling types (2, 3, and 4) are the least common types, which is surprising given that American culture is widely regarded as 3-ish.
 

4.  Harry Truman - an underdog surprise.

One surprise that I encountered concerns Harry Truman.  Truman said and did a lot of things that sound like an authoritative 8: he ended World War II with atomic bombs, championed the magnanimous Marshall plan for Europe, and famously declared "the buck stops here".  However, his biography by David McCullough paints an interesting behind-the-scenes contrast.  From childhood to adulthood, Truman was considered dutiful, somewhat of a people-pleaser, analytically-minded, and unusually loyal for a politician.  In his 1948 campaign he relished playing the underdog, even though he was the incumbent.  I think it is likely that Truman was a healthy 6.  However, this is open to debate, as Tom Condon views him as a 1.  Interestingly, Truman left office with a very low approval rating, and in the years afterwards his reputation recovered greatly as history proved many of his decisions to have been good for the country.

5.  The plight of type 6 candidates:

Interestingly, 6 appears to be the most commonly nominated type.  However, the majority of their candidacies ended badly.  The last 4 losing presidential candidates were all 6s: Bob Dole, George H. W. Bush, Walter Mondale, and Al Gore.  Conversely, relatively few 8s get nominated by their party, but if nominated, they almost always win.  I found 11 elections in the 20th century in which one candidate was an 8 or had an 8 wing, and the 8-ish candidate won 10 of these elections.  The only 8-ish nominee to lose was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, running a highly unusual third party candidacy.

Even when 6s succeed, they express more than the usual amount of frustration at being president.  Here is a sampling of quotes from presidents I believe were 6s:

    "My dear sir, if you are as happy on entering the White House as I am on leaving, you are a very happy man, indeed."
            James Buchanan (6w5) to his successor, Abraham Lincoln (1w9):

    "I am afraid I am a constant disappointment to my party."
         William Howard Taft

    "I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign."
            James Polk
 

6.  Questions and final comments:

So why are 9s and 6s are the most common types?  Why do 8s seem the most successful in defeating their opponents and securing a place in history?  Are 8s really better leaders, or merely better at political gamesmanship?  Are 6s underappreciated for what they've done for the country?  Is the high proportion of 9s, 6s, and 8s a universal phenomenon, or one peculiar to 20th century America?  The issue of personality in leadership is an important one, and I hope this page can provide a starting point towards a sociological study of these questions.

Although 8-ish presidents loom large in our history, every Enneagram type is represented among the 20th century presidents, except for 2 and 4.  A wide range of personalities have made important contributions to our country's history.