This is a tale of apples and oranges.. The MBTI and Enneagram are two very different personality typologies which look at very different things. They work well when used in conjunction to provide a fuller understanding of what make us tick just as apples and oranges both contribute to making an excellent fruit salad.
The MBTI is based on the work of Karl Jung and it looks at the conscious functions of taking in information through the functions of Sensing and Intuition and making decisions through Thinking or Feeling. The underlying assumption is that one way of doing this is not inherently better than another. It is a preference one has that is in fact not an indication of skill or talent but of what is often most accessible and therefore most often practiced. The 4 letter code that makes up the 16 different MBTI types helps to indicate how these functions interconnect. Most MBTI literature focuses on the positive or more neutral aspects of the types before looking at what happens “in the grip” of stress.
The Enneagram has a history that is more esoteric. It dates back before the mystic schools of Islam where the Sufis used aspects of the Enneagram in the spiritual development of initiates. When the Enneagram was brought to the West the first teachers were exploring questions in psychology concerned with dysfunction. The Enneagram looks at the world of the unconscious and how the 9 different worldviews outlined by the Enneagram influence our orientation to the world. The current teachers of the Enneagram have shifted the focus from the shadow aspects of personality to focusing on real world applications of the model for business and self development.
Mapping One onto the Other
There isn’t a direct correlation- hence the apples and oranges analogy. There are some things that may be typical however given the understanding that there is an exception to every one of these forced correlations.
Some authors and researchers such as Tom Flautt and Renee Baron with Elizabeth Wagele have mapped this even more extensively than my very limited correlations. They too add the cautionary tale of exceptions being a distinct possibility.
Using these tools
The MBTI has a validated inventory that has one publisher so that it is readily recognized across sectors as a valuable tool in business for team building and personal development. People can recognize areas of possible strength and what else may need looking after. The downside is the perception that it can be learned and applied in a one time event. Without reinforcement the MBTI type may be forgotten and shelved MBTI-amnesia!
The Enneagram has a variety of assessments that have been tested to various degrees. It comes out of the oral tradition and is best learned by watching participants discuss their type in a workshop setting. Then you can see the physical characteristics, patterns of speech as well as hearing typical ways of focusing attention. Even though it may not have been as rigorously tested for validity the Enneagram has its own distinct advantages in certain circumstances. It too can be effective for personal development and creating understanding in teams. The Enneagram is uncannily accurate in capturing core dynamics. In part this means that the disowned shadow elements are also on the table from the beginning and some people find this challenging.
My personal take is that the Enneagram is a harder “sell” in a business environment, but a very important tool that anyone serious about leadership ought to consider. It isn’t the easiest route to take but the rewards of self knowledge at the deepest level make it worth the effort. At the end of the day real leaders need to dig deep to take people into uncharted territory.
Knowing both tools adds the distinctions that make for a truer picture. Mastery is in the ability to make these kinds of distinctions.
Please don’t make me choose I am delighted to have both in my toolkit.