Enneagram Type 8 is called the Leader, the Challenger and the Protector because of their keen awareness of power dynamics: who is in control, who might need protection, who needs to be challenged. Leader 8s are usually blunt, direct, “what you see is what you get” people with forceful, big personalities. Sometimes described as a bull in a china shop, Leader 8s often get feedback at some point in their life that they are just too much for people or that they overwhelm others. Sharing vulnerable, softer emotions can be challenging for Leader 8s who are typically not comfortable expressing anything that feels like weakness.
Enneagram Type 8 Gifts to the World
Leader 8s offer the world leadership, resourcefulness, an interest in fairness and equality and protection for the underdog. Natural leaders, this type is decisive, strong and resourceful. Extremely tough, they keep going long after other people give up. The soldiers of the Enneagram, Leader 8s often defend the weak, vulnerable and underprivileged.
Their attention goes to power. They see hierarchy and power dynamics easily and immediately: who is in control, who is vulnerable and might need protection and so on. They are comfortable challenging power and authority and will often step forward to protect the underdog. Their attention moves away from personal feelings of vulnerability and the softer emotions.
Enneagram Type 8s Typically Report
1) They Access Anger Easily
Leader 8s tend to overexpress anger. They report that anger comes up so fast, it feels almost impossible to stop even though they often regret the consequences. This anger is typically linked to feeling vulnerable, although most Leader 8s don’t experience it that way.
“I have literally seen red I’ve been so angry. I’ve been counseled at work that my anger is intimidating my coworkers, so I know I need to control it, but it’s hard. It just comes up so fast…”
2) Sharing Vulnerable Emotions is Difficult
Sharing anything that makes them feel vulnerable is challenging for Leader 8s. Their instinct is that the world isn’t a safe place and letting your guard down is dangerous. This type typically shuts down and goes into isolation when they are feeling hurt or sad and returns later when they are feeling less vulnerable. Because being vulnerable is so hard for Leader 8s, they can sometimes have issues with intimacy.
“I remember I was eleven years old and watching E.T. at the movie theatre. There was a really emotional scene where E.T. wanted to contact home. And my entire body was clenched so I wouldn’t cry because it was so important not to cry in a theater with other people around me.”
3) They Think about Revenge
Leader 8s think a lot about revenge, even though they may not actually act on it. They spend time mentally planning and imagining how they will right the wrong someone did to them or someone or something they care about. In some more extreme instances, they may act on it, but often the fantasy is enough.
“I have imagined blowing up buildings and destroying three generations of a family because one member did something that really pissed me off. And this isn’t just imagining I’d do it, I was thinking of what explosives I would need, where I would get them, and so forth. Of course in the end, I didn’t and wouldn’t act on it. But it took up space in my mind…”
Tools for Compassion If You Have Enneagram Type 8s in Your Life
1) Don’t Take Their Aggressive Speech Personally
Leader 8s are often extremely direct, blunt, and sometimes loud and forceful. Their aggressive speech style can overwhelm others without them even realizing it. To the Leader 8, they are just being themselves, participating in the group. To others, they are intimidating.
“I started to understand there was a problem because I’d go to parties and immediately gravitate to where the energy was biggest and the conversation was the most lively. But after a few minutes of my arrival, people would start drifting away. And eventually, I’d be all alone in the room. This happened repeatedly so I knew it must be something I was doing wrong…”
2) Understand They Use Confrontation as a Measure of Where They Stand
Leader 8s are often confrontational as a way to understand their environment. This is automatic behavior for them, and counterintuitively Leader 8s relax more when the other person pushes back. Direct confrontation is much more comfortable for them than passive-aggressive or falsely submissive behavior.
“If someone doesn’t push back, I feel like I am punching a cloud. I have no idea where I stand or what to expect from the person. It’s really uncomfortable for me…”
3) Their Anger Isn’t Usually About What It’s About
It can be helpful to understand that Leader 8s get angry in response to feeling vulnerable. When an angry episode is unpackaged, the root cause is usually that the Leader 8 felt vulnerable, defenseless or exposed.
“I was talking with my wife, and at some point I realized she walking through a parking lot alone. And as I started to question her about it, I became angrier and angrier until I was actually screaming at her on the phone. Much later, I realized it was because I was afraid something might happen to her. But in the moment, I just felt angry, and she experienced me screaming at her.”
Subtypes for Enneagram Type 8
“Satisfaction” Self-Preservation Subtype:
The self-preservation Leader (8) expresses emotional intensity on the most basic level. Strong, powerful, direct, and productive, this is a person who likes material comfort, good food and drink, and good company. To the outside world, this looks like a no-nonsense personality who dislikes pretense and who pursues what they want without much, if any, hesitation. Internally, there is an instinct that they must act to fulfill their needs. They have the title “Satisfaction” because of their direct drive for personal satisfaction of their desires. They may focus on creating a secure home and “providing” as an expression of love and affection.
Self-preservation Leader (8)s know how to do business and get things done. Because they are so effective in a practical way, they may inadvertently generate dependencies in others, particularly intimate partners, who come to rely on their decision-making and protection. This can be a challenge for the self-preservation Leader (8). On the one hand, they enjoy the feeling of being in control and being important. On the other hand, they believe everyone needs to learn self-sufficiency, and this applies even more to the people they love. They can feel an inner conflict about the dependency their loved ones have on them.
On the positive side, these are powerful people who have a talent for going after what they want. They can be fiercely loyal and protective of their inner circle or anyone who falls under their care.
On the less positive side, their need to be strong can be so great that kindness, good intentions, and the world of feelings may get lost. They often don’t understand the negative impact this has on their relationships.
“Solidarity” Social Subtype:
The social Leader (8) expresses emotional intensity on a more muted level than the other two subtypes. The least angry of the Leader (8)s, this person tends to align with groups and can have a more difficult time with individualized relationships. To the outside world, this is a person who is nurturing, protective, loyal, friendly, and highly concerned with injustices that happen to the weak or underprivileged. Internally, this is someone who has a hard time nurturing their own needs and moves towards the power of the group to have their needs met. They have the title “Solidarity” because of their alignment around groups and their quest for loyalty.
The social Leader (8) can have a complicated relationship with commitment and loyalty. They seek loyalty and value it extremely highly in their personal relationships. At the same time, they are very guarded against rejection, often believing it is almost unavoidable in their intimate relationships. Their fear of rejection can sometimes look like a lack of commitment. However, when they finally find someone they believe will truly never leave them, their bond of trust is strong, and their commitment can be unshakeable.
On the positive side, this Leader (8) is less quick to anger and is caring and protective of others in their lives. They may appear softer and calmer than the other Leader (8) subtypes.
On the less positive side, they can have a blind spot regarding their own needs for love and protection. They often subconsciously give up their own need for love in exchange for power and pleasure.
“Possession” Intimate Subtype:
The intimate Leader (8) expresses emotional intensity through open rebellion. The most emotional and least conventional of the Leader (8)s, this person feels things deeply and tends to be more action-oriented than contemplative. To the outside world, this is a highly magnetic, charismatic person who energetically takes over their environment. Internally, this person has a sense that the world starts when they enter the room. They have the title “Possession” because of their tendency to have possessive relationships with lovers, friends, places, objects, and situations.
These Leader (8)s are less focused on the material world and more interested in power over others through their words and influence. They can be magnetic and seductive, with an almost irresistible quality and colorful personality. They seek adventure, risk, and challenges. Intimate Leader (8)s can be particularly impatient with weakness, incompetence, and dependence. They want to dominate their environment completely, but they often seek strong intimate partners. This adds to the passion of the relationship.
On the positive side, these are fascinating, charismatic people who leave an impression on others. They can be bold. They feel deeply, and when their relationships are going well, the depth of their feelings is a positive thing.
On the less positive side, they can be highly intolerant of others, particularly weak, slow or dependent people. They can be possessive of their lovers and friends. And because they feel so deeply, when their relationships aren’t going well, they suffer intensely.
For more information on Enneagram Type 8 subtypes, I recommend Beatrice Chestnut’s book “The Complete Enneagram.”
8w7: The Maverick
Type Eights with a Seven wing are typically more extroverted and social, with a lighter touch and a larger sense of adventure than their Nine wing counterparts. The Seven wing brings joy, an upbeat energy, and enthusiasm.
8w9: The Bear
Type Eights with a Nine wing are typically more calm, home-oriented, and introverted with a tighter social circle than their Seven wing counterparts. The Nine wing brings a sense of tolerance, informality, and patience.
Enneagram Type 8 Levels of Awareness
Leader (8) When Self-Aware
Leader (8)s become generous, magnanimous, restrained, wise, and courageous. They connect with a power higher than themselves, allowing them to be discerning and fair in their actions. They can access vulnerability and share it when appropriate. They can leave a significant mark on the world. Assertive, strong, bold, and self-confident, they fiercely advocate for themselves and any group they are aligned with or have elected to protect. Tough, resourceful, energized, and focused, they aggressively go after what they want with gusto. Decisive and commanding, the Leader (8) shows strong leadership skills and takes the initiative to make things happen. Honorable and protective, other people seek to be under the care and concern of self-aware Leader (8)s.
Leader (8) With Tightening Defenses
Independence and self-reliance become dominating themes and the drive to control their environment intensifies. There are concerns about adequate resources (financial, material and so forth). Earthy, practical, and resourceful, the Leader (8) may be pioneering and risk-taking, looking for opportunities to amass personal fortunes. Workaholism may be present as emotional needs are pushed to the side, minimized, or ignored. The Leader (8) wants control over their environment and the people in it. Questions of trust and loyalty become central as relationships narrow to friends or foes. Egocentric behavior may be present including bragging, cutting others down, and setting themselves at the top of the hierarchy in an arrogant manner. They become argumentative, combative, confrontational, and intimidating as a way to manage feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.
Leader (8) When Fixated
The Leader (8) becomes ruthless, tunnel-visioned, and dictatorial. They become extremely controlling and hard-hearted. They feel whoever has the most control is the winner, and they may have delusional ideas about their own power, feeling invincible and omnipotent. Megalomaniacal, they overreach, overextend, and power grab, using their environment indiscriminately. Feeling their power may be at risk, they may brutally annihilate everything that doesn’t conform to their desires. Surrender is off the table as it feels like self- destruction. They may become filled with revenge and rage, exhibiting irrational and violent behavior.
Enneagram Compatibility: Type 8s in Relationships
To learn more about Type 8 Leaders and what they are like in relationships, go to page 362.
Tools to Relax the Habit of Attention for Enneagram Type 8s
The information on this page is excerpted from Headstart from Happiness and The Nine Keys by Lynn Roulo.