Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management
Volume 1: 2002
Applying the Enneagram theory to human resource management
Sudhir Kale and Samir Shrivastava
The Enneagram is a circle enclosing nine equidistant points connected by nine intersecting lines. “Ennea” is Greek for nine, and “gram” means drawing. The Enneagram pictorially conveys a system of personality classification. It has its roots in ancient spiritual practices of the East. The actual origins of the Enneagram are shrouded in mystery. References in various spiritual texts, however, indicate that the Enneagram has been in use for over 2,500 years. Untold generations of spiritual seekers in secret brotherhoods are believed to have developed this system of personality classification to hasten the spiritual liberation of their wards. The technique was considered so powerful that its knowledge was zealously guarded lest it fall into wrong hands.
The credit for introducing the Enneagram to the West in the first half of the 20th century goes to George Gurdjieff. Since then, various other teaching “traditions” begun by Jesuit priests and others like Oscar Izaho have gained wide currency. More recently, scholarly works by Claudio Naranjo (1990) and Don Riso (1990) have made some useful contributions to the Enneagram theory. Despite a number of publications on the Enneagram, confusion exists about whether the Enneagram is primarily a psychological system or a spiritual one. But this psychological versus spiritual debate appears to be misdirected. As Riso (1990) points out, “Knowing ourselves so that we can transcend ourselves and attain balance and integration is what psychology is about – while transcending ourselves to make room for the Divine is what spirituality is about. Both go together and are not at odds with each other” (p.14). Like Riso, we believe that the Enneagram lays the groundwork for a more mature spirituality by providing a more accurate and complete description of each personality type. Indeed, the connection of personality with spirituality has important implications for the workplace.
In this paper we point out that the Enneagram can be used by organisations to enhance spirituality in the workplace. Being proponents of action learning, we hold that people can learn and change through action. Accordingly, we put forth some guidelines for practitioners to enable them to validate and increase the efficacy of this ancient tool, even as they use it to develop (or “liberate”) their employees.