Comparison of Strengths and the Enneagram

The great author Annie Dillard wrote, “You were made and set here to give voice to this—to your own astonishment.” We have several of her books at our creek-side cabin, particularly because she writes of her own creek with such intricate detail and breathless joy that you feel you want to participate in the fellowship of the creek with her.

And so we do, and many lines from her writings stick with me. One of them is the above. She suggests, even urges us to give voice to that which astonishes and fascinates us—it is our human responsibility to bring light and volume and energy to those topics that are personally important. I have several topics, and one is the intersection of Strengths and the Enneagram.

I have found the angle of meeting, the place where they cross, to be full of wonder, excitement, and meaning. And I have begun meeting fellow pilgrims who feel the same, as if there are lessons and pathways that have been laid out in advance and we need to help each other find them.

I possess not enough time in the day to consider this intersection. But it’s not just about the tools themselves. These tools are means; they are not the ends. When I think of Strengths and the Enneagram, I think of where they lead. Like any great tool, the value is not in the tool itself, the value is in what the tool accomplishes for you.

That is why my own pursuit is drawing out the pilgrims. I have heard from folks around the globe who are fascinated by these tools too. But not because of the tools themselves, because of how they use them. They are devoted to the study and service of people; people are their work; helping people see and grow is what they do. To these ends they use these tools.

In some ways, Strengths and the Enneagram are very similar to each other:

  • Systems of personality that identify innate traits
  • Tools to help people, teams, and workplaces grow
  • Practitioners that are passionate about their application
  • Orientation around thought, feeling, and behavior

In some ways, Strengths and the Enneagram are very different from each other:

  • One is borne of the laboratory, the other of the desert
  • One is owned by an organization, the other is open source
  • One describes the HOW, the other the WHY
  • One is applied toward performance and satisfaction, the other toward motivation and wellbeing

Same and different yes, they both help us see. The dream is that by seeing, we can become who we truly are, what an astonishment!

Here's a worksheet on how they compare:


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