Where Does Your Authority Come From?

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

I was talking with someone who was having difficulty setting limits and boundaries.  And I asked them “Where does your authority come from to do this?”  Kind of reminded me of the Pharisees asking Jesus: “By whose authority do you say this?”  (Odious comparisons are not intended and are not appreciated.) Then, I had to ask myself where does my authority come from?  Followed by, whence does each Enneagram style get their authority?  Then I made up some answers and, uncharacteristically, actually asked some representatives of each enneatype where does their authority come from.   Here are the results.


I thought ONES get their authority from being right – and they’re usually sure they’re right.  There is a tremendous power in righteousness, not to be confused with self-righteousness.  And I was right!  The ONES said their authority comes from being in the right and being morally right.


I theorized TWOS’ authority comes from love.  Love is a powerful source of conviction.  And the TWOS said their authority comes from their love for the other person and from their empathy, nurturing, and emotional experience.  They trust their love informs them about what is good for us.   Their ego, on the other hand, might be a tad self-interested.  As an advice columnist observed: “All unsolicited advice is self-serving.”


I suspected THREES’ authority comes from their competence.  And they humbly admitted that they are good at what they do.  In addition, taking a page from their TWO neighbors, they said their actions arise from their care for others.  They do reside in the middle of the relationship trinity, after all.


I thought FOURS authority arises from the depth of their feelings.  They said their authority is a mystery.  Of course.  They also agreed their authority comes from their feelings and added also from their authenticity.


My FIVE authority comes from my knowledge.  And when I thought about this, I agreed.  FIVES also cited their wisdom and being “know-it-alls.”  My physician, who is not a FIVE, says I pay him a lot of money for what he knows and who he knows.  He is a good referral source.


I wondered whether SIXES’ authority was delegated.  Not surprising, some said they didn’t think they had any authority.  But, blessedly, others said their authority was the Holy Spirit.  Synonyms for Holy Spirit might be their essence or true nature.  While admitting they look to others for authority, they also said their authority comes from self-reliance.


I imagined SEVENS’ authority comes from their being so positive.  Being optimistic gives you a lot of confidence.  What they said was a delightful surprise.  Their authority comes from being two to three steps ahead.   They are out ahead of us and see what’s coming.  Being visionaries gives them credibility.


Wondering where EIGHTS’ authority comes from seems like an unnecessary exercise.  But I thought about it anyway.  I figure it comes from their self-assurance, from their gut reactions.  They said when it comes to authority, they just take it.  That sounds about right.  We can trust them and their reputation for being strong and getting things done.


I thought NINES’ authority comes from their peaceful nature.  And, intuiting what would please me, they said their authority comes from their inner calm and peace.  It comes from an inner wisdom about how to live a peaceful and pleasant life.  Their authority comes from their own experience.  It just feels right — which musically brings us back to do, or ONE in the Enneagram system.

A Request

This research is based on a small but brilliant representative sample.  I would really like to gather more data to feed my alleged addiction.  So, if you are willing to share your Enneagram type and your reflection on where your authority comes from, I would be happy to collate the information (keeping your name out of it), write up the results, and send it back to everyone, following the dictum about “Freely giving what you have freely received.”   My e-mail is jwagner5@aol.com and operators are standing by to transcribe your replies.

2 replies
  1. Philip York
    Philip York says:

    I am typed as a 5w4. for me, knowledge. a rather floaty foundation regrettably, never quite firm enough to move from

  2. Harry Hitzeman
    Harry Hitzeman says:

    I also categorize as a FIVE. My ego likes to think KNOWLEDGE is my authority. However, my attachment to knowledge has also blinded me to simply bearing witness to what is actually happening NOW. For example, my knowledge is helpful in navigating the simple things in the world, like following traffic laws, knowing how to use a knife and fork, etc. But knowledge is of little help when it betrays me in understanding how and why almost half the people who vote in our country support our former president. I am beginning to realize that knowledge can be an obstacle to knowing, and since there is a deficit in my knowing, I have no AUTHORITY based on my FIVENESS.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, Jerry. I look forward to your collation of the replies.


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