Where Does Your Authority Come From? Part 2

by Jerome Wagner, Ph.D.

      In a previous article I was speculating on where each enneatype’s authority came from and I asked for feedback.  I received comments from all the styles except the Eights.  My speculation here is that the Eights are thinking if you don’t know where our authority comes from, there’s no use in trying to explain it to you.  I’m reminded of when someone asked Louis Armstrong what was “swing”, and Louis answered: “Cat, if you don’t know what swing is, I can’t tell you.”

     Anyway, I’m repeating here my original fantasies and adding what representatives of each style wrote in to say.  I’ve added the bold emphasis, having nothing better to do.


    I supposed 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.

     Here’s what ONES say about their source of authority:

  • And, of course, you’re correct:  we ONEs thrive on being right.  You’re correct, too, in ascertaining that we know we’re right.  As to the morally right piece–while having (mostly) overcome my upbringing in the Calvinist/Reformed strain of religiosity, I fervently hope what you’ve posited is true!
  • I don’t define my source of power as being right, but having authenticity or integrity of doing what I see as correct. 
  • A 1 w 2 wing suggested their authority comes from their ability to see around corners and know which right action will best serve the greatest good or avoid failure.
  • As for how Ones experience authority, your description does accurately characterize the typical false self of the One. That quick sense of knowing what is right in a given moment, can be quite an instinctive reaction. 
  • But here is how I think I experience that inner sense of authority. I see Ones as being realistic idealists; they see the telos (the Greek word usually translated as “perfect” which actually means “the end or purpose”) in something or someone. When we are coming from a centered place—meaning the serenity, equanimity, and sobriety of my harmony triad are present—then I think Ones see into the meaning or essence of things and can speak about what they see. Instead of being experienced as judgmental or opinionated, their insights provide clarity and discernment toward life and fullness. In such moments Ones express their authority unpretentiously and unconsciously.


     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’d say my highest authority might be accessed in altruism. When I can truly take myself, my need for appreciation, and my hope of reciprocation out of the equation, I can fully lean into the purest elements of my ability to nurture others. 
  • I think my authority as a 2 comes from people knowing they matter to me—and just matter in general.   They trust that from the speed of response, the care of the response, and the ability to connect dots that go “deeper” than the presenting problem or connecting dots to see the person holistically.  I often see the person more clearly than they see themselves, which when I was younger, would get me in trouble, since some people not only didn’t want that, they also didn’t like that someone saw things they didn’t.  Over time I’ve become more measured in what help I give, and what I stop doing from my self-care to attend to them.  But I’m still very aware even when I don’t help.  My wiring is to be helpful.  I have to remind myself to intervene on my behalf.  I get annoyed when others aren’t as naturally helpful or aware. Find me in a busy airport and you could assume I’m thinking and wanting to let others know: “You are not the only person in this airport. Pay attention to others.”  As E.B. White’s Charlotte the spider said: “By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”


     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.

  • For Threes I think some of their authority comes from successes that build on one another. As they achieve they become more confident in their success and their ability to organize and seek to achieve elsewhere or in larger venues.


     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.

  • I think my authority really does come from my values, after mucho trabajo.  (OK, JW had to look it up: “much work.”)
  • My 4 authority comes on line when I feel I can express things in a way that opens other people to receive a different, more nuanced, and more harmonic view of reality.  Authority is a form of inner sight (eyes to see—something different) and its roots run deep not shallow. 
  • I agree that my authority as a 4 comes from the depth of my emotions. I would put a slightly finer point on it and add that my authority also comes from my willingness to “go there” with people, into the darker places where others “fear to tread”, and be okay there.  In my work as a hospital chaplain, I’m frequently tasked with “going there” with people, and I think the fact that I’m not intimidated by their darkness helps me to have authority with them. 
  • My authority comes from my sense of authentic truth, from my divine humanity that will not be imposed on, dictated to, diminished, disregarded and mistreated. I have agency. I AM a sovereign being with the audacity to act as such. I guess to sum it up, my authority comes from my identity.  I AM who I AM and that gives me the power and freedom to be.
  • I would say as a 4 w 3 wing, it’s my discernment of having the others’ best interest at heart (as authenticity) coupled with the most effective/efficient way to influence or achieve that action step, result, or outcome.  I notice successful creators find the better, smarter, faster bullseye of desired best-interest coupled with a way to clearly communicate that.  I know what I/other want and find a way to ask for or communicate that clearly.


     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.

  • My authority comes from knowing things; having knowledge, wisdom, and data.  These things allow me to feel secure and less vulnerable, and it helps to ease anxiety.
  • Knowledge – what else is there?
  • I sit between the head and the heart, sensing my authority coming from both intellect/book smarts/cognition, and a deep knowing/intuition/heart knowledge that largely evades my understanding. It’s a little like the body intelligence of 8s/9s/1s, but from a sensitive emotional space. It’s quite difficult to convey with words and seems to mostly exist in a “felt sense” in my chest, heart, solar plexus, and stomach. It’s something inside me but can feel so expansive that it almost seems to exist beyond my physical body. A clear understanding combined with a rich, expansive connection to something larger...mystical… Even in writing this, I feel these words have failed in communicating my personal sense of authority.


     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.

  • My sense of authority comes from intuition/Spirit, I seem to just know things.  Sometimes I trip over things and make connections. Spirit does help me find the most interesting things.  While studying at University, I was introduced to the idea of mystery as a way of knowing.  I loved it then and still do now.   
  • I believe that my authority lies in what “I trust or want to trust”
  • I am a self-preservation Six and asked myself the question before reading the article. My personality looks around for external affirmation.  However, my deep core relies on my deep knowing.  Holy Spirit, perhaps. This certainly helped me understand and appreciate looking through this lens. My inner guidance, my highest self, the part of me connected to source energy.   It is a felt sense. It’s a knowing and not a thought. It holds steady. It does not waiver.
  • For much of my adult life, my trust and wanting to trust were tied directly to what is conventional or what is conventionally understood and believed within my tribe.  For me, that tribe was the scholars and theologians within the church. I trusted those who were certain, articulate, and strong.  In essence, I trusted people who were “smarter and more experienced” than myself.  In the end, it was an overly rigid trust that “they (not I) had the “truth”.   The Enneagram as a tool has been a wonderful aid in helping me to move my trust from what is outside me (almost exclusively), to what is inside me. I don’t believe this in an arrogant way, but in a way that still tries to remain open, holding my ideas with humility, yet truly trusts the experience, reflections, and values of my life to guide me.
  • 15+ years ago (prior to studying the Enneagram) my spiritual director told me to “trust myself.” That statement felt like heresy. Ya, I grew up in a very fundamental, evangelical faith tradition, where faith was what I knew, what I could prove and defend and not trusting my ever-changing feelings. Over the years, I began to equate that statement, “trust myself” to “I can trust Spirit working within me.” That has been powerful and formational. 
  • Before Billy Graham passed away, I wanted him to say homosexuality was OK. He died and never gave me the security of his authority. Yet. . . I have leaned into trusting myself, and trusting God’s goodness and welcoming.  But I still wanted Billy to tell it was OK.
  • Your final sentence. . .“their authority comes from self-reliance,” struck a deep chord within me. Self-reliance/independence, a fierce self-reliance – “I don’t need anybody”, “I don’t ask for help”, has been a strong theme for me, even as a young person (early teens). I have grown a lot in this area over 40+ years “thanks be to God”.
  • I recently looked at the attributes of adult children of alcoholics. (My father was a heavy drinker, prior to marrying and having a family. His family members were all alcoholics. Dad never drank after age 30). Several attributes caught my eye, “we become rigidly self-sufficient,” and “deny that we’ve been hurt and suppress our emotions by the dramatic expression of “pseudo” feelings.” For me, it’s I am capable, I am competent, I don’t need anyone. 
  • For Sixes I have seen that they look for authority from following the rules and maintaining expectations of the status quo. At least that has been my experience of Sixes as ministers in the church. They want backup plan on backup plan and resist change because of the innate risk.
  • I’m a 6, and I believe my authority comes from being loved by God (on a good day) but sometimes more likely to believe it comes from my reliability and dedication. Being steadfast comes with confidence.  If you channel God’s love through you, it’s going to be something good and trustworthy. I think it’s some combination of knowing that ultimate love and goodness are inside of me and accessible and then also that God’s love means all will be well and all will be made right in the end, so I can speak and live with authority knowing that. 


     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.

  • My authority comes from my gratitude for all the positive things I see. With this much shit in here there’s got to be a pony! I can see around or through the roadblocks and lead others forward. My authority comes from the results of having this attitude. 
  • As someone who identifies with the patterns of Style 7, authority is a challenging concept for me.  I don’t want to be in authority, it smacks too much of hierarchies and seems limiting.  If I have to bein authority, to plan a workshop for example, then I’d agree that my authority comes from my idea or vision of what will be interesting, enjoyable, stimulating and fun.  I would agree with the 9s too that this vision is based on my experience and what I imagine will go down well.  It’s not a question of feeling what is right though.  It’s to do with seeing in my mind’s eye what I think will be pleasant and positive.  As far as being an authority goes, for me that comes from my enthusiasm and fascination.  Like the 5s, I need to know.  But my knowledge is more superficial than theirs and it’s also linked to personal experience.
  • 7 w 6.  My authority comes from reading and experience.
  • 7 w 8. I think authority comes in many different ways, depending on the situation.  I have authority to drive a car because I have a driver’s license.  Till the age of 18, I have authority over my children I gave them birth to. The Bible gives me authority.  My salvation from Jesus Christ gives me authority over the evil one.  So, I guess those types of authority are laws, morals and society values.


     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.

[No further comments from the Eights. Figure it out yourself!]


     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.

  • As a Nine, I do think that much of my authority comes from being the calm in the storm and having the right insights just in time for a situation. So, your observation of the 9’s authority commencing from inner calm and wisdom feels “right” to me.
    • However, as I read thru my companions in the Triad, both the 3’s competence and the   6’s self-reliance seemed to inform and underpin the feelings of “calm in a storm” and “knowing the right thing to do” of my 9.
    • Interestingly, when not functioning at optimum/goodness, the wings seem to bring the inappropriate, underbelly of self-righteousness of the 1 and “taking over” of the 8.  (A disturbance in the force)
    • I have an orientation toward “system” – the interactive, interrelated and interdependent actions of the whole and that is maybe why this “feels” right.  It is also useful in recognizing consciously where helpful and not so helpful actions may be originating.
  • I identify as a SOCIAL NINE. I don’t think my authority comes from my NINEness. I think the peaceful, calm, don’t-ruffle-feathers, see-all-points-of-view side of me gets in the way of my own agency. I can get stuck in inaction when there.  When I assert my authority – whether within my own mind or with others – it’s typically an expression of my two wings: The ONE that puts a prospective decision through a “law court” and comes up with the right answer, and the EIGHT that will thereafter damn the torpedoes and go full speed ahead.
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