Most Leaders Are Less Effective Communicators Than They Think


Stuck in a foreign land, feeling the cruel call of nature. No signs in a language you can understand anywhere around. Desperate to find a bathroom…what do you do?


If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how terrifying it can be…especially if you’ve treated yourself to some local cuisine recently, which your stomach may or may not be used to. It can be a brutal experience.


For most, when we can’t find what we need in this situation, we default to a peculiar solution: we walk up to someone and ask (in our language, not theirs), “WHERE IS THE BATHROOM? BATH-ROOM?? BAAAATHROOOOOOM??” Even when we throw in the various hand gestures to try and explain our need, we are often met with quizzical stares and an eventual shrug. In our right-mind, we would know that loudly expressing our needs in our own language probably won’t yield the results we are looking for. However, in the moment, our need tends to overwhelm our logic. Our message isn’t understood and our communication isn’t effective because we aren’t speaking in a way that those around us can understand.


Most leaders take this same approach to communication with their teams. 


We tend to be going about our business, getting our work done, setting and achieving goals, etc etc. But when a great need arises, and the pressure is on, we default to simply speaking our own language loudly, forgetting that not everyone works/thinks/feels the same way we do. 


This is a classic communication breakdown. 


And once again, in our right-mind, we would know that loudly expressing our needs in our own language probably won’t yield the results we are looking for. However, in the moment, our need tends to overwhelm our logic. Our message isn’t understood and our communication isn’t effective because we aren’t speaking in a way that those around us can understand.


One way we can decode this is by looking at enneagram types. Though reliable statistics on population distribution are hard to come by, we can identify which numbers’ natural styles of communication tend to resonate with most people. Here are the bullet points:


If you are an enneagram ___, then ____% of the general population naturally understand your communication style.

1- 54%

2- 60%

3- 18%

4- 6%

5- 5%

6- 40%

7- 24%

8- 11%

9- 13%



Most leaders are less effective communicators than they think.


So what does this mean? It means -for example- that if you are an enneagram 3, only 18% of the general population will naturally understand and connect with what you are saying and truly understand your message. Now, this is not to say that you can’t do some extra leg work to help others understand. Likely you have already done that and your personal number is higher than 18%. However, knowing where you are starting is key. It is also important to know why you connect with some people and not with others. 


While 3s connect with 18%, 6s connect with about 40% of people naturally, and 9s an additional 13%. But between these numbers there is often very little overlap because these people connect for different reasons. Threes tend to connect more with future-minded people, 6s with those who are worried about the present, and 9s more with those who dwell more on the past. 



Different numbers connect with different segments of the population.


So if you are a future-minded person, the easiest thing for you to do to connect with more people and have more effective communication, is the team up with present and past-minded numbers (1,2,6,4,5,9) to help craft your communication. This could be a presentation, a form letter, an email template, or even a social media post. This could mean letting someone else speak or letting them edit and give input to your own talking points. 


By leaning on the natural strengths of each enneagram type, leaders can become more effective communicators.


If you were traveling to a foreign country that didn’t speak your language, the responsible thing to do would be to learn a few of the key words and phrases that you might need while you are there. The same is true about communicating with your team. If you are going to be an effective communicator, you must learn some of the key things that motivate and drive the people around you…otherwise “even when we throw in the various hand gestures to try and explain our need, we are often met with quizzical stares and an eventual shrug.”



The enneagram is a great tool for improving team communication. To learn more, schedule a free consultation call here.