Every teammate brings a distinct energy to the team, and the team leader – like the conductor of an orchestra – directs the team members to create successful outcomes. Author and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Brynn Saito is an Enneagram Type 4 leader. Of all Enneagram types, Type 4s may be most in tune with the emotional energy that each teammate brings to the team, and Brynn uses her knowledge of the Enneagram to direct those energies in the most productive ways. She also shares how the Enneagram has become so integrated into her processing that it’s become intuitive—representing movement along her path of integration towards Enneagram Type 1. You will enjoy this interview with a creative Type 4 leader.
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Find more about Brynn and her work here: https://brynnsaito.com/
Matt Schlegel: Thanks for joining me in conversations with leaders who are using the Enneagram as a leadership tool and a tool for personal growth and development. Today, I’m speaking with Brynn Saito, an author and an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at California State University at Fresno. Brynn has also held various leadership positions at the California Institute of Integral Studies. And as an Enneagram Type Four leader, she shares how she uses both her feelings and her intuition with her team. And now for the conversation. Today, I’m speaking with Brynn Saito. Brynn is an author and is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at California State University at Fresno. Her two books of poetry are Power Made Us Swoon and The Palace of Contemplating Departure. Brynn has also held various leadership positions at the California Institute of Integral Studies. And I’m so delighted to be speaking with you today, Brynn. Thank you for joining me.
Brynn Saito: Thank you for having me, Matt.
Matt Schlegel: It’s great to have you here. So let me start off by asking how and when did you first discover the Enneagram?
Brynn Saito: I discovered it through a mutual friend, Roger Morimoto, who now is, I guess he’s directing a new spiritual life foundation project and program. But when I met Roger, he was a pastor. He was the pastor of the church I was raised in here in Fresno, California, the United Japanese Christian Church. And yeah, I was lucky to cross paths with someone like Roger, because I was always interested in spirituality and religion. And I have a Buddhist father and a Christian mother, and so I was exposed to lots of different religious cultures growing up. But Roger, of course, introduced all these other kinds of things to us as young people, including the Enneagram. So I believe I was in high school when I first learned about the Enneagram.
And similar to the workshops you’ve led and Roger has led, we would sit in a circle in the church fellowship hall and he’d introduce this personality system. And we’d talk about our different personality quirks, and we’d learn about all the numbers. And I think being 14 years old, 15 years old and being a Four on the Enneagram, it was very helpful for me at the time because I just, probably like a lot of young people, just wrestled with a lot of feelings and hormones and situations and struggles. And being introduced to a psychological system that kind of gave me a starting point for how to move through the world and think about myself and think about others was really helpful. So I was very young when it was introduced to me and continued to kind of explore it as an adult.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Right. Well, that is so fascinating. I mean, it’s fantastic that you were exposed to it that early on and how it helped you kind of navigate those turbulent years as a teenager, especially. Teenagers have a lot of feelings and emotions they are going through and amplified on top of that is, being an Enneagram Type Four, just all that much more emotion that you have to process. So that’s great. So as you were discovering the Enneagram, what is it that you learned about yourself that you may not have known before?
Brynn Saito: I think a big one, I remember Roger used to tell me this too, was you are not your feelings. And that was a big one I think for those of us on the feeling triad and for the Fours. I would identify so close with all the big feelings I was having, and I would feel sort of stuck or beholden to them or trapped or just this feeling was never going to go away. And it would just kind of consume me. And so I think the Enneagram allowed me to just take a step back and sort of see outside of my feelings, but also just my personality and my reactions.
Later, I became more and more interested in Buddhism and Zen Buddhism in particular and all those themes of non-attachment and equanimity. I think I had learned early on maybe with the Enneagram and striving for that, especially as a Four, I think has been helpful to kind of move towards equanimity or move towards a sense of kind of balance and detachment from sort of the intensity of my inner world. So that was probably one of the most helpful things and continues to be, I’d say.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it just allows you that perspective that helps you put your feelings into context in a way that you can look at them more objectively rather than just swimming in it.
Brynn Saito: Yes. That’s a good way to put it. Swimming in it.
Matt Schlegel: Wow. Right. That’s kind of the way I visualize Fours is just swimming through this sea of feelings.
Brynn Saito: Yeah, pretty much. You could be a poet. You could be a poet.
Matt Schlegel: Well, if I take one of your classes, then maybe I can. So tell me, how have you used your knowledge of the Enneagram in your leadership roles?
Brynn Saito: That’s a great question. Until we started talking about this interview, it wasn’t something I had thought about. I think I had used it more intuitively or just used it kind of subconsciously even. When I interact with people, when I meet people, I think I was on a just subconscious level sort of thinking about what their type might be and how to best kind of create different context for them to grow and to grow as an employee and as a person. But a lot of that I think was just kind of intuitive. I didn’t realize I was even kind of doing it until I started thinking about this interview and sort of reflecting on some of your work. But yeah, I think I do that. I think I kind of, I do start to wonder what people’s types are and that probably informs maybe different projects we collaborate on or different roles I assign or different gatherings or programs we do.
I might think, “Oh, it’d be really great to have a Seven here to kind of help lead this or do the opening. That Seven energy. Or somebody like a Five or a Six, very methodical, I maybe might have them work with different documents I need a close read.” Just different minds kind of suited for different tasks. And I don’t do it too consciously, but I think over the years, I have been working with it in that subconscious way, especially I guess too navigating conflicts and thinking about how to facilitate those conversations. Yeah. Some of that I think has come into play for me.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. You’ve been using it. You’ve internalized it since it was a part of your youth. You’ve probably just internalized it to the point where it’s almost natural. The way that you describe how you think about working with teams, it’s almost like you’re the conductor of an orchestra, right? It’s like, “Oh, I need this instrument here and this instrument here.” And you’re just getting everybody to move into a space where they can naturally flourish, and it sounds like it’s almost become instinctual for you.
Brynn Saito: I think so. And maybe that is a factor of just having been introduced to it so young in those formative years, because I think it became a helpful tool, both in my work setting but also of course in relationships and with family. And yeah, I think I had sort of internalized it early on. Yeah.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. That’s fascinating. Well, so what advice would you give to other Enneagram Type Four leaders who might just be coming to the Enneagram now? And what advice would you give them for how they might want to incorporate it into their lives?
Brynn Saito: Something for myself, I think as a Four, I realized I struggled with was taking things really personally, just being so sensitive. And when I’ve been in different leadership positions, I realized I had to think more like an Eight or like a Three and kind of hold the vision and not make it about myself and my feelings. So I remember different instances. When you’re the director or when you’re the leader or the CEO or whatever, you get criticism and you get feedback and you get pushback and there’s conflict. And being such a sensitive person, a poet, a creative, a Four, initially, that was just so hard for me. I just would shrivel up inside, and I’d go home and I’d feel real despondent.
And like, “Oh my gosh, everyone hates me. And I’m doing so bad and I feel so guilty.” All that Four shame, guilt stuff. But I think using the Enneagram as a tool to both assess myself in those situations and then think about other people, again, helped me find that distance. And just that I think that strategy of acting like different numbers or sort of putting on that Eight hat, it’s like, “Okay, what would an Eight do in this situation? They wouldn’t care. They would just move forward with the vision.” And if you feel like you have the right answer or right way, just go for it. And so that practice of trying to kind of integrate and try on and play with the different personalities, that’s been really helpful for me as a leader I believe.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Right. Yeah. The Type Four has the connection to the instinctive group through Type One. So the path of integration of Fours is to the Type One. And it was really interesting how it almost sounds like you’re tapping into those instincts as you’re working with teams, and then you’re also using the emotional distance that you can access from Type One when you get to the point where you’re just working on principles, not emotions. And that also sounds like a movement towards a Type One type of dynamic.
Brynn Saito: That must be it. I think that’s what’s happening. Yeah. I like that, the prince moving towards those principles and ideas and standards as a guiding force versus just, “Oh, this feels good or bad or I feel this or that.” Yeah. That’s it.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that is so interesting. Well, thank you, Brynn, so much for sharing your experiences and your stories with us today. I really appreciate the conversation.
Brynn Saito: Thank you, Matt. And thanks for all the amazing work you’re continuing to do with the Enneagram. And it’s just so exciting to see the different programs coming through and very happy to have been here today. Thank you.
Matt Schlegel: Oh, thank you. Thank you. It’s a complete delight. Thanks. Thanks for watching. Brynn learned the Enneagram as a teenager, so it’s fascinating to see how the tools become so integrated into her processing. I appreciated how she shared her journey about rising above her feelings so that they don’t define her, which represents fantastic growth for an Enneagram Type Four. I also noted how the Enneagram had become so integrated into her processing that it’s almost become a part of her intuition. I think this represents motion along the path of integration towards Enneagram Type One. And finally, I like her description about the energy that her teammates of various Enneagram types bring to a project and how she can use those energies like the conductor directs the musicians in an orchestra. So if you like this, please click on the thumbs up and subscribe to the channel to get notifications of future episodes. And if you have any comments, please leave them in the comment section, and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thanks again.