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Personality Type and Presidents

What is the best personality type to be leader of the free world?

Do you have an opinion about which personality type would make the best president of the United States? Is there a personality type that would enable a president to do a better job? Which personality type would be better equipped to be leader of the free world?

I think it’s true that no one personality type is better, smarter, cuter, or quicker than all the others. I’ve furthermore seen personality types succeed in roles where I would have doubted that type would be successful—almost any type can be successful at almost anything.

You might be saying by now that it’s really a dumb question to ask which personality type would be more qualified to be president or to do anything else. Some might go further to say that such a question is very inappropriate. It’s somewhat like when I was a youngster; kids in some families could get their mouths washed out with soap for saying bad words.

I definitely would, however, say that it would be an easier road for some personality types to be president than others—and the nation would be safer.

Take my personality type, ENTJ, for example. We have been described not so affectionately as Reichmaster or Field Marshall. We’re not good at the democratic approach. We really don’t like putting anything to a vote—for us the electoral process is way too slow and the outcome is too uncertain. Most believe Richard Nixon was an ENTJ, and like many ENTJs, he overstepped his boundaries when he paid for a break-in at the Watergate Complex to see what those pesky Democrats were up to. He unfortunately besmirched the good name of all of us ENTJs by getting impeached and leaving Washington, DC—abruptly in a helicopter.

The personality type most apt to succeed as president is often highly influenced by the situation in which they find themselves. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom I guess to have been an ENTP, regularly makes the list of best American Presidents. He came to the presidency at a time of the financial devastation of the Great Depression. That was followed by the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II. Roosevelt’s Extroverted iNtuition, along with his Perceiving decision-making style, had him in good stead as he helped navigate some of the greatest uncertainty and peril the nation has faced.

Yet, with the devastation of war passed, and needing to put a war-torn world back together again, it was ISTJ Harry Truman who helped the world enter the new process of rebuilding that led to one of the greatest American/European alliances of all time.

One of the greatest leaders of my time was President Ronald Reagan, probably an ENFP. The nation was racked with 21% interest, an energy crisis of great proportion, and an Iranian hostage crisis that lasted 14 months. The mood of the nation was bleak and discouraged, and Ronald Reagan smiled, stood up, and proclaimed, “It’s morning in America!” And we all stood up and smiled and had hope again.

If you want to speculate on the personality types of famous people and presidents of the past, there are many websites that have varying takes on the type of those who have led us before. At any rate, I’ll throw my hat in the ring as a predictor of the personality types of the present candidates.

Governor Mitt Romney, ESTJ. Mr. Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is son of former Governor of Michigan, George Romney, one of my childhood idols. Mitt Romney’s personal wealth is estimated to be well above 200 million dollars, which he earned as founder and president of Bain Capital Private Equity Group.

Mr. Romney’s skill at making Bain Capital private equity an enormous success, along with his saving the Olympics in Salt Lake City, shows his laser beam ability to achieve a specific, well-defined goal. Mr. Romney is incredibly intelligent, and that allowed him to devise strategies that made enormous profits for his firm. His laser focus on issues and goals, nonetheless, perhaps keep him from having the peripheral vision to articulate a broad vision in terms of policy. The lack of peripheral vision also may make him unaware of the nuances of the lives of great numbers of people.

President Barack Obama, INTJ. My observation of President Obama’s style seems to me to indicate his preference is for Introversion, and that he is an INTJ, although he appears to be quite extroverted. INTJs can be brilliant speakers, orators and presenters, and interact with large groups of people when required. INTJs are often brainiacs, combining numerical data and reasoning with an inspirational context that can spell “Hope.”

As an Introvert, President Obama recharges by going into himself. His staff schedules downtime after speaking engagements and intensive interchanges. Bob Woodward, Watergate journalist, says that Obama isn’t a schmoozer, and doesn’t even know many key players in Congress–even in his own party, a quality of aloofness shared by many INTJs. Some of his greatest admirers are taken aback by his aloofness and disconnectedness. Yet his large global vision gives him the sense of a huge model that is much admired by the INTJ.

So, for what it’s worth, here are my takes on the personality types of some of the most prominent presidents of my lifetime.

Jimmy Carter, ISTJ. I met Carter on several occasions as a young man in Sumter County Georgia. I thought he was quite bright, but I remember thinking that the son of the newspaper publisher was much smarter – the publisher’s son has never been heard of again – but I digress. Carter had a scientific background as his credentials. He is a man who loves details, as I learned from reading his autobiography, which is actually quite tedious. He personally scheduled the tennis court in the White House, and his passion as an ex-president has been to be sure that votes were properly counted all over the world. I would call him a resounding ISTJ. He’s been a great ex-president and is still today a national treasure.

Ronald Reagan, ENFP. Ronald Reagan became president in a general environment of despair and pessimism. He loved to lead and was one of the most natural leaders I’ve ever observed. His optimism and goodwill seemed boundless. He was fun-loving, and always read the comic strip for a good chuckle before going on to the gloomy news. Although he was a conservative, he loved change and could lead people through dark moments. He was a master of knowing what to do in the moment, an example of a good Perceiver.

George W. Bush, ESTP. One of the fundamental reasons for Bush’s rise to fame was that he was great at making friends. His greatest business success was as one of the owners of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which he bought with a bunch of friends. He was good at relationships in his fraternity, Skull and Crossbones. He did not enjoy strategy or theory, but he surrounded himself with people who did, often not to his best advantage. A man of action, he felt that it was his place in history to take bold action after the attack of 9/11. Although one of our least active ex-presidents, he is still active with the veterans who fought in the wars.

Bill Clinton, ENFJ. Bill Clinton is one of the most controversial and divisive of all presidents of my lifetime, yet at the same time he is often loved, even by those he most irritates. As a good ENFJ, he has a huge love for people and has the ability to spend an hour visiting with an intellectual or a potential voter he met at the barbershop. He has a genuine respect for people. He is able to facilitate agreement between wide ranges of people. He has the technical ability of an ENFJ, which allows him to understand complex policy issues as well as the technicalities of economics and budgets.

George Herbert Walker Bush, ISTJ. My best guess for the elder President Bush is that his personality type is ISTJ. He seemed focused on details, and very attentive to people. He did hand written notes to people well into the night. He’s extremely loyal to family and country, the hallmarks of an ISTJ.

People Who Access All of the Preferences Most of the Time

One final observation about the personality types of high achieving leaders. I have found over the years that it is more difficult to guess personality type for highly intelligent and well evolved people. They seem to sense that all of the preferences are important for people to be able to access. That’s why you’ll see an Intuitive with a real knack for details. There will be people with a Sensing preference who have the ability to connect dots and make associations over a broad range of issues. Highly evolved leaders can have both the toughness of a Thinker and the sensitivity of the Feeler. They can make a list of the things that must get done, and maintain the ability to be agile and tear up a list in a moment like a good Perceiver.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know your take on presidential personality types.

Austin, Texas

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Carol Kallendorf, PhD. | (512) 417-9756 

Jack Speer | (512) 417-9428


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