Is Donald Trump an ESTJ Personality Type?
I’ve received an e-mail from Jonathon (who identifies as INFJ with experience and expertise in “personality typing”) who maintains Donald Trump is an ESTJ personality type, not an ESTP Type as I have concluded in my earlier article. Other than outlining his substantial expertise, he offered me little in the way of explanation of why ESTP doesn’t fit nor why ESTJ is a better fit.
However, I can see why people with some familiarity with Personality Type theory and/or the MBTI assessment could view The Donald as an ESTJ. He’s done a good job of promoting a “command and control” persona in the media and he presents a regal appearance, always in formal attire. Trump’s media persona of self-confidence is off the charts, outrageously arrogant some would say. He speaks directly and not concerned if he offends. His media presence and style elicits a visceral and negative reaction amongst many people and I suspect the writer Jonathon is among them.
ESTJ and ENTJ types in general have the capacity to incite the same sort of visceral reaction that Trump produces. They are CEO types, people who run organizations, make tough decisions, and are seen by many as lacking in compassion and feeling. All a person has to do is exhibit a hint of characteristics associated with ESTJ or ENTJ and all sorts of other negative baggage gets packaged with it. While we are supposed to respect and celebrate the values of all 16 personality types, deep in the hearts of many fans of personality typing ESTJ and ENTJ types are the bad guys in the type world.
The “types” of people most often reacting negatively to ESTJ/ENTJ (and to the kind of behavior Trump frequently exhibits) are what David Keirsey has labeled as having an Idealist temperament (see his seminal book “Please Understand Me”). Keirsey also studied Myers work and identified four personality types who share the Idealist temperament: INFP, INFJ, ENFP, and ENFJ. All Intuitive Feeling types. Since both ESTJ and ENTJ extravert their Thinking and are by nature “command and control” folks by their very nature are easily off-putting to all Feeling types. Feeling types who also favor Intuition can be particularly sensitive. When they see some evidence of what they consider as improper behavior or attitudes they will tend to “intuit” there is more of the same, that what they observe is only the tip of the iceberg.
In a 1996 landmark study of Personality Type in the general population, researchers Allan Hammer and Wayne Mitchell found that 15.7% of the adult population fit into the four Idealist personality types. In a 2004 compilation of the type distribution of the membership of the Association for Psychological Type (at the time the largest world wide association of type professionals) showed that these four Idealist personality types comprised 46.3 % of the membership. While a minority in the general population, Idealists are easily the dominant temperament among professional users of and teachers of personality type. So when you understand that there is natural conflict between Extraverted Thinking types and Feeling-Intuitive types you can see how even among professional “experts,” the negatives associated with ESTJ and ENTJ can loom large.
Because Trump does exhibit some characteristics associated with ESTJ and he also offends a number of people (and a large number of Idealists I suspect) it is easy to conclude he must be an ESTJ because it is perceived as one of the two most offensive personality types.
But is ESTJ really a good fit for Trump?
For ESTJs extraverted Thinking is the core of their being; it is the dominant thrust of their personality. ESTJs are logical, rational, action-oriented people. They work well in organized, structured environments. Good managers, good bureaucrats, good military men. Your stereotypical drill sergeant. People who command and control. They say what they do and do what they say. So as we’ve observed Trump does seem to play the part of an ESTJ but there are also some traits that run counter to ESTJ. Let’s look at some of these.
Isn’t one criticism of Trump that he often doesn’t do what he says, that what he says at one moment in time may be contradicted by him at another moment in time. His critics say you can’t rely on what he says or that the reality of what he does will be different from what he implied earlier. For example Mexico won’t really “pay for the wall” directly in cash money as he implied. If they “pay” anything it will be in a form quite different than what folks thought. And if the wall itself gets built, it may not be totally a huge bricks and mortar wall that his rhetoric suggested. This is not the straight “do what they say” that is typical of an ESTJ. Trump’s language is that of the promoter, the salesman.
Another criticism of Trump is what some people see as an irrational temperament, impetuous, emotionally explosive. Wow, we can’t have this crazy man with his finger on the nuclear button. His apparent lack of self-control, his uncontrolled, spontaneous twitter tweets. These characteristics are not those of a person whose extraverted logical thinking is the leading component of a personality. Extraverted Thinking types exhibit rational and controlled behavior. In fact there’s probably a fair number of ESTJ types among the republican “never trumpers” who find his lack of control of his mouth and his spontaneity a character flaw.
As I’ve argued in my earlier pieces on Trump, his media persona disguises his real nature. It is part of the show, Trump the entertainer, some say the Don Rickles of politics. It is a persona that has served him well. It is the fact that Trump is a promoter, has a showman side to his personality that moves me in the direction of saying he is an ESTP personality. ESTPs are adaptive people. They can turn on the charm and they can adopt whatever persona suits their objectives. So if looking like and acting like an ESTJ fits their goals, they can do it. Trump is a negotiator, a deal-maker. Again a trait that better fits ESTP than ESTJ.
Trump’s Thinking is introverted, hidden for most part. It plays a role in his behavior in that it is part of his strategic mind. I think it also plays a more evident role in his more private one-on-one contacts with people. We see many people who have met privately with him since the election offer complimentary views of him. I don’t think they are meeting with Trump the entertainer, the Don Rickles of Politics. They are meeting with a different, more rational, controlled Donald Trump where he lets his introverted nature run more of who he is. In some of Donald’s media interviews I’ve seen hints of this nature and observed him pausing to carefully “think” and calmly respond in a rational manner to a question.
An outer face of Sensing and Feeling matches Trump’s spontaneous and emotional displays. An inner face of Thinking and Intuition matches his strategic and “crazy like a fox” nature and his ability to relate in calm, controlled, pleasant, thoughtful manner with people on a one-on-one basis. The total package fits ESTP much better than ESTJ.
PS Attempting to accurately type the personality of public figure based upon media information is ripe for mistakes. This article and others I’ve written that discuss the personality types of public figures are an educational exercise in understanding different aspects of personality type theory with a dash of entertainment thrown in to add some interest in the subject.