Barack Obama and Mitt Romney
Presidential Politics and Personality Type
By Ross Reinhold October, 2012 & November 2012
While some have opined on "Which Personality Type would make the best President" (World Type Alliance) I'd not want to make such a global generality. But I do think it worthwhile to look at the candidates Obama and Romney and how their particular personality types plays out in their careers and would affect their approach to the job of President for the next four years.
In an earlier article examining the link between values, politics, and Presidential Personality Types, I initially speculated that President Obama's personality type as ENFJ. This was based on conversations with other type watchers who like me had formed their assessment based upon the 2008 campaign and the early days of his presidency. Later as I became more familiar with the President, I revised my assessment to INFJ. Recent experience, including the debates, offers additional testimony to INFJ being an accurate diagnosis.
Public figures whose innate preference is introversion often develop their extraverted side of their nature so we can easily be mislead by their public persona. This was true of the President and I also think it is true of his challenger in this year's election, Mitt Romney. I'll expand on this later in the article.
Pundits have claimed this year’s election presents a clear choice between the candidates. While this may be true in terms of party, political philosophy, economic policy and the like, I believe it is also true in terms of personality type. It is a choice between INFJ and ISTJ and the correspondent leadership styles that each of these types tend to favor.
INFJ Personality Type - Barack Obama
INFJs lead through their vision which has been shaped through insights from their interactions with others, their compassion, and their aesthetic & people-oriented values. They see relationships, future alternatives, and the correct course of action with a complexity that they find difficult to explain to others. They place great trust in this vision, even in the face of opposition. Those who fail to agree just don't have the vision to understand so the INFJs dedication to this vision or "knowing what they know" remains unshaken. This can be seen as arrogance and is off-putting to those who question the vision. But this confidence is actually not due to arrogance, in the sense we ordinarily understand, but simply because the INFJ person is so totally captured by this vivid and complex internal understanding of a phenomena that he or she is blind or deaf to alternative explanations.
If you look at the face diagram for INFJ, note the inner NT which governs the vision and logical organization of this vision into a coherent whole. Also note the outer FS which governs the INFJs communication style. We see in President Obama's public speaking a collection of expressed values, catch phrases, and slogans that connect with his audience. These expressions, because they are spoken by his public persona, often will not adequately or accurately express his inner vision. As we noted above this is very typical of people whose dominant mental function is Introverted Intuition (INFJ and INTJ types). They frequently have trouble explaining the depth and breadth of their inner understandings. You get fragments that to others can seem either isolated from a more comprehensive understanding or suggest the outlines of a quite different picture than the INFJ sees in his/her mind.
While politics is rife with opponents grossly distorting the motivations and designs of the "other" the INFJ or INTJ unintentionally provides fodder for these imaginings due to both the steadfast dedication to the inner vision and the inability to adequately or accurately describe it to others.
INFJs are action-oriented idealists, imbued with a sense of purpose, and have the ability organize people and things towards long-term and most often idealistic goals. They are attracted to occupations like social workers, education consultants, counselors, designers, and teachers. You can easily see how the occupation of "community organizer" is consistent with this occupational theme of INFJ. Another favorite occupation of INFJs is architect and it is a fitting archetype for President Obama's style of INFJ.
I believe it fits how President Obama executes his executive and leadership role. He works at the system level, changing the relationships of the parts, remaking a new whole. His focus on a legislative agenda is testimony to this architectural perspective. Likewise the concept of “change” which was perhaps the main them of the 2008 election and continues to reflect his perspective. It is as if looking at a house, seeing its potential for improvement and thinking “I could do this better.” He has a vision of what America' potential if it were redesigned or remodeled. The “shining city on the hill” made famous by President Reagan is for President Obama - - - is a vision, not of what it is, but rather of what it CAN be. His Presidency could be seen as the chief architect and project director of an urban renewal, a re-imagining of America to be that shining "new" city on the hill.
ISTJ Personality Type - Mitt Romney
I think Mitt Romney is an ISTJ type. As with Barack Obama, Mitt’s years of experience in public leadership roles has honed the extraverted side of his nature. But note his contained nature of expression - what detractors term “robotic” - and his preference to keep his private charity and good works private. He is uncomfortable tooting his own horn when it comes to how he treats or cares for others. We also saw in the 2012 Presidential Debates how the Governor remained quite composed in the face of criticism or attacks. I doubt whether an extraverted type would have done so.
People whose dominant mental function is Sensing (ISTJ and ISFJ), and particularly introverted Sensing, are expert conservators of family, culture, and traditions and traditional ways of doing things. ISTJs are also known for their encyclopedic memory of numerous facts surrounding an area of interest. I think the 2012 debates also provided evidence of this where Romney seemed to have numerous details at his fingertips during the more extemporaneous debates.
If you look at the face diagram for ISTJ, note the inner SF which helps explain the many acts of personal good works that Governor Romney has done for others, yet does not talk about. SF types are the ultimate caregiver. ISTJ types have that archetype within them, but it is more private. Their organizational nature (note the extraverted Thinking and Intuition) often moves them out of direct care giving into managerial roles - the head nurse on a hospital ward, for example. Romney’s inner SF is masked because his communicator is his outer TN which prefers to talk about tasks to be done, principles, strategy, and somewhat bigger picture matters relating to his roles and missions. When your Thinking nature is your communicator your natural language doesn't connect well with Feeling types. The real Mitt Romney is somewhat like what you see, except what is hidden is his empathy and humanity. ISTJs are the epitome of the Boy Scout code. You know them more by their deeds.
ISTJs are pragmatists, focused on getting things done. In politics, pragmatists know that compromise and reaching across the aisle is sometimes the only way that things can get done. Getting nothing done is more abhorrent than compromise. While ISTJs have values, they are often expressed as principles. Some of these have human overtones, like honesty, loyalty, courtesy, helping others, etc. But many are also related to a larger context: order, organization, logic, getting the job done, observance of traditions, respect, living within ones means, and the like. Often times the human values they hold are wrapped in these bigger picture principles. So it is difficult for some to grasp that having a balanced budget and a house in order can have anything to do with helping the less fortunate amongst us. Yet an ISTJ would see it as axiomatic; how can we do a good job caring for the poor if our house is in disorder?
ISTJs are practical task-oriented, organizers and administrators. They excel by applying the time-honored principles of “Taking Care of Business 101" mixed in with hard work and staying on the task. They are attracted to occupations like accountant, finance, law enforcement, school administrator, small business manager, and a variety of executive roles. Governor Romney's career is quite consistent with these occupational themes. A fitting archetype for ISTJ is Manager and it fits Romney.
Romney’s vision of America is the “shining city on the hill” that it "IS" but has suffered from neglect. It is a house that doesn't need remodeling nor re-envisioning but rather good old fashioned maintenance - - - with some restoration here and there and some upgrading of facilities (that remain true to the original) to serve the modern era. His Presidency could be seen as the chief executive and manager of a huge bureaucratic enterprise that needs to be re-focused and re-energized to properly maintain and preserve the shining city on the hill.
Decision 2012: The Presidential Choice
The contrasts between the candidates are clear. But I think it has less to do with party and policy as the political and media pundits love to tout. It need not have anything to do with all of this complexity and arguments over policy details and what special interest group will prosper under each candidate favors. Media pundits suggest we are supposed to evaluate whose plan for the economy is better from sound bites and debates when such a plan, if it were written, would run thousands of pages and cover so many details and assumptions our eyes would spin and our minds would muddle. Who really cares more about Latinos, women, hard-working Americans, taxpayers, seniors, the poor, and hundreds of other demographic groups? Who cares more aside, who will actually better serve the interests of these various groups?
You don't need to wade through all this complexity and sort out all the conflicting claims. It boils down to something simple and straight-forward - to personality type and the attendant leadership style and what you think the current times need. Do we need a visionary INFJ architect leading our country for the next four years? Or do we need a practical ISTJ manager at the helm? Do we need a change agent or do we need an agent of pragmatism? Take your pick.
October 30, 2012
Well the race is over and the majority picked the Architect for the nation's top post. He'll have to take that hat off for a while as the government deals with the "fiscal cliff" looming early in the year and ensuring the economy continues to improve. He'll need to polish up his negotiation and diplomatic skills and get comfortable with compromise to avoid continuing partisan bickering and political stagnation. But if things go well he'll be able to work on his plan for the "New America" late in 2013.
Reagan, Ronald (1988) Farewell Address to the Nation - Shining City on the Hill speech
I like this booklet by Nardi and Berens. About 50 pages, reasonable price, and an easy read for the person wishing to better understand his or her personality type . . . and the overall concepts surrounding Personality Types. [Ordering Info Here]
Hunziker, M. & Haas, L. (2011) Building Blocks of Personality Type Type Labs, Temecula, CA
Hammer, Allen. (1993) Introduction to Type and Careers. CPP, Inc., Palo Alto, CA
® MBTI, Myers-Briggs, Meyers Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries (aka meyers briggs or myers briggs).
Bernie Sanders - INFP Personality Type - Mister Rodgers morphs into Social Justice Warrior?
The MBTI Personality Type of Donald Trump - looking behind the media mask of The Donald.
Leadership Style - Trump vs. Hillary
- - - Different temperaments, different styles, each with their strengths and weaknesses.