Leaders are not happy – A few thoughts on MBTI

Leaders are not happy.

Yes, I claim that there is a negative correlation between leadership and happiness. In order to understand my proof here, first you need to know about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Please feel free to look up anything relevant and proceed.

Now that you got the most genius creation of personality theory, while the framework offers a perfect amount of information, and 16 groups are certainly granular enough for you to distinguish and slide the scales in each dimension, I found the Four Temperament theory even more intriguing.

In “Please Understand Me” by Keirsey, he did something absolutely amazing: mapping the MBTI 16 personality types into the classical 4 temperaments. Specifically, they are:

4 temperaments

Several things caught my attention:

1)     “The choleric temperament is fundamentally ambitious and leader-like. They have a lot of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were choleric. They like to be in charge of everything. However, they can quickly fall into a deep depression or be moody.

My comment: Leaders of aggressive nature could be powerful, but it’s hard for them to be sustainably happy.

2)     On the other hand, there’s another leader type, we call them “Sanguine”. Check their description out:

 “The sanguine temperament is fundamentally impulsive and pleasure-seeking; sanguine people are sociable and charismatic. They tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be boisterous. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean sensitive, compassionate and romantic. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when they pursue a new hobby, they lose interest as soon as it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. Sanguines generally have an almost shameless nature, certain that what they are doing is right. They have no lack of confidence. Sanguine people are warm-hearted, pleasant, lively and optimistic.”

My conclusion: Be a sanguine type of leader. Then you could lead happily. 

3)     If your life goal is to be happy, then try to acquire a temperament of “NJ” (phlegmatic) or “SP” (sanguine). This makes a lot sense to me, because S is the pragmatic factor here, and P is the “go with the natural flow” and “how to be likeable” factor.

In the case of “NJ”, I do find a lot of people with “N” are incredibly smart, they make sense of things instinctually rather than with book knowledge, however, as you know, a lot of things in life, are counter-intuitive, with only “N”, the magic inputs, you cannot success; you would have to draw logical conclusions and make rational decisions in a blink of eyes or after some thoughtful considerations.

“NJ” and “SP” are balanced temperaments. 

4)     So the next question: could personality be altered? I would say, yes. Granted, people are born with certain character which we call status-quo, but you could really nudge any factor to go towards the other direction.

For instance, if you want to be sanguine instead of melancholy, all you need to focus is figuring out how to go from “SJ”  to “SP” – basically try to live a more flexible schedule and lifestyle.

Additionally I believe the middle two factors are harder to change than first and fourth. With explanations as below:

  • S/N is the input wire, which is the hardest to change.
  • T/F is the output wire, which you could forcefully unwire, making decision not following your usual style. It may actually win you big at times while completely screw you over and make you regret otherwise.
  • J/P is a life style choice, which is relatively easy to change.
  • I/E is noticeably a situational variable, meaning it varies according to the circumstance, so I would say, it’s only easy to change if you could figure out what are the motivators for a person to become introvert or extrovert at a certain scenario, then start adding those supporting factors to the background (usually it’s some likeable (eg, hobby) or fun (eg, game) factor) , introversion or extraversion would naturally change.

5)      Lastly, figure out what’s particularly important for you to be consistent or to be versatile. Take myself for example, I have an “S” in my MBTI, “S” is already in my blood, and “P” is a conscious choice – be flexible and have an open-mind to accept natural occurrences in life. In other word, “P” is a friend of “S”.

Also, “I”, seemingly on the opposite end, is also a friend of “S”. Why? Because sometimes you don’t have enough life experience or knowledge explicitly ready to have a good sense of things and make the right decision yet, in that case, you might as well go with intuition. In fact, especially in those cases, your hidden weakness, which you unconsciously try to deny, would be reflected and conquered. So being an “S”, use the INTUITION to decide whenever you are unsure.

Thanks for reading these five viewpoints. I’d like to get some original ideas out first. More thoughts to follow after I actually read the book “Please Understand Me”…  =)

3 thoughts on “Leaders are not happy – A few thoughts on MBTI

  1. I think this is really good–especially that a lot of people will find themselves split situationally between Intra/Extra-vert, for example when a nerd throws a house party or takes his girlfriend out to a social event, he’s not going to sulk in the corner writing code 😛

  2. We might need NF’s to move the evolution of the human psyche forward, even though being an NF might not be a particularly easy assignment.

  3. Th is pursuit of happiness advising to become an NJ: how can that be? I get if the source of balance for N is naturally J, while S belongs with P, if you don’t believe that SJ or NP are stable each in its own way. And sure, Keirsey links the four humors with those temperaments, but other theorists have linked them differently (except that SP Artisan = sanguine remains unanimous). Popular alternatives include a) chol SJ Guardian, mel NF Idealist, and phleg NT Rational; b) chol NT Rational, mel SJ Guardian, and phleg NF Idealist; c) a more rare one, chol NT Rational, mel NF Idealist, and phleg SJ Guardian. Surprisingly seldom ever do I see chol SJ Guardian, mel NT Rational, and phleg NF Idealist, which I think closest to right. Opposites between the N’s and S’s looks criss-cross to me; I’d expect the N’s on mel and phleg, the S’s on chol and sang.

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