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”…  =)

Optimizers are almost never happy

Once start working, everything falls into a pattern. Usually I hate repetition, especially mindless stuffs, but as long as it’s work-related, I am dedicated to pursue with 100% energy, cuz… well, people pay me money for doing things that they don’t want to do; therefore, those boring tasks become my responsibilities. Moreover, I love my boss and my boss’s boss too much to let them down: given the maximum possible length of time that I could work for them in my career, I would definitely cherish this fate and relationship. Working for respectable people is the most important driving factor for me right now.

Yes, most New Yorkers of our generation strive hard to be at the top of their field. Ambitious and competitive people are everywhere. But looking around, I feel like most people are seriously overestimating themselves. In reality, having a consistent record of strong performance versus being a predator just to prove oneself is better than others are completely different story.

I can’t say that I am happy all the time. But really, happiness is a relative term. For people like me who constantly look for something better, somewhere to improve themselves, we are just never complacent. By comparison, merely liking the status quo leads to stable happiness.

You see the tradeoff here? It’s all about the mixture and the balance of when to move forward, when to stop, to reflect and to enjoy what’s around.

Being slightly uncomfortable is probably the best state of life: it pushes you to acquire more awareness rather than feeling as if you already know everything.

However, optimizers who are always looking for the best of everything are almost never happy. They usually get greatness in their lives in many aspects, but they care too much.

As Penelope Trunk once pointed out:

What you really pay for with the exorbitant cost of living and the hard lifestyle is to be surrounded by strong performers, huge ambitions, and constant need for change and innovation. To live in New York City, you have to trade happiness for this. To most New Yorkers, it’s a no-brainer. They would take that trade any day. To most people outside of New York City the trade-off is crazy.

Do I value an interesting life over a happy life?


I guess I am at the exact right place during this period of my life.

The Thing about Feeling Superior

Today I was reading “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt, there was something caught my attention:

“We (every single human being) are all, by nature, hypocrites.”

And this is what “makes us so good at seeing the slightest speck in our neighbor’s eye, and so bad at seeing the log in our own”.

This made me start to wonder about my own self-righteousness: If I have no way to know what others’ minds are up to, then how can I be so sure that I am correct, that I am not seeing the world through a distorting lens of good and evil??

Some people can only feel good about themselves when they convince themselves that they are “the best”. Many people with this tendency try to demonstrate their superiority by showing off their physical or psychological strength. For example, you may feel driven to impress people with your wit, intellect, or other talent. Unfortunately, these solutions are only temporary ones to your underlying feelings of inferiority, which can be your real target for change. At worst, the attempts at superiority serve only to alienate others and mask your true strengths.

After all, each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. Let’s drop the superiority and try to be as authentic as we can. Meanwhile, rather than trying to win approval from others, strive for SELF-RESPECT! —People with true self-respect are usually respected by others as well.

Talk to Strangers – Techniques of Effective Conversation

From cell phone, email, to online messengers, and social media, nowadays these virtual interactions have massively replaced our routine face-to-face time with friends.   On one hand, this is great: it not only saves us time to go to parties or to dine out and catch up;  but also allows us to avoid embarrassment in case that we might just want to greet by a simple “poke” or writing on the wall of Facebook.

On the other hand, those virtual interactions are inevitably devastating for developing our social skills. I mean, any kind of skill needs practice. You remember some people leave you a really kind and generous impression even when you meet him for the first time? Well, that’s not just being nice; that’s also diplomatic skill! These are all learned and trained behavior.  As a result, I want to share some ideas about techniques that we could potentially employ while talking with a stranger. By the way, here I am referring to the kind of social interaction which creates thick value that endures, benefits and multiplies. It is often presented in the form of networking, or interviewing, etc.

First, determine the topics.

The topics could be either broad, or focused. Having a focused topic is better if you would like an in-depth conversation. When we first meet someone, we want to decide upon what kind of things we could chat about.  So ideally it’s better to get to know about the other person’s profession and background as much as possible. Sometimes, it’s not quite realistic. Then we would have to make a guess based on his appearance, body language or whatever he carries with him. Try out each potential topic briefly, and then you would know which ones he has most interest in.

Second, interact smartly.

What is he most willing to talk about? Start with those, and now he’s comfortable and engaged. Great! Switch to your advantage:  say something smart, something makes you look attractive and talented.  From then on, this would go back-and-forth.

Finally, once this flow of conversation goes smoothly, there are some techniques necessary for extending the conversation and really going in-depth.  A couple rules summarized here:

  • “Definition Rule”: If you want to clarify something, you ask, “What does … mean exactly?”
  • “Cause-Effect Rule”: If he makes a judgmental statement, make sure you understand the motivation and supportive arguments.
  • “Instantiation Rule”: If he has any kind of rationalization, ask for a few examples.
  • “Correlation Rule”: Sometimes people mention several things that might be correlated, so pay attention to the relationship in between.

Anyway, these are some techniques that I learned from a consultant friend. You might feel weird using them at the beginning. But hey, practice makes perfect. As long as you are not constrained by the above rules, you could definitely master the conversation skills by reformulating into your own style.