The Hillary Paradox

Hillary Clinton

Leadership traits, personality types, and gender perception

Hillary Clinton has, for the better part of 25 years, been the subject of fairly widespread and unrelenting criticism – recently verging on demonization and, increasingly – outright hatred. She has been accused of being dishonest, unethical and even engaging in illegal actions. She has been investigated numerous times – at great length and significant expense [including to taxpayers], but nothing of real substance has ever surfaced. And yet, the demonization persists. Some of this seemingly irrational animosity can certainly be attributed to politics – whether genuine differences or political tactics to undermine opposition. And, of course, no one in leadership expects to be universally liked or respected.

At the same time – the amount of vitriol aimed at Hillary Clinton – and the number of people who actively dislike her – including some who agree with her political views – seems to defy rational explanation. One thing we can be sure of – it has little to do with hairstyle, pantsuits or tone of voice…except that those may be the easiest targets for people who are uncomfortable with her, but can’t explain why – even to themselves.


What if the answer is largely this simple?

That she would be far more accepted as the

2016 democratic candidate for POTUS if she was:

Harry Clinton!


I know – anyone who purports to actively dislike / even hate her will argue that it has nothing to do with the fact that she is a women. They may even believe it themselves. However, the U.S. is one of the last developed countries to vote a woman into the top leadership role. Consider this:

Her [MBTI] personality profile – which is most assuredly E/I NTJ – is the strongest leadership profile. It is rare – only 2-3% of the total population. And it is even more rare – less than 1% – among women.  The E or I stands for extravert or introvert. Many people – including the majority of effective leaders – are ambiverts – meaning that they are on the cusp between extravert and introvert. Briefly – extraverts get their energy from other people, while introverts need more alone time. Someone who is in the middle is likely to be socially comfortable and energized – to a point, while also comfortable with the solitude that is necessary for both critical thinking/ problem-solving and ‘recharging their battery.’

The other 3 components of this personality style: N = intuitive. T = thinker. J = judger. More about that below*

There are no ‘right or wrong’ personality types. However, in a crucial leadership role, some characteristics are valued – and more likely to lead to success than others. There is much evidence that the same attributes that are honored and valued in a male leader [e.g. Steve Jobs, Colin Powell, Barack Obama], are frequently perceived very differently in a woman in a position of leadership.

A male leader who is both introverted and high on the ‘thinking’ scale is accepted as ‘thinking about important decisions’, ‘understandably distracted by the weight of problems’, or “considering data and weighing alternatives”. Whereas, a female leader with identical characteristics is more likely to be perceived as reserved, uncaring, even cold.

An excerpt from one of many studies about gender stereotypes in female leadership roles:

“….. role congruity theory, which states that female leaders specifically run across a ‘no-win’ situation at the workplace. They become victims of prejudice in two such instances; one when a female leader emerges in a male-dominated workplace leading to incongruence between prescribed leader role and gender roles; and another, when a female leader exhibits agentic tendencies, thereby causing incongruence between leader role and prescribed gender role. Prentice and Carranza (2002) stated that “Gender stereotypes are highly prescriptive” (p.269). Perceptions of competence in female leaders depends to a larger extent on how they should behave, and not on how they prove themselves as successful, in men’s domain (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, & Tamkins, 2004; Rudman & Glick, 2004). On a similar note, Gill (2004) concluded that prescriptive stereotypes would result in greater gender bias as compared to descriptive stereotypes. In addition, there is an increased tendency of negative evaluations toward female leaders displaying masculine roles, and heightened positive evaluations for male leaders displaying masculine roles. Studies in the past have also revealed how a good manager is still described in predominantly masculine terms (Gupta, Turban, Wasti, & Sikdar, 2009; Powell, Butterfield, & Parent, 2002). [1]

In other words, damned if they do; damned if they don’t. And yet – women leaders have proven to be as effective, if not more effective as men in the same roles. [When they are more effective, the evidence points to the fact that they tend to listen and collaborate well – traits that have been proven to be crucial for success in peer group/ team work environments – which most contemporary work environments are.]

* A brief overview of the E/I NTJ personality profile:

The first letter – E or I [sometimes both] describes where we get our energy.

E = Extravert: likely to form relationships and mobilize others to follow them

I =  Introvert: more reflective; likely to value time to think.

     [An ambivert has approximately equal elements of both – a powerful combination in a leader]

The second letter – N or S – describes the way we take in information.

N =  Intuitive. Easily recognizes patterns. Strategic; big picture thinker.

[The alternative is S/Sensing. Likely to be detailed-oriented, relies more on the senses to take in information; more practical.]

The third letter – T or F – describes the way we make decisions.

T = Thinking. Tends to make decisions using data, logic, and rational thinking.

[The alternative is F/Feeling. Likely to make decisions based on feelings and emotions; less objective, and often has a tendency to personalize feedback.]

The fourth and last letter – J or P – describes lifestyle preferences.

J = Judging. Tends to plan before taking action, structured and responsible.

[The alternative is P/Perceiving. Tends to keep options open, is more spontaneous, with a tendency toward procrastination.]

INTJ – is sometimes referred to as the ‘architect’ personality

“It’s lonely at the top, and being one of the rarest and most strategically capable personality types, INTJs know this all too well. INTJs form just two percent of the population, and women of this personality type are especially rare, forming just 0.8% of the population – it is often a challenge for them to find like-minded individuals who are able to keep up with their relentless intellectualism and chess-like maneuvering. People with the INTJ personality type are imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet private, amazingly curious, but they do not squander their energy.”

“INTJs are defined by their tendency to move through life as though it were a giant chess board, pieces constantly shifting with consideration and intelligence, always assessing new tactics, strategies and contingency plans, constantly outmaneuvering their peers in order to maintain control of a situation while maximizing their freedom to move about. This isn’t meant to suggest that INTJs act without conscience, but to many Feeling (F) types, INTJs’ distaste for acting on emotion can make it seem that way, and it explains why many fictional villains (and misunderstood heroes) are modeled on this personality type.”


ENTJ is often referred to as the ‘commander’ personality:

An example is Steve Jobs, who once said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“ENTJs are natural-born leaders. People with this personality type embody the gifts of charisma and confidence, and project authority in a way that draws crowds together behind a common goal. But unlike their Feeling (F) counterpart, ENTJs are characterized by an often ruthless level of rationality, using their drive, determination and sharp minds to achieve whatever end they’ve set for themselves. Perhaps it is best that they make up only three percent of the population, lest they overwhelm the more timid and sensitive personality types that make up much of the rest of the world – but we have ENTJs to thank for many of the businesses and institutions we take for granted every day.”

In either case, these are rare and often misinterpreted personality types. They are often blindsided when they learn that other people distrust their motives and may believe them to be reserved and uncaring. It is typically through experience that they begin to understand that their often deeply-ingrained empathy is not always in evidence, and to become more comfortable publicly demonstrating their feelings when appropriate.

Women with these rare, powerful leadership personalities often have a double whammy…

…all the strengths and misperceptions that go along with their personalities – with added layers of cultural expectations: ‘that’s not what we’re used to in a woman’ or ‘we don’t know how to trust that behavior coming from a woman’. Add the not so rare layers of clear sexism and ageism and the ‘backwards and in high heels’ adage doesn’t begin to describe the daily challenge of succeeding as a woman in leadership.


Marilou ‘Louie’ Myrick

©copyright 2016.  Marilou Myrick/ Institute for Innovative Leadership LLC.   All rights reserved.

[1] questia – stereotyping-of-effective-male-and-female-leaders


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