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Conference Proceeding

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Defense and Security Studies | Eastern European Studies | International Relations | Leadership Studies | Other Political Science | Other Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies


This report presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality and leadership style of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Psychodiagnostically relevant data about Putin were collected from biographical sources and media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with DSM-III-R, DSM-IV, and DSM-5.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Putin’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/aggressive (sadistically hostile) and Ambitious/exploitative (pathologically narcissistic), with secondary Conscientious/dutiful (obsessive) and Retiring/aloof (introverted) patterns, a subsidiary Dauntless/adventurous (risk-taking) tendency, and lesser Distrusting/suspicious features. The blend of primary patterns in Putin’s profile constitutes a composite personality type that may be characterized as that of an expansionist hostile enforcer.

Dominant individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they are tough and unsentimental and often make effective leaders. They view themselves as self-reliant, unyielding, and strong and are disinclined to experience and express compassion. In the pathological range of this pattern, they exhibit coercive behavior and a penchant for humiliating adversaries; are domineering, intimidating, argumentative, and precipitously belligerent; and are adept at having their way by browbeating others into submission. This personality pattern encapsulates the “hostile” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Ambitious individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and often act as though entitled. In the pathological range of this pattern, they display an inflated sense of self-importance; shamelessly take others for granted and use them to indulge their desires; are indifferent to the rights of others; and are unconstrained by objective realities or cautionary feedback. This personality pattern captures the “expansionist” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Conscientious individuals are dutiful and diligent, with a strong work ethic and careful attention to detail, and able to persistent in difficult circumstances. They are loyal to their party and causes and adept at crafting public policy, but often lack the retail political skills required to consummate their policy objectives and are more technocratic than visionary. In the prominent range of this pattern, they are typically formal, proper, and dignified; hold strong moral principles with absolute certainty; micromanage their subordinates; and are intolerant of deviance. This personality pattern fashions the “enforcer” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Retiring (introverted) individuals are aloof and solitary, generally appear complacent and untroubled, and rarely express inner feelings or thoughts, with a corresponding tendency to be somewhat deficient in the ability to recognize the needs or feelings of others. They prefer distant or limited involvement with others, tend not to develop strong interpersonal ties, are most comfortable when left alone, and tend to work in a slow, quiet, methodical manner. In the prominent range of this pattern, they lack spontaneity and interpersonal vitality and may appear somewhat “wooden” or “robotic” in their emotional responsiveness.

Dauntless individuals are adventurous, daring personalities resistant to coercion or deterrence and inclined to take calculated risks. They have a strong need for independence, may flout tradition and conventional standards, and live in the present, with little guilt about the past or anxiety about the future.

Putin’s major personality-based strengths in a political role are his commanding demeanor and confident assertiveness. His major personality-based shortcomings are his uncompromising intransigence, lack of empathy and congeniality, and cognitive inflexibility.

Regarding personality-based leadership traits, Putin’s presidential style is hypothesized to be deliberative, his temperament active–negative, and his core leadership skill organizational ability.

With reference to personality-based foreign policy orientation, Putin is hypothesized to be a high-dominance introvert preoccupied with issues of security and status and a corresponding expansionist tendency in the international arena.


The research was conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics (USPP), a collaborative faculty–student research program in the psychology of politics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minnesota, directed by Aubrey Immelman, PhD, associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.

The research was funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholars at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University.

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The full text of the paper will be available for download in early 2024.

Related papers

Immelman, A., & Trenzeluk, J. V. (2017, January). The political personality of Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin. Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

Vomacka, E. J., & Immelman, A. (2023, July 9–11). The personality profile and leadership style of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy [Paper presentation]. International Society of Political Psychology 46th Annual Scientific Meeting, Montréal, Québec, Canada.

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