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Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



American Politics | Leadership Studies | Other Political Science | Other Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts | Political History


This paper presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of U.S. president Barack Obama, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Information concerning Obama was 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 Axis II of DSM–IV.

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. Obama’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/confident and Dominant/asserting, with secondary features of the Accommodating/cooperative and Conscientious/respectful patterns. The combination of Ambitious and Accommodating patterns in Obama’s profile suggests a confident conciliator personality composite.

Leaders matching the confident conciliator personality prototype, though self-assured and assertive, are characteristically gracious, considerate, and benevolent. Confident conciliators are charming and agreeable, with a special talent for settling differences; they favor mediation and compromise over force or coercion as a strategy for resolving conflict and are driven primarily by a need for achievement. Relative to other chief executives in similar positions, they are likely to be less driven by power, with a stronger need for affiliation.

The major implication of the study is that it offers an empirically based personological framework for anticipating Obama’s leadership style as president.


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, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.

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Obama_Personality-poster.jpg (688 kB)
Barack Obama Personality Profile (research poster)

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Barack Obama Leadership Style (research poster)