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Decision-Making: Types, Tips & Traps

by Tom O'Connor on November 15th, 2010
White-House Chief-of-Staff breaks news of 9/11 to President Bush

White House Chief-of-Staff, Andy Card, breaks the 9/11 news to the President

George W. Bush’s recently released memoir, Decision Points, gives us a first-hand account of how he approached what he terms in the introduction:

“the most important part of the job: making decisions”.

It is a lively read, briskly coursing through such issues as: Iraq, Afghanistan, Stem Cell research, Supreme Court appointments, Hurricane Katrina, etc., – right up to the Financial Crisis that dominated his final months.

A Runaway Personality Type
He is balanced in his own assessment, noting in the epilogue that:

“I believe I got some decisions right, and I got some wrong. But on every one, I did what I believed was in the best interests of our country”.

And, truly, there is no doubting his good intentions: the overall impression one gets is of a man whose heart is in the right place, even if his actions are often coloured by a runaway personality.

And, that personality will be immediately recognisable to Myers-Briggs scholars – as a classic ESFJ type.

A Myers-Briggs’ Extrovert (E) Type
Bush, himself, acknowledges the Extraversion (E) tendencies:

“I’m a talker; Laura is a listener. I am restless; she is calm.”

Hence, he is wont to dive in to things … to lots of things, in fact; as he says himself:

“When my time is up, my dance card is going to be full”.

And, he likes to move at a frenetic pace – rising early (5am), jogging before dawn, even measuring his reading prowess in terms of the number of books he gets through (including 14 biographies of Abraham Lincoln!).

The same urge for action propels him to visit Ground Zero, jump on a mound of debris, grab a megaphone and without any forethought, rouse the small assembly of police and fire officers with the fighting words:

“I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And, the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

A Myers-Briggs’ Sensing (S) Type
Bush’s Sensing (S) tendencies are also visibly at work in the book.

He is a keen reader of the moment and his reactions are often traceable to ‘gut instinct’.

Thus, he senses that his rivals in TV debates, Anne Richards and Al Gore, are both trying to psyche him out, with certain types of jibes and handshakes they accord him during the warm-ups.

In the case of Putin, he places a lot of store on the visceral signals he picks up from their various meetings.

So, he is very upbeat after their first encounter, telling a journalist:

“I looked the man in the eye … I was able to get a sense of his soul”.

Later, he senses a turn in relations, when he hears Putin describe his new dog, Koni, in terms unflattering to the first family’s own terrier:

“bigger, stronger and faster than Barney”.

A Myers-Briggs’ Feeling (F) Type
The third Myers-Briggs type characteristic that is very evident in the Bush personality is his strong Feeling (F) tendency.

His first instinct on boarding Air Force One within minutes of the 9/11 news is to hug the flight attendants.

He places a premium on trust. When he warms to a person, he heaps them with compliments; when he doesn’t, he is not very interested in finding out why.

Thus, he looks favourably on people with whom he personally and culturally gels (Tony Blair, Condi Rice, Bono and General Petraeus), but is irked with and dismissive of foreigners – eg. Gerhard Shroeder, Yasser Arafat, Jacques Chirac.

The same thinking is to the fore in the personnel choices he makes.

In describing his interview with John Roberts, before he makes him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he says:

“Behind the sparkling resume, was a genuine man with a gentle soul. He had a quick smile and spoke with passion about the two young children he and his wife Jane had adopted. His command of the law was obvious, as was his character”.

This Feeling (F) tendency is probably most marked in his description of how he came to run for the presidency in the first place: hearing his preacher read the biblical line, calling Moses to action, was apparently the deciding factor!

A Myers-Briggs’ Judging (J) Type
Judging (J) would be the final Myers-Briggs type characteristic prominent in the Bush make-up.

Clearly, Bono has him well pegged, when he stings him for America’s lack of progress on Africa, with the quip:

“You’re the measurable results guy”.

Certainly, he thirsts for clarity and closure in all things.

Hence, he is uneasy with the prior administration’s tolerance of Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and Kim Jong-il.

He hates ambiguity. This trait cost him 6 days delay in responding to Katrina:

He was fixated on the strict legal position, waiting on the Louisiana Governor to ask for Federal troops – only to realize that he could have fudged it, as he later did, by sending in troops, jointly reporting to both the Governor and himself.

One senses that this was also the cause of friction with Colin Powell, whose job in the State Dept., required lots of coalition building and sensitive negotiation.

To the straight-shooting Bush, such diplomacy was seen as insubordination:

“It sometimes seemed like the State Dept. Colin led wasn’t fully on board with my philosophy and policies. It was important to me that there be no daylight between the president and the secretary of state”.

Self-awareness & Tolerance of Dissent
One of Bush’s great idols is Abraham Lincoln, whom he admires for his “moral clarity and resolve”.

Unfortunately, he overlooks another great strength of Lincoln – ie. an acute awareness of his own limitations.

This shaped a tolerance for dissent in Lincoln, sadly missing here.

Too bad, Bush couldn’t forge a better working relationship with Powell, as Lincoln had with his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton – immortalised by Lincoln in those oft-quoted words of his, when told that Stanton had called him a fool:

“Did Stanton say I was a fool? Then I dare say I must be one, for Stanton is generally right and he always says what he means.”

PS. To learn about our 1-day training programmes on Decision-Making & Presonality Types, please click on the appropriate module titles here:
1. Thinking, Judging & Decision-Making; 2. Analysing Personality Types

2 Responses to “Decision-Making: Types, Tips & Traps”

  1. Diandra says:

    This is a very sensible article! Great analysis, great post!

  2. Isaac says:

    So I just took the test, twice. As with every Yes/No test I’ve ever taken, some questions were rahetr tough to answe, because it depended on the situation or a more specific context for the question. As other commenters have stated, it also depends on how I’ve felt on a given day & how different versions of the test have been worded, but usually I’ve scored close to ENFP, with only the percentages changing or one inawhile, one letter being different. I’m now interested in taking other online versions of the test to see how wording of questions & my results vary.The percentages across the four areas were a bit different each time, but the results were the same tonight: INFJ. I can definitely see how I have become significantly more introverted over the last year or two of my life, but when I regularly scored as an ENFP (sometimes J) previously to that, I found I could relate far more to the archetype of Champion than to the INFP archetype of Counselor. I don’t really feel that Counselor is accurate for me at all, but I guess knowing that I am in a strange, stressful, and very uncertain time of life sort of puts the results into perspective. I’m wondering what I will consistently score as once some of the BLARGH in life calms down.