Bill Gates: ENTJ or INTP?

Introduction: We post here the transcript of our video on Bill Gates. Much to our surprise, it seems that all of Youtube believes Gates to be an INTP and so it seems that we should really step up to the challenge of defending our claim that Gates is a Te user. In the meantime, it is also pertinent that we restate our purpose in uploading the video in the first place: We never meant to submit the video as proof that Gates was an ENTJ; only to demonstrate how the previous arguments that were offered for Gates as an INTP are fallacious.

Around May 2012 there was a popular video circulating on the internet claiming that Bill Gates was an INTP, not an ENTJ, and we started getting emails asking if this was so. As we were not aware of any large-scale disagreement with the standard typing of ENTJ prior to this argument, we think that the video may have had some impact on the community, and we thought that we would respond (in no particular order) to the individual points made in that video.

Argument 1: “Gates doesn’t look like an ENTJ.”

The video makes an argument that relies on visual identification, or what is also called physiognomy: “INTPs are slim, while ENTJs are jocks, and Bill Gates is slim”. Yet in the entire history of psychology no evidence has been produced that physiognomy is a reliable way of determining people’s personalities. When we type people, we don’t use visual identification, and indeed we think such arguments tend to hurt the credibility of the field of personality studies.

Argument 2: “Gates can’t be ENTJ because Hitler was ENTJ and the two are nothing alike.”

As corollary evidence of Gates’ supposed introversion, the video then claims that Hitler was an extrovert. The video cites no sources for this claim, and yet, as the following quotes show, both the people who knew Hitler personally as well as later historians and psychologists and psychiatrists tend to regard Hitler as an obvious and strong introvert:

“Five academic Hitler historians [were asked to rate Hitler and] all five raters saw him as a strong introvert.”
- Individual Differences Research,vol.5, no.1.

“Hitler could not tolerate too much … social contact.”
- Richard Overy, historian, in Goering, chapter 9.

“Hitler … lacked the [inclination] for anything more than the occasional sensational display of emotion, in particular the great set-piece speech which mesmerized the mob and left him drained of … energy.”
- John Keegan, historian, in his foreword to The Goebbels Diaries.

“[Hitler is a] shy and friendly man with artistic tastes and gifts.”
- Jung, after seeing Hitler, quoted in Ronald Hayman’s A Life of Jung, chapter 30.

Whether Hitler had a preference for Thinking over Feeling, as the video claims, is also rather dubious. But that is a discussion for another time and place.

Argument 3: “Gates must use Ti because he starts from the little things rather than the big picture.”

Now the video makes the argument that Bill Gates must have a preference for introverted thinking (Ti) because “he starts from the small particulars.” This observation is then contrasted with the extroverted thinking of Tony Robbins (who, like Hitler, is doubtfully cast as an ENTJ).

The video then claims that people with a preference for extroverted thinking (Te) “start from the big picture and then spit out whatever particulars they need to prove the point.” However, in the first order, this is not an argument that pertains to Thinking: Rather, it is an argument about Sensing/Intuition: It is the people with a preference for intuition who start with the big picture and the people with a preference for sensing who start with the little things. In other words, the video gets the theory wrong when it uses a big/small-orientation to differentiate between introverted (Ti) and extroverted thinking (Te).

But don’t take our word for it. Here is what Jung said about the thinking function in general: “Thinking may be conceived either with concrete or with abstract factors.” So with regards to the first order of where to look when talking about “facts vs. the big picture”.

As for the second order, and more specifically, if we just view extroverted thining (Te) vs. introverted thinking (Ti) and keep sensing and intuition out of the equation, here is what Jung said about extroverted thinking (Te): “Extraverted thinking … need not necessarily be a merely concretistic thinking.” In other words, Jung is saying that Te can indeed be concerned with the little things.

Recall that the in question video said that Te users only use facts to illustrate the big picture. But here is what Myers said about the difference between extraverted thinking (Te) and introverted thinking (Ti):

Ti: “Values facts chiefly as illustrative proofs of the idea … neglect[s] facts … coerce[s] them into agreement with the idea.”

Te: “Extroverted Thinking … relies on fact … depends upon the facts of experience … dwells upon the details … has a tendency to multiply facts.”

So with regards to this argument, the video has its definitions wrong on all accounts. Once the definitions of Ti and Te are applied correctly, we see that the video’s observation that Bill Gates starts from the facts actually is an argument that he is a Te user and thus not an INTP.

(Both Jung quotations are from Jung’s Psychological Types, chapter 10.)

(Both Myers quotations are from Myers’ Gifts Differing, chapter 8.)

Argument 4: “Gates uses extroverted intuition (Ne).”

Then we are told that Gates supposedly uses extroverted intuition (Ne) rather than introverted intuition (Ni). The video actually gives a fairly good definition of Ne vs. Ni, but then makes the wrong call by saying that Gates is using Ne. The reason given for Gates’ supposed preference for Ne over Ni is that “Gates is an inventor”. But Gates was never the inventor as the video says: Gates was the businessman, the industrialist. He did not invent DOS, but rather gobbled it up from its original programmer (who could, in turn, very well have been INTP). Bill Gates saw the business opening, repackaged DOS and sold it as a true, goal-oriented businessman would do. But again, don’t take our word for it; you can read the story in Robert H. Frank’s The Darwin Economy, chapter 9.

This story is confirmed by other sources, as when Larry Ellison of Oracle famously said of Bill Gates on Charlie Rose’s talk show: “Bill [Gates] wants people to think he’s Edison, and he’s really Rockefeller.” In other words, Bill Gates is not an inventor, but an industrialist.

Argument 5: “Bill Gates prefers inventing things to running a business.”

In extension of the previous argument, the video then claims that now that Microsoft is running itself, Bill Gates “quickly steps down” from the role of business leader “to get back to what he likes best, the tinkering and inventing stuff.” But are these claims really true?

First, when did Bill Gates “step down”? If we go by when he formally left Microsoft, then the answer is 2008. If we go by when he reduced his workload at Microsoft, then the answer is 2006. And if we go by when he stepped down as CEO, then the answer is 2000. Yet by any account, this is not a “quick” step-down; Bill Gates became a personal billionaire in 1987, and Microsoft was comfortably running itself by the start of the 1990s. So the claim that Bill Gates “quickly stepped down” from managing Microsoft is simply false.

What about the video’s second claim, namely that Gates stepped down “to get back to what he likes best, the tinkering and inventing stuff”? Does that hold up?

Seemingly not. In 2006, as well as in 2008, Gates’ stated reason for stepping down from Microsoft was not to invent stuff or write code, but rather to “work full time for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, a philanthropic organization that Gates is running like a traditional businessman, setting concrete, numeric goals for success and failure in a field that has traditionally been marked by an absence of clear criteria for success.

Gates: “How do you make [a philanthropic foundation] work? You come up with objectives! 10 million children die each year from diseases they shouldn’t die of. So you say, ‘Ok, 15 years from now, that number should be 2 million.’ And we’ll measure ourselves according to whether that takes place.”

Besides the fact that this approach testifies to use of Te (adhering to a purely objective and factual standard), this approach doesn’t seem so different from the way Gates was running Microsoft. And even the video in question acknowledges that Bill Gates “was running Microsoft like an ENTJ.”

Gates: “I have to admit that business-type thoughts do sneak into my head. … [In the beginning] I knew at ten in the morning if I’d already sold that days’ worth of software. If I had, then I wanted to take care of a week’s worth of sales.”

Paul Allen: “During the founding first eight years [of Microsoft] my ideas were definitely key to the company. Bill would test my ideas. I would come to him with another 10 ideas that never went anywhere – he was the sanity check on the flow of ideas. When it came to selling and marketing and staffing and all those kinds of things, he was much more excited on the business side, so we became very complementary.”

Argument 6: “Bill Gates was a loner as a child.”
Finally we get what is perhaps the video’s strongest argument: Bill Gates was a loner as a child; he did not like to play with the other children and preferred to spend time in front of his computer. (It is unfortunate that the video uses the term ‘antisocial’ in reference to this sort of behavior, for ‘antisocial’ is a personality disorder and not an aspect of Jungian type.)

But even though the video gets its terms mixed up, the narrator might still have a point. In the management literature on Bill Gates he is predominantly described as an introvert and he certainly does not appear very gregarious or outgoing in interviews. But in the preceding sections we have argued that Bill Gates does not use Ti, but rather Te. So could Gates be an introvert, an INTJ perhaps?

Perhaps. It all depends on how one defines extroversion. In the popular parlance, as well as in trait theory (which is another school of personality studies), extroversion is defined in its more commonsensical meaning of being outgoing, animated, gregarious and so on. This view is what could be called a behavioral view of extroversion because it is primarily concerned with looking at concretely observable behavior. If we employ such a perspective, then Gates could maybe work as an introvert.

However, there is a contrasting view to the behavioral view, which is called the psycho-dynamic or psycho-analytic view. Rather than looking at concrete behavior, the psycho-dynamic view favors the more abstract approach of attempting to determine whether a person’s predominant cognitive fixation is with either the external world on its own terms and “without a filter” (in which case he is an extrovert), or if the person rather has “an extra layer” of subjective thoughts and sentiments wedged in between their cognition and the world (in which case he is an introvert).

This latter view is the view that Jung and Myers subscribed to, and if viewed through this lens, Bill Gates is indeed an extrovert. We would love to produce some cogent arguments to support this assertion that Gates does not have such ‘an extra layer’, but it is always hard to argue a negative, e.g. “prove that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, “prove that the Easter bunny does not exist.”

However, in arguing the primacy of Te in Gates’ psyche, we would allude to authors such as E.D. Hirsch and J. Martin Rochester who both describe Bill Gates as a “fact-grubber.” Such a descriptor attests to extroverted thinking’s tendency to rely on the facts, depend upon the facts, dwell upon the facts, and take refuge in a multitude of facts, and simultaneously to the fact, that sensing is unlikely to be Gates’ repressed function, thus speaking against INTJ.

In closing, we would also submit the following quotes from Bill Gates as attesting to his general extroverted attitude:

[Asked if he felt a degree in Business would help him run Microsoft better:]

“Let me put it this way. Say you added two years to my life and let me to go business school. I don’t think I would have done a better job at Microsoft. Let’s look around these shelves and see if there are any business books. Oops. We didn’t need any.”

“When I go to a meeting … there isn’t much small talk … we discuss accounts … and we’re done. Bang! There are always more challenges than there are hours, so why be wasteful?”

“I envy people who thrive on three or four hours of sleep a night. They have so much more time to work.”

***

With these remarks we hope to have raised some doubts as to the possibility of Bill Gates being an INTP. As for direct arguments for why we believe Bill Gates to be an ENTJ, those will perhaps be the subject of a future post if there is a demand for it. But in the end, the most important thing is not what we think, or what the person who made that video thinks, but that you form your own conclusion.

In closing, however, we wish to leave the final word to Bill Gates. Why did Microsoft win out where other software companies failed?

“Most of our competitors were very poorly run.”

6 Comments

  1. Justin Keaney says:

    I dunno where to post this, so I’ll just randomly post it here: I’m pretty sure that Will Smith (and also his character on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where he was basically just playing himself) are ENFP.

    Exhibit One:
    http://quotecorner.com/Will-Smith-quotes.html

    Exhibit Two:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=q5nVqeVhgQE

    E/I is no debate: Will is so consistently energized by conversation and activity to be I – there is no reflective wall between him and the outer world.

    I wouldn’t have assumed this until i read the quotes and saw the video above, but based on the quotes, his interest in being unconventional, his idealism, his interest in philosophy and abstract thought (he reads philosophers and makes his kids read philsophy), and most importantly, his frequent use of abstract language and conceptualization, he’s an N.

    I also wouldn’t have automatically assumed that he was an F, but the quotes/video, especially the frequent mentioning that life must be lived to help others, make me think he’s an F, specifically an NF idealist.

    J/P I don’t have an amazing rationale for, other than he seems to fit the template of an ENFP, perhaps the most optimistic and silly of types, better than ENFJ to me and seems too improvisational, flexible, freewheeling, and not anxious or stodgy enough to be J. Plus I totally buy the EN/IF stack, moreso than the EF/IN stack. But I’m open to debate on that.

    To the actual point of the article, I’ve been pretty convinced by the quotes on your site that Gates is ENTJ. I would have reflexiely assumed that he was INTP based on physical stereotypes, perhaps in the same way I had Will Smith pegged as an ESXP before seeing the exhibits I mentioned.

  2. Axel Nilsson says:

    Couldn’t you sort of say that some personality types are probably less likely to engage in physical activities and hence more likely to be slim or overweight than others though?

    Not that it has any relevance regarding the matter at hand or has any real practical usage in determining peoples personality types, just wondering if it’s a reasonable assumption.

  3. admin says:

    Yes, you could say that but as you also hint, it is an argument from statistics, which cannot be used to determine the type of one person. :-)

  4. JackPrez says:

    Because one slick idiot produces an easily digestible video, with the faux smell of respectability.

    It has been drilled it into people that cognitive functions = deeper understanding, so the public trust that now, and hence this idiot knows this too. So all they end up doing is sounding more advanced, because they babbling a string of “complicated sounding” words to the average audience who DOESN’T understand the functions just like this douchebag idiot doesn’t understand the difference between Te and Ti.

    This “knowledge” of Bill Gates being an INTP, then gets repeated on other forums, and even landed up on Quora.

    Now when someone goes searching… boom it looks like there is this huge debate and many people are saying ‘all over the place’ that BG is INTP… Maybe 2 years from now there will be “consensus” even on INTP in certain circles.

    One lone idiot… has turned into an army of misinformed.

  5. Me says:

    Fact: I tested as and ENTJ for many years. Now when I take the test, I am score as an INTP. I am not very surprised that I test differently now. Over the years, experiences and introspection have certainly changed my personality to an extent.

    Do we really expect that all humans are incapable of change?

  6. Me says:

    Apparently, I no longer speak english. Sheesh.

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