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Jan 23rd, 2017

What Kind of President? Trump, ‘High-Dominance Charismatic’

President-elect Donald Trump leans over to talk with Vice President-elect Mike Pence during the 58th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP via St. Cloud Times)

By Aubrey Immelman
St. Cloud Times
January 20, 2017

On Friday, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in what, for some, was not so much an occasion for celebration as one of trepidation. In fact, no less than his predecessor painted Trump during the election campaign as “not qualified to be president.”

That raises the question: Does Trump have what it takes, in his words, to “Make America Great Again?” With no political track record in elected office, it’s difficult indeed to anticipate how Trump will lead.

Window to the future

Political psychology offers a window to the future. That’s because personality — a person’s ingrained behavior patterns — dictates how that individual will act over time in a broad variety of situations. In short, accurate personality assessment allows us to anticipate leadership behavior.

As previously reported (“Trump’s personality raises red flags,” Nov. 26, 2016), a psychological study of Trump conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics revealed that Trump’s predominant personality patterns are outgoing/impulsive and ambitious/exploitative (a measure of narcissism), infused with secondary features of the dominant/controlling pattern and low conscientiousness — a personality composite characterized as a “high-dominance charismatic.”

Because presidential behavior is dictated as much by circumstances and structural constraints on the power of the presidency as by personality — frequently more so — personality analysis can go only so far, painting presidential prospects in broad strokes rather than minute detail. In short, personality can point only to the general tenor of a prospective presidency.

Trump’s likely leadership style

As a “high-dominance charismatic” Trump assumes the mantle of leadership with a Clintonian combination of extraversion and self-confidence, buttressed by a level of dominance not seen since Lyndon B. Johnson. In addition, he is practically devoid of his predecessor’s accommodating disposition (“Obama is a ‘confident conciliator,’ ” Sept. 8, 2012) or George H.W. Bush’s prudent conscientiousness.

Trump’s psychological profile raises the following generalized expectancies regarding his leadership style as president:

  • Leadership motivation: power, self-validation, pragmatism. As an extraordinarily confident individual with an unshakable belief in his own talents, leadership ability, and potential for success, a quest for power will be the prime motivator for Trump’s leadership behavior, punctuated by a need to control situations and dominate adversaries. Furthermore, Trump’s outgoing nature suggests concern with popular approval and a striving for self-validation to affirm his inflated self-esteem. In addition, he will likely be more pragmatic than ideological to consummate his political objectives.
  • Leadership orientation: goal directed, loyalty expected. Given his supreme self-confidence and high dominance, Trump will likely be more goal directed than relationship oriented. As a task-oriented leader, Trump will not permit the maintenance of good relations to stand in the way of goal achievement. This orientation will be offset to some extent by Trump’s outgoing tendencies which, in addition, will also prime him to place a high premium on loyalty among his advisors and members of his administration.
  • Job performance: energy dynamo. Big egos have a strong drive to prove themselves. Thus, Trump can be expected to be tireless in the amount of effort invested in carrying out the duties of his office. This tendency will be reinforced by strong power motivation stemming from high dominance and boundless energy derived from his extraverted, outgoing personality.
  • Managerial style: advocate, not consensus builder. In organizing and managing the decision-making process, Trump will be heavy on self-promotion and persuasion, making him more of an advocate for his policy agenda than a consensus builder or an arbitrator.
  • Dealing with Congress: competitive, controlling. In dealing with Congress, Trump will most likely act in a competitive and controlling manner — though he certainly is capable of behaving in a cooperative, harmonious fashion if he believes it will further his own self-interest.
  • The people and the press: active, uncooperative. In relating to the public, outgoing, confident leaders such as Trump typically are active and engaged, articulating and defending their policies in person rather than relying on surrogates and proxies. This tendency will be reinforced by Trump’s dominant, strong-willed, outspoken personality and fueled by his extraversion, which will feed his preference for direct engagement with the public. As for media relations, Trump will maintain a measure of harmony with the press, to the extent he feels he can call the shots. However, the likelihood of a highly critical press, in conjunction with Trump’s sensitivity to personal slights, portends a relatively closed relationship with the media characterized by a lack of cooperation that could quickly escalate to outright hostility.

Rash words may be par for the course in the heat of political campaigns and calling Trump unqualified may be best consigned to that particular chapter in the annals of presidential history. What cannot be denied is that President Trump counts among the least experienced incumbents in recent memory. Time will tell if Trump is equal to the daunting task he now faces in this new chapter of his illustrious, if checkered, career — and whether personality will be destiny.

This is the opinion of Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, where he directs a faculty-student collaborative research program in political psychology, the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics. Immelman specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.



Related reports

The Leadership Style of U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, January 2017. Abstract and link for full-text (14 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:

The Political Personality of 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, October 2016. Abstract and link for full-text (31 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons:



Related reports on this site

The Personality Profile of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump (Aug. 9, 2015)

Trump poster (2016)
Click on image for larger view

A Question of Temperament: Donald Trump’s Fitness to Lead (Dec. 4, 2016)

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University professor Aubrey Immelman, who predicted Donald Trump would win over Hillary Clinton based on their personality profiles, shown Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Immelman has predicted presidential winners correctly for the past 20 years. (Photo: Jason Wachter / St. Cloud Times)

3 Responses to “Donald Trump’s Leadership Style”
  1. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » The Personality Profile of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Says:

    […] Donald Trump’s Leadership Style (Jan. 23, 2017) […]

  2. Aubrey Immelman Says:

    Donald Trump’s FACE gives away his leadership style: Researchers say it shows an ‘aggressive, dominant and powerful’ man – but one prone to act unethically (Stacy Liberatore, Daily Mail, January 20, 2017).


    Cass Business School found that President Donald Trump’s leadership skills can be determined by his facial features.

    Because he has a masculine, older-looking and wide face, experts say he will likely be a dominant and powerful leader for the US.

    Researchers suggests these type of features mean the person is a better negotiator and financially successful.

    However, they are also linked to darker outcomes such as unethical behavior and exploitation of trust of others.

    A masculine face … is often seen as dominant and suggests the individual thrives in competitive settings – like wartime.

    On the other hand, masculine faces are found to appear less trustworthy and are not preferred in cooperative settings such as times of peace.

    Read more:

  3. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » In Memory of U.S. President George H. W. Bush (1924-2018) Says:

    […] Donald Trump’s Leadership Style (Jan. 23, 2017) […]

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