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What Personality Type is Frank Underwood?


What Personality Type is Frank Underwood?

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"House of Cards", the American version, is an original Netflix series. It's a political drama following the main character, Frank Underwood.

He's ... interesting. Manipulative, superior, condescending, egocentric, scheming, planning, talented in tactics, strategy, and diplomacy, cunning, highly intelligent, and ruthless.

So, naturally, I wondered - which Personality Type fits this description?

Given the right circumstances, every single one, I'd say.

Still, these particular circumstances are the political arena. We know that Frank, or Francis, as his wife calls him, attended a military college and despite poor grades graduated with a Law degree from Harvard.(1)

One could argue that the Types most likely to be drawn to public service are the Stabilizers(TM): ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ESFJ. They are inherently skilled at logistics, and have the deep-seated psychological need for membership, belonging, responsibility, and duty.

While people of all Types are drawn to serve their country or practice law for different reasons, Frank's reasons seem to be power and influence.

“Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.”(2)

The Interaction Style(TM) that's most likely to be driven by a need to achieve and exerting control is the In-Charge(TM) style. Types in this group are ESTJ, ENTJ, ESTP, and ENFJ.

He's often seen sitting by the window and smoking all night, connecting with his wife and making plans. He's analyzing long-ranging cause and effects, mentally juggling dozens of representatives, their affiliations and pressure points in his head, showing tremendous ability of analysis. Introverted Thinking (Ti) is the function often associated with this skill, and the Types with dominant Ti are ISTP and INTP.

His success might be attributed to his analytical skills, but what if there are deeper forces at work? Frank's success rate in knowing and predicting how different scenarios are likely to play out is impressive. This gift for foresight might point us to the skills of introverted Intuiting (Ni), dominant for INTJ and INFJ Types.

Out of the 16 Types, these broad strokes covered the following possibilities:





Though planning, analyzing, and strategizing are traits usually associated with the Thinking preference, I'm reluctant to rule out Feeling altogether. Introverted Feeling of Fi is also known as the valuing function, that thing we do when we run something through our internal filter of right-wrong, yes-no, like-dislike. Frank grew up as a child of a peach farmer in rural South Carolina, which might have instilled a value of money and luxury in him, which in turn may be the driving force behind his need for power. Either way, Type doesn't explain everything, the environment plays an important role as well.

If we're looking at Temperament again, what is his inner motivation? Is it responsibility and duty (SJ), meaning, significance, and personal growth (NF), the freedom to act and ability to make an impact (SP), or mastery, knowledge, self-control, and competence (NT)?(3)

My vote would go to the latter, which leaves us with INTJ, INTP, ENTJ, and ENTP. All NTs have innate strategic skill sets. The TPs excel at analyzing, the TJs at organizing and getting things done. The NJs are great at intuitively knowing, the NPs at seeing themes, patterns, and possibilities.

I'm inclined to go with INTJ for Frank Underwood, because of his elaborate planning. He doesn't seem to prefer acting at the spur of a moment, although he is able to do so and frequently must. INTJs have a Chart-the-Course(TM) Interaction Style, which places them at a vantage point, overseeing how all items come together in one play.

Leading with introverted Intuiting (Ni), INTJs seem to have superior knowledge of the universe, dipping into wisdom pools of the collective unconscious. Supported by extraverted Thinking (Te), they see their ideas realized in the world. Fi is in the third position, enabling them to have fun with their values. Extraverted Sensing (Se) is the "inferior" function, meaning he's likely to indulge in bad foods when stressed, while at the same time he's aspiring to get fit with more exercise.

Yeah, I feel pretty good about INTJ. For now. Haven't seen the whole season yet. Then again, it's called "House of Cards" for a reason - everything can collapse in on itself in an instant. ;-)

Have you seen the show? What do you think?


If you'd like to know your Type and compare it to others, consider investing in a license to access Matrix Insights - the software that provides not only your in-depth profile, but also comparative reports, development strategies, and actionable tips on how to take Type to work. 



3 Essential Motivators, Linda V. Berens

4. Interaction Styles, Linda V. Berens

Image by peterjroberts, Flickr, creative commons license



The SCARF® Model for Leadership - 3.0

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Just fyi, you can find me over at from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 

PET scan, public domain, by Jens Langner

PET scan, public domain, by Jens Langner

In SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, David Rock presents findings from various social neuroscience studies. Two emerging themes stand out:

Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward (Gordon, 2000). Secondly, that (…) social needs are treated in much the same way in the brain as the need for food and water. (Lieberman and Eisenberger, 2008)

If you have time to read the whole piece, I recommend it.

In brief, the brain’s threat or “avoid” response results in increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. When stressed, you are not able to think clearly, because the region of your brain that deals with executive functions like reasoning, linear processing, or even creative problem solving (pre-frontal cortex) doesn’t receive enough oxygen or glucose. Instead, you are more likely to generalize and play it safe (activating the amygdala, part of the older limbic brain structure also handling instinctive fight-or-flight responses).

The brain’s reward or “approach” response results in increased levels of happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. When rewarded, you feel engaged and motivated. You feel safe, joyful, and are more likely to see alternative options to problem solving and take risks.

The SCARF® model explains how the following five concepts affect our experiences with other people:

  • Status (how important are you compared to others)
  • Certainty (how well can you predict the future)
  • Autonomy (how much control do you have over certain events)
  • Relatedness (how safe and connected do you feel with others)
  • Fairness (how fair are your social interactions)

Rock explains that leaders can do the following things to reduce threat and increase reward for each aspect:

Adapted from David Rock's paper

Adapted from David Rock's paper

As with many other models or leadership frameworks, the limitation I see is that they were conceived and probably tested from a uniquely Western, if not even limited United States point-of-view.

Dr. David Rock and Christine Cox, Ph.D also published SCARF® in 2012: updating the social neuroscience of collaborating with others. They propose using the model to evaluate emotional responses before, during, and after an event and added findings from more recent social neuroscience research. Some suggestions mention a cultural and personality-trait variations, e.g.

  • (…) the importance of status for an individual may be a basic personality trait and can influence social interactions even if he or she is not aware of it.
  • (…) Individual differences in various personality traits can also affect the way that people process and respond to uncertain and ambiguous situations.
  • (…) Across the globe, psychological prosperity (such as a sense of autonomy), as opposed to economic prosperity, better predicts feelings of well-being.
  • (…) It appears that the definition of in-group and out-group members is not limited to racial, ethnic, or political distinctions
  • (…) emotions are integral to judging fairness, and those judgments emerge over time through social experiences with others.

SCARF® "3.0"?

For the past five days, I’ve been blogging about the SCARF® model from a culture and personality Type perspective (note: trait and Type are not the same thing).

I propose to add future research studies to be controlled for – or at least take into consideration - these factors to give us a clearer understanding of how our brains work depending on Type and cultural environments.


Summary of my blog posts from the past 5 days

Summary of my blog posts from the past 5 days


3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect


3 Tips to Maintain Your Self-Respect

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (public domain picture)

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
(public domain picture)


- Eleanor Roosevelt

Our brains are constantly at work, processing messages and releasing hormones based on often-unconscious cues. These hormones influence our moods and behaviors, and I invite you today to become a little more aware of how your levels of self-respect can trigger them.

Last week, I wrote about how people from different cultures allocate respect – some value achievement and believe personal effort can get you anywhere if you just work hard enough; and that is worthy of admiration. Society can shift and people make their own luck.

Others, probably based on historical socio-political circumstances and stronger class-systems, believe your own personal effort can only get you so far: what matters most is the family you’re born into, or the position you hold. Society is mostly stable and so are its people. 

We also mentioned how different personality types and Temperaments probably pay attention to different key items: for the Theorist™ (NT) that’s expertise, for the Catalyst™ (NF) that’s meaning, for the Stabilizer™ (SJ) that’s responsibility, and for the Improviser™ (SP) that’s freedom.

Now let me ask you:

How much do you respect yourself, and what is that opinion based on?

I think our measure of self-respect depends on at least two scales:

a) How do we compare to others, and
b) How do we compare to our own internal compass of values and morals.

Let’s briefly look at our own internal compass first.

It is probably calibrated during the first few years of our life, as we unconsciously mimic and take on our parents’ (and when in our teens, peers’) demonstrated behaviors as points of reference.

Yes, that’s demonstrated behaviors, not talked-about principles. If your Dad yells at you STOP SHOUTING, what are you going to remember? When it comes to impressionable children that we all once were, actions speak louder than words.

Of course, I don’t necessarily mean children will repeat their parents’ example; I think we all know that children also like to rebel and do the complete opposite of what they see at home. Either way, home sets the first frame of reference.

Your internal compass of values and morals, then, depends not only on the culture and time you grew up in, but also in what you saw demonstrated during your formative years, and how your innate psychological type preferences predisposed you to interpret and act on what you learned.

If you think of yourself as a conscientious person, you’ll feel like you let yourself down when you forget a friend’s birthday, for example. If you think of yourself as an expert, you’ll feel embarrassed when you don’t know the answer to a question, and so on. (If you want to pour yourself a cup of tea now and stroll down memory lane to see where your today’s values and self-respect may be rooted in, be my guest. I’ll wait here til you come back. :-))

Ready to move on? Good! Now then, since we’re social animals, I have to ask:

How do you compare yourself to others?

This scale is equally as interesting, and equally wrought with unconscious processes that some reflection will hopefully help us become more aware of.

Thanks to new technologies like fMRI and EEG scans helping to understand how our brain works, research into social inter-personal neuroscience is a lot easier now than it used to be – and we’re still only scratching the surface.

  • For example, did you know that feeling better about yourself activates the same reward-systems in your brain than if you won the lottery (Izuma et al 2008)?
  • You’ve probably heard about women of all sizes feeling bad after reading the (retouched!) glossy magazines (Hamilton et al 2007).
  • Or how about the one that shows being excluded from a group, aka experiencing ‘social pain’, lights up the same brain regions as actual physical pain (Eisenberger et al 2003)?

As far as I know, neither of these studies controlled for cultural or Type preferences. Still, all show indications that we are wired to co-exist and experience ourselves as part of a social system. Yes, we feel better when we’re aligned with our own values, but it’s also natural to compare ourselves to others. Hey, we even compare us to ourselves – just think of beating your time jogging around the park, or cleaning those candy jellies in 5 moves instead of 7.

Comparison happens. (Tweet this.)

And when it does, your brain sends out either happy-hormones (oxytocin) or stress-hormones (cortisol), depending on whether you see yourself better-than or less-than whatever or whomever you’re comparing yourself to.

Since lower levels of cortisol are linked to living longer and healthier lives, it’s in your best interest to have healthy levels of self-respect. Here’s how you can work on that:

1. Remember that you are valuable, just as you are.

Many of us grow up learning conditional love, like getting an extra hug when we cleaned up our room and being scolded when we traipsed muddy footsteps across the freshly mopped floor. You are no longer a child, you are an adult, and you are worthy of love and belonging. You are enough. Excellent resources I’d like to recommend here in case you need reminders are Brené Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability, and the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.

2. Remember that it’s the 21st Century

You’re no longer a great ape in a herd who’s not getting fed if you mess up. Basically, that’s when these brain functions were established and where many of those stress levels come from. So, when you’re comparing yourself to someone else and feel like you’re coming up short, your brain will release cortisol, effectively shutting down your pre-frontal cortex (PFC). That’s the region that’s used for reasoning and all sorts of executive decision-making. In other words, every time you’re feeling less-than, you’re actually unable to talk yourself out of it, because that reasonable part of the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen or glucose to function properly. Your IQ literally drops a few points.

Take a deep breath to calm down. You won’t be able to in the very moment, but hopefully this awareness will help you get to that “oh wow, that conversation / person / situation really makes me feel inferior, I need to take a calm breath now”-moment faster. (Some studies also show a sugary drink might help boot up the PFC faster - but you might want to consider your teeth, wallet, and weight before you grab a coke.) You are an adult in the 21st Century, and you will be fine. Your survival is not threatened by an airbrushed size 2 teenager on the cover of a magazine at checkout. (Tweet this.)

3. Remember your power

How many times have you bragged about your achievements or talked down to someone else? It’s one thing to be proud of what you’ve worked for, and yes – you earned that. Celebrate it. Just remember whom you’re talking to. If your friend just got sacked, this may not be the right time to bring up your promotion. If your friend is 8 months pregnant, this may not be the right time to share your latest weight-loss and fitness tricks.

You’re not the only one comparing yourself to others, others also compare themselves to you. And I think we all know what it’s like when we’re just plain happy, share the happiness, and have our friends react defensively. It’s easy to think “gosh, they’re jealous; why can’t they just be happy for me?” and they probably are. But now you know, their brain is sending out stress hormones making them feel less-than-you

To sum up, how we think of ourselves actually influences our hormone-levels and consequently our mental and physical health. Many negative triggers are unconscious and challenging to get a handle on without the proper awareness. Hopefully, this article gave you at least one strategy to get yourself out of the less-than hole faster, namely love yourself, breathe, and have empathy for others.

In case of doubt, what would Eleanor Roosevelt do?  

Image by hehaden, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



Your Million-Dollar Mindset

Pic credit

Pic credit

Staying with the topic of money for one more day, let's have a closer look at how your money personality may be showing up. The following are notes I took at a money 2.0 seminar for entrepreneurs held by Monica Shah, and I hope you find them helpful. 


In order to understand money, we have to become comfortable talking about it.

In order to be able to talk about it, we need to understand our relationship to money. In your own minds, or on a piece of paper if you like, complete these sentences:

  • When I see something I absolutely love that is super expensive, I say to myself:
  • When I look at my bank account and there’s less money than I thought, I say to myself
  • When someone asks me what I make in a year, I say to myself
  • When I hear that someone made over a million dollars, I say to myself

Is there a different money voice in your head than what you say out loud? How do you feel about your inner money voice?

One of my biggest take-aways from that seminar was that numbers are just information, not judgment on who you are or where you’re going.

For example, if you take your baby’s temperature, and the thermometer shows 97, you’re fine. If you take your baby’s temperature and the thermometer shows 99, you might consider giving it a kiddie Tylenol. If it shows 102.5, you don’t yell at your baby for having a fever! You take the number as information that you should probably get him to a doctor.

Stop yelling at yourself for having “bad” numbers. Just like you’d give your baby a cloth or take him to hospital – you can decide to stop spending, start saving, or get your hustle on.

The numbers are about the baby’s past, not its future. The baby’s not going to be sick rest of his life – and neither is your bank account.


Monica identified four money types, and with our psychological type information, we know that they may map onto our Temperaments and preferences. She calls hers:

The avoider, the saver, the spender, and the martyr.


  • Majority of entrepreneurs in first year
  • Unclear about bills, doesn’t like numbers
  • Unclear about how much money is coming in
  • Don’t understand the relationship between money and what you have to do to get what you want.
  • Magic of manifestations, “knowing numbers would ruin magic”
  • Numbers can magnify what you can create – power is within you.
  • ACTION – know your numbers, use systems/reports to enhance clarity, have money dates – look at your numbers once a week
  • Mantra: My numbers aren’t who I am today.


  • Joe Cool about money
  • Probably no debt, but if so there's a plan how to pay it off; savings
  • Clear what you’re willing to spend money on
  • Playing it safe, not taking risks
  • “I’m proving myself”, I’m a good person
  • Whose approval are you looking for?
  • ACTION – spend within 30 days, holding on too tightly stifles flow of ideas & opportunities. Start a “FUN” account, goal is to put money in a fun account every month – consistent rule. Your job is to spend that money within 30 days. On yourself. Build muscle of knowing that it’s ok to spend and that there’ll be more coming to spend in the future, too.
  • Mantra: Money is energy, and all energy is in flow. Don’t let it stagnate or it can’t come back to you.


  • So much fun to be around
  • They’ll get you to buy things, too
  • Often in debt, rationalizes spending, e.g. it’s for learning, only one more book…
  • Spend for emotional reasons, not the real one behind it, think there’s a connection to love, approval, having friends
  • Is there over-spending in one particular category? E.g. clothes, rent, food… make a budget for that area. You’ll feel more empowered and in control.
  • ACTION – money advisor & budget, recognize how you make decisions about spending from emotional place. Heart, head and mind may give mixed messages; advisor helps better understand money-spending decisions. Make sure they’re objective and no personal agenda, i.e. not your partner.
  • Mantra: “I can have money or love/approval/acceptance”


  • Good at what they do
  • Have trouble accepting money for what you do
  • Everybody is a friend and should get a discount
  • Hard time owning own value
  • “There’s something wrong with asking for money.”
  • Inner voice about fraud / value system / spiritual alignment
  • Needs to be worked on and healed so you can enjoy receiving
  • ACTION – script sales calls & practice positive expansive growth money voices. Say “it’s $500” (or whatever the cost) and hit the mute button. Let the amount sink in, give your client a moment to process. Say whatever you want while you’re off air.
  • Mantra: If I make more, I can do more.  

Have you identified your money type?


Let’s recap:

  • Numbers are just information.
  • Money loves to be understood.
  • Money loves clarity.

By the way, it’s ok to wish it were easier, but there’s simply no use in resisting. 

Just remind yourself of why you want to make more money? What’s your desire?

Desire drives behavior.

Set that intention.



Managing Your Career Transition with Type

Pic Credit: master isloated images

Pic Credit: master isloated images

Notes from Friday's Career Symposium with Carol Linden (US ENFP) from and Ann Holm (US ENFP) from at the Association for Psychological Type's International Conference.  

I’m not asking you to not be who you are, I’m just asking you to manage it better.
— Otto Kroeger

During a job search process, knowledge of Type can give you essential clues how to

  • Ace interviews
  • Take care of yourself during times of ambiguity

If you have preferences for Introversion, "selling yourself" may feel like a challenge. Remember

  • It ain't braggin' if it's true
  • Recognize that your strengths are unique to you
  • You can help the interviewer see and trust you, so they can hire the most qualified person for the position

All Types need to practice, practice, practice

  • Telling concise stories about your experience in context, highlighting actions, learnings, and results
  • Adapting to the interviewer's style in mock interviews

Losing your job or having to look for a new one when it wasn't your idea can be frustrating. Don't skip the grieving process, acknowledge what you're going through. Honor your preferences by doing what you would normally do, i.e.

  • Extraverts, don't shut yourself in at home - keep socializing and networking
  • Introverts, don't go out and overdo new group activities - keep networking relevant with one-on-one conversations and make time to reflect

Remember, if you're unemployed and stressed, so is your partner / spouse. 

Which tips would you add?


Your Body Never Lies - Four Personality Type Movement Styles


Your Body Never Lies - Four Personality Type Movement Styles

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons

You know when people tell you to lift out of your knees to protect your lower back? Well, they may be right, but if you have preferences for Intuiting, that’s probably not what comes naturally to you.

At the APTi Conference last week, I participated in the pre-conference workshop about Type in Motion. How do our cognitive functions show up in our bodies? Presenters Rianne and Dick made a high claim at the beginning:

Your Body Never Lies.

I was intrigued.

We started off with introductions, and jumped right into some exercises. Literally. The first exercise was a long-jump, which Rianne filmed in slow motion and later showed to us so we could see first-hand how we move, and the differences between function preferences in the group. Other exercises involved throwing balls and a tug-of-war.

We learned about two questions to gauge indications for the cognitive functions (perception functions of Sensing or Intuiting S or N; judgment functions of Thinking or Feeling T or F) by observing how people move:

1.     Do they use bottom up or top-down movement?

2.     Do their shoulders and hips remain locked or counter-rotate?

Caveat: This blog post obviously only represents the gist of it, so please do not take one observation point as proof of someone’s Type preferences!

When you jump, do you squat down into your knees to gather strength from your thighs, or are you more likely to stay quite straight and push off engaging your calves and toes?

People who tend to squat and use their thighs are using bottom-up movement, which is an indication for the Sensing preference. They engage and charge up, feet flat on the ground.

People who tend to move vertically and use more their calves and toes use top-down movement, which is an indication for the Intuiting preference. They engage and charge up leaning forward and stretching their backs.

When you sit on the edge of your seat and twist to one side as far back as you can, do your knees go inward or do they open up to the same side?

If you’re twisting to the right and your right leg stays firmly planted on the floor, perhaps your knees even go slightly inward, you’re probably trying to counterbalance to get further into your rotation. This would be dissociating hips and shoulders.

If your knees move with your shoulders, you get further into your rotation through associating the two.

Bottom up and associated movement correlates with SF; aka gross motor skills.
Bottom up and dissociated movement correlates with ST; aka fine motor skills.

Top down and associated movement correlates with NT; aka cerebral motor skills.
Top down and dissociated movement correlates with NF; combined motor skills.

Rianne uses this knowledge primarily in sports and her work with athletes and teams. She recommends coaches use type awareness to help athletes be their best by adapting techniques to their preferences. E.g. a swimmer with an S preference might go down into their knees on the starting block and push off using the strength of their thighs, while a swimmer with an N preference may have better and faster start-off results from a higher bend at the hips.

I see it as a useful additional lens to perhaps clarify S or N preferences in people with a slight result on the MBTI questionnaire. I’m also not going to feel bad anymore that I can’t squat down in Zumba as far as other dancers.

If you’d like to learn more about Type in Motion, please contact Dick Otter on and Rianne van Strien at We’ll work on bringing their certification program to the States in 2014, so I’ll be sure to update the events calendar with more information when I have it.