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. 

1 http://house-of-cards.wikia.com/wiki/Frank_Underwood

2 http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/10-life-lessons-can-learn-house-cards-frank-underwood/

3 Essential Motivators, Linda V. Berens

4. Interaction Styles, Linda V. Berens

Image by peterjroberts, Flickr, creative commons license