Years ago I read Elizabeth Puttick’s The Seven Personality Types: Discover your true role to achieve success and happiness (ISBN 9781848500464). It was mentioned in my Influential Books post.
This has been one of the most useful self-help books I’ve ever read. There are plenty of other personality theories out there but this one has been the simplest for me to understand, most useful for helping me understand myself, and easiest to personally verify. It’s laid out very plainly that no-one is only one type (everyone has traits of all 7 but 2 tend to dominate), it gives examples of people with those predominant types, how they are likely to relate to each other, and it doesn’t exclude the possibility of change. In fact, Puttick lays it out that people tend to take on traits of different personality types according to profession, for example.
It’s also important to note that there are no hierarchies. None is better or worse than any other; they are all necessary for any healthily functioning society.
There are 7 personality types, or “roles” as Puttick calls them. It’s easiest to list them first then explain later:
ARTISAN, KING, PRIEST, SAGE, SCHOLAR, SERVER, WARRIOR
Before delving deeper into them, there are some other things she lists out that flesh out the bones of this personality system:
These are the primary ways of being in the world. There are 4 axes:
- Expression, the process of communicating personal insights to others as well as beautifying the world. This may be through speech, writing, performance, drawing, painting, sign language, facial expressions, whatever. Artisan and Sage are the roles that do this best.
- Inspiration, the process of reminding or informing people of a “greater good”, “higher purpose” or anything beyond the hustle & bustle of everyday life. They tend to come to the fore in times of hardship and suffering. Priest and Server do this best.
- Action, which is all about getting stuff physically done! This entails organising, collaborating, building, leading and following. King and Warrior do this best.
- Integration, the power to turn data & information into knowledge and understanding, as well as bring people and ideas together. Scholar is specialised for this.
This means the way a person deals with the world. There are 3 such focuses:
- Ordinal, or narrow. This means such people are better at doing stuff in the immediate present or short term, being realistic and practical, handling small groups and one-to-one relationships. This comprises the Artisan, Server & Warrior.
- Cardinal, or wide. This means such people are better at taking a long-term view, being in charge, handling large groups and big plans. This comprises the King (fairly obviously), Priest and Sage.
- Neutral, the ability to stand back and evaluate things “objectively”. It’s the midway point between ordinal and cardinal, and as such can easily swing either way. This comprises the Scholar.
To sum up, Artisan is the ordinal expression role, Sage is cardinal expression. Server is ordinal inspiration, Priest is cardinal inspiration. Warrior is ordinal action, King is cardinal action, and Scholar is the neutral integration role.
These are the main positive and negative aspects of the roles. All 7 roles have both a -ve and +ve side, which will be explained in Parts 2-5.
These are a person’s worldview, what they feel or believe about the world. Puttick describes 5, and just like the roles themselves each perspective has a positive and negative side:
- Survival-oriented, or “me vs. the world”. This is concerned with day-to-day survival of oneself and loved ones, and everyone is prone to this when faced with extreme situations like war, losing all your money, getting lost in a jungle, etc. Its +ve pole is survival (of self & loved ones), -ve is ruthlessness & selfishness.
- Rule-bound, or “know your place”. Such people believe very firmly in authority, hierarchy, tradition, obedience and conformity. Its +ve pole is stability and safety, -ve is inflexibility and intolerance of change or difference.
- Competing, or “I win/someone else loses”. These are the ones who believe in making their mark, and all problems can be solved by chucking enough money at it. Its +ve pole is competence and prosperity, -ve is greed and inequality. Interestingly, it’s with this perspective that the roles’ negative poles manifest at their worst.
- Relationship-oriented, or “let’s get along”. With this perspective people are empathic, cooperative and tend to have a strong sense of personal ethics. Its +ve pole is insight, emotional intelligence, innovation & social evolution. Its -ve pole is confusion (due to the high-intensity dramas that often accompany such a person’s relationships).
- Philosophical, or “there’s something beyond all this”. These people like to delve into the deeper meaning and purpose of things. The +ve pole is wisdom and spirituality (but normally outside the confines of conventionally-defined religions). The -ve pole is detachment, and sometimes arrogance and laziness.
Puttick reckons there’s a natural progression from 1st to 5th, though people can change back and forth at any time. My personal experience, however, inclines me to disagree with the order. It implies that Survivalist is “worst/ least mature” and Philosophical is “best/ most mature”, but I have swung all the way from 5th to 1st throughout my life and can personally attest that both are as good and bad as each other. I agree, though, there is a fundamental shift in focus between 3rd and 4th.
In Parts 2-5 I will explain the roles themselves, including their interactions with each other and poles, and in Part 6 I’ll list the questionnaire you can use to determine your own personality type…