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Elizabeth Wagele


What Is Putin’s Personality Type?

What motivates him—a sense of duty or drive for power?

Key points

  • "Questioners" and "Asserters" in the Enneagram personality system can be difficult to tell apart.
  • Vladmir Putin seems to be the Questioner personality type based on his desire to demonstrate his physical abilities coupled with insecurity.
  • Questioners in the Enneagram are frequently motivated by their sense of duty.

Sometimes, my readers let me know they're upset when they disagree with how I type a famous person, especially when they think I mistake a counter-phobic Questioner for an Asserter, or vice versa. These two types, which can both be aggressive, are often difficult to tell apart.

So which type is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, second Prime Minister of the Russian Federation (following Yeltsin)?

The counter-phobic Questioners I know act tough but sit on a base of fear or insecurity, which they try to hide. Their behavior often vacillates and they use sarcasm or other kinds of complicated wit. They build themselves up, often literally by working out or playing a sport. They're interested in intrigue, such as conspiracy theories or what the CIA is up to.

Asserters I know don't seem as fear-based or as interested in proving something. I've seen them walk away from conflict because someone isn't worth the trouble or because the issue doesn't interest them. Of course, if it is important to them, they're formidable opponents.

Asserters are good at enforcement. They make good bouncers because they're naturally commanding. Questioners are interested in all kinds of security, from Homeland Security to safe food production to international spy rings to the earthquake-safe of buildings.

About Putin

Putin was born in 1952 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). He has a Ph.D. in Economics, graduated from the Law Department of Leningrad State University, and worked for the KGB in East Germany.

I chose Putin to write about today because he seems the opposite of Richard Branson, about whom I wrote in my blog last week. Both are billionaires, but Branson has high ideals and uses much of his money for good. He's for the 99% and helping make our earth a healthy place. Putin is considered a despot by many, a malevolent dictator who schemes to remain the head of the country forever, though the law states the Prime Minister has an eight-year limit. Rumor has it he has put his wife in a mental hospital so he can hang around with a woman in her twenties.

Putin Is a "Questioner"

I think Putin is a Questioner in the Enneagram personality system. He tries to prove he's a tough guy by demonstrating his physical abilities and taking part in dangerous acts, such as extreme sports and interacting with wild animals. There was also a Russian TV broadcast video of him co-piloting a firefighting plane to dump water on a raging wildfire. He shows his insecurity by clamping down on the freedom of the press. Russians have demonstrated against unfair elections and fear he intends to abolish municipal as well as regional elections.

Bloomberg Businessweek says Putin's background in intelligence "has reinforced his innate love of order, hierarchy, and organization. ‘His character and personality are definitely not those of a dictator. But he is a perfectionist and a controller,' says Alexander Rahr, director of the Koerber Institute on Russia & the CIS in Berlin and a biographer of Putin." Questioners need to control but often avoid becoming the head, aware as they are that the person at the top is an easy target.

His paranoia is also typical of a Questioner. He thinks like a spy and suspects everyone's motives. Bloomberg Businessweek concludes Putin does not crave the powers of a dictator. "People of this type are driven by a sense of duty."

Questioners in the Enneagram are also frequently motivated by their sense of duty.


About the Author

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.