Image credit: Charles M. Gandolfo. Licensed per New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, Jerry Gandolfo and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Image credit: Charles M. Gandolfo, pursuant to an authorization from the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and Jerry Gandolfo by virtue of  a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. No changes were made to the image.


When I was Chief Judge, I convinced our judges to take and exchange the results of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory. I don’t remember where I ended up, but if you think “fascist” you’d be about right. My idea was that if the judges each understood the personality types of the other judges that the Age of Aquarius would be ushered in just like the Fifth Dimension told us it would in 1969. It didn’t work exactly as I had planned. When we were discussing the results, I think that was the first time I heard STFU screamed aloud. Just kidding.

(You will love the visual aspects of this music video. I miss 1969. It was so goofy. You could hum Age of Aquarius while secure in the knowledge that our country had an inexhaustible supply of napalm.)

In any event, Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp of our court recently persuaded all the judges to take another personality inventory. This time we took the Clifton StrengthsFinder® 2.0 put out by the Gallup Organization. Gallup claims to have distilled psychological theory into personal development practice by interviewing 1.7 million professionals from varying fields. Having quantified the different traits of the people they interviewed, they came up with 34 distinct patterns—what they call “talent themes”—that best describe the range of human uniqueness observed during their research:

  1. Achiever – one with a constant drive for accomplishing tasks
  2. Activator – one who acts to start things in motion
  3. Adaptability – one who is especially adept at accommodating to changes in direction/plan
  4. Analytical – one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances
  5. Arranger – one who enjoys orchestrating many tasks and variables to a successful outcome
  6. Belief – one who strives to find some ultimate meaning behind everything they do
  7. Command – one who steps up to positions of leadership without fear of confrontation
  8. Communication – one who uses words to inspire action and education
  9. Competition – one who thrives on comparison and competition to be successful
  10. Connectedness – one who seeks to unite others through commonality
  11. Consistency – one who believes in treating everyone the same to avoid unfair advantage
  12. Context – one who is able to use the past to make better decisions in the present
  13. Deliberative – one who proceeds with caution, seeking to always have a plan and know all of the details
  14. Developer – one who sees the untapped potential in others
  15. Discipline – one who seeks to make sense of the world by imposition of order
  16. Empathy – one who is especially in tune with the emotions of others
  17. Focus – one who requires a clear sense of direction to be successful
  18. Futuristic – one who has a keen sense of using an eye towards the future to drive today’s success
  19. Harmony – one who seeks to avoid conflict and achieve success through consensus
  20. Ideation – one who is adept at seeing underlying concepts that unite disparate ideas
  21. Includer – one who instinctively works to include everyone
  22. Individualization – one who draws upon the uniqueness of individuals to create successful teams
  23. Input – one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
  24. Intellection – one who enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation often for its own sake, and also can compress complex concepts into simplified models
  25. Learner – one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
  26. Maximizer – one who seeks to take people and projects from great to excellent
  27. Positivity – one who has a knack for bring the light-side to any situation
  28. Relator – one who is most comfortable with fewer, deeper relationships
  29. Responsibility – one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments
  30. Restorative – one who thrives on solving difficult problems
  31. Self-Assurance – one who stays true to their beliefs, judgments and is confident of his/her ability
  32. Significance – one who seeks to be seen as significant by others
  33. Strategic – one who is able to see a clear direction through the complexity of a situation
  34. Woo – one who is able to easily persuade

The “test” is taken online and the taker is presented with 177 stimuli and he or she makes 177 responses–each item lists a pair of potential self-descriptors, such as “I like to help people.” See The Clifton StrengthsFinder® 2.0 Technical Report: Development and Validation (February, 2007). The descriptors are placed as if anchoring opposite poles of a continuum. From that pair, the respondent is asked to choose the statement that best describes him or her, and also the extent to which that chosen option is descriptive of him or her. The participant is given 20 seconds to respond to a given item before the system moves on to the next item. Gallup stresses that the “StrengthsFinder” is not designed or validated for use in employee selection or mental health screening (too bad). According to Gallup, feedback is provided to foster intrapersonal development.  As a result, comparisons across profiles of individuals are discouraged by Gallup.

So, how did I do? In order, my “strengths” were (1) input–one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use; (2) learner–one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful; (3) intellection–one who enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation often for its own sake, and also can compress complex concepts into simplified models; (4) achiever–one with a constant drive for accomplishing tasks; (5) analytical – one who requires data or proof to make sense of their circumstances.

I have two questions for the bright folks who read this blog:

  • Are personality inventories like the MBTI® and the Clifton StrengthsFinder® more like voodoo than science?
  • If personality inventories such as these have value, what, if any, value do they have for federal judges individually or in the management of their courts?




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