Behavioural Profile Insights: Clinton vs Trump #PresidentialDebate

Character over Policy?

We all manage how we communicate and engage with others every day – we do it intuitively – after all 95% of what the brain does is done in the sub conscious.

When we are applying for a new job, we think very consciously about how we come across to others – what we say, how we say it, our body language – all these need to be managed if we are to get the job we want. And of course many enlightened employers use behavioural profiling surveys to get to know the real you as part of the selection process.

But when you are applying for the most important and high profile job on the globe / President of the United States of America – you will have a team of advisers to guide you. Whether you choose to accept the advice of course is another matter. These ‘spin doctors’ are well versed in image management and at this level will be using behavioural profiling and neuroscience to create the right impression for their candidates.

However, the American public doesn’t have the luxury of behavioural profile results to guide them in the election rat race. So with two of the three Presidential televised debates completed, I thought it was interesting to share my own behavioural insights on our two candidates.

Trump vs Clinton – The ‘Strength’ / ‘Weakness’ paradox


The US election between Trump and Clinton / Republicans vs Democrats has become a contest of character over policy. On one side we have Trump’s tax record and sexual transgressions and on the other Clinton’s e-mail deletions and husband Bill’s sexual history. It is the excesses of their behaviours that have become the focal point, rather than their strengths.

We all possess four behavioural orientations (See Cirumplex diagram 1). We all use each of them to one degree or another, but we normally use one or two as our preferred strengths – our ‘go to’ behavioural style, and we will likely under-use some orientations or neglect them.

But overplaying our strengths is dangerous – using them to excess can alienate people – particularly those who do not favour that orientation. This is called the Strength / Weakness paradox and is based on the work of an eminent social psychologist of the past – Erich Fromm

So let’s turn our attention to each candidate:

Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump – Republican nominee


Trump is high ‘Controlling’ – a strong visible preference. He is a confident, risk taker who clearly enjoys being in control and is very quick to act and react. You might expect when faced with the video tape evidence of his comments about women, he would back down – far from it, instead he went on the attack bold as brass.

There is no question he enjoys power and control and revels in his competence as a businessman, decrying Clinton’s deal making credentials.

Trump is high ‘Controlling’

copyrighted_donald_trump_2016_yard_signTrump’s past tax record was published which showed massive losses that allowed him to legally pay no tax. Again instead of backing down he revelled in his ability to play the system. Clinton’s accusations over his competence in running successful businesses didn’t seem to hurt him at all.

It is the excesses of ‘Controlling’ that are most damaging to him. He hired a new Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, and many commentators thought this was to try and curb his excesses. But is it working? How many of these descriptors of excessive ‘Controlling’ behaviour do you recognise in Trump?

  • Sacrifice thought for action
  • Dominate others and cut off flow of important ideas
  • Disrespectful and Dismissive
  • Makes others feel they are being interrogated
  • Winning at all costs
  • Arrogant

Being a risk taker and his willingness to change things is to many of his supporters the appeal of Trump. He shoots from the hip and did so in both live TV debates – frequently interrupting and over-talking both the moderators and Clinton. In the latest debate Trump was literally prowling behind Clinton when she was speaking – demonstrating his power. Most political commentators have critiqued his twitter rants as demonstration that he acts before thinking. Clinton has used this line to criticise him especially regarding his safety with the nuclear codes.

He demonstrates many ‘Adapting’ qualities and shows very little ‘Conserving’ behaviour

He also demonstrates many ‘Adapting’ qualities – particularly those on the Circumplex diagram next to ‘Controlling’. There is little doubt he inspires people – Trump is highly extrovert and enthusiastic. Exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures are typical of ‘Adapting’ behaviour. Many people will relate to this larger than life character.

But what about the left hand side of the circumplex? Trump shows very little ‘Conserving’ behaviour with minimal, if any, rational, logical, methodical and cautious behaviour. Political commentators and Clinton herself, criticise him for being short on detail and analytics – he is a big picture person.

‘Supporting’ behaviours are also in scant view – loyal, trusting, principled and ethical are words not often associated with Trump. Clinton has fiercely attacked his overt criticism of ethnic minorities. Is he a team player – there have been little visible signs of this though he has certainly inspired the team around him….and swathes of the American public – but this is more ‘Adapting’ than ‘Supporting’.

Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton – Democratic nominee


Her blend is definitely ‘Controlling’ with ‘Conserving’ – very task focused

So what about Clinton? Does she share anything in common with Trump? Well she certainly shows elements of strong ‘Controlling’ behaviour too – powerful, autonomous, decisive, assertive are all words that could describe her. Even Trump when asked in the last debate to suggest an attribute he admired in her, talked of her as a fighter and someone that doesn’t quit.

Many commentators would reflect on the fact that she has a massive drive to win – but perhaps at any cost.  People who get in her way are soon put aside so people say.  So she too, uses excessive ‘Controlling’ behaviours to excess – though not in the same way as Trump. Her ‘Controlling’ behaviours are those descriptors near the bottom of the circumplex.

clinton-adHer blend is definitely ‘Controlling’ with ‘Conserving’ – very task focused. In stark contrast to Trump, she is into the detail and trades on facts and evidence to support her views with a planned and structured campaign. She is described as the “status quo” candidate – not a risk taker – promoting tried and tested solutions – safety first, rather than radical change.

Critics point strongly to her lack of people skills. They say she doesn’t relate well to others –her visible external image being a trained “front” for the public.  She is seen as cold and calculating – trust, empathy, responsiveness to others are in limited supply.  What a contrast to her highly people-oriented, charismatic but flawed husband, Bill!

Her ‘Supporting’ behaviour is neglected.

Quality is a ‘Supporting’ trait of Clinton and combined with her attention to detail, facts and logic suggests that doing a ‘good job’ would be important to her. When Clinton has a cause she fights hard for it and quotes success with her work with children and women’s rights.

It is at the top of the Circumplex (Diagram 1) where she neglects the people skills of ‘Supporting’ and ‘Adapting’. The impact of her actions on others will not be high on her agenda. Objectivity rather than subjectivity and facts over emotion will be the order of her day.

 To conclude


It is staggering that this presidential contest has boiled down to a debate about character rather than policy. Both have strongly visible behavioural profiles – but the winner, in my view, is likely to be the one who can manage their behavioural traits more successfully in the coming weeks (See Self-Development Strategies Circumplex).

Purely from a behavioural management perspective the answers to the following questions are intriguing:

• Which of the two will capitalise on their strengths in a productive way?

• Who will manage to moderate their excesses to win more votes?

• Who will extend the use of their neglected orientations to woo the voters and win them over?

• Who will appeal to voters by bridging more successfully to all of the orientations?

• Who will be smart enough to supplement their skills by using others (have the potential Vice Presidents a key role to play here?)

So who do you think will prevail on November 8th?

Who do you connect and relate to more easily? Look out for more of my behavioural insights on my Twitter, LinkedIn and blog page on my website as the debate unfolds. Look out for the orientations they display – and please join the debate using the hashtag:

#sellerchameleon #presidentialdebate

If you want to find out more about how you can manage your behavioural profile more effectively please visit my web site or Life Orientations and connect with us: /

You can also follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn: @markwerskine /

Mark ErskineBehavioural Profile Insights: Clinton vs Trump #PresidentialDebate