INFJs are the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type—found in only one percent of the population. The combination of introversion, intuition, feeling and judging make INFJs insightful, persuasive, charismatic, and passionate. When famous INFJs worked for good, they were positive forces in the world. When they turned evil, they became dangerous and desperate people.
INFJs whose childhood influences nourished their desire to do good in the world include Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. INFJs turned evil include Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and David Koresh.
Here are their stories.
Born to the royal Thembu family in rural South Africa in 1918, Nelson Mandela spent his early boyhood tending cattle in the countryside. He grew up with two sisters in his mother’s village. At the age of seven, he was sent to a Methodist school where a teacher gave him the English name Nelson.
As a young man, Mandela studied law in Johannesburg. Because of his legal efforts against apartheid, he served over 27 years in prison. He was released in 1990 only after international organizations campaigned for his pardon. In 1994, he was elected South Africa’s first black leader. During his life, he received more than 250 honors, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. He died in 2013 at the age of 95.
Among the most influential leaders of the 20th century, Mandela exhibited the best traits of the Myers-Briggs INFJ type. He was eloquent and had a sharp sense of humor that defused many touchy situations. He was confident enough to laugh at himself frequently, endearing him to followers.
Born in 1869, Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual and political leader of India from 1921 until 1948. Gandhi was raised in a prominent Hindu family. When he was 19, he traveled to Britain to study law. Returning home, he led a nonviolent national struggle for India’s freedom from British rule, which was finally granted in 1947. It was his greatest achievement. He became famous for his many fasts to protest social injustice.
Gandhi was a true INFJ. Even at an early age, his value system was so strong that no one could talk him out of his convictions. Although deeply committed to social change, he achieved his goals without violence. He was a visionary who infected others with his dreams.
October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, is celebrated as the International Day of Nonviolence.
Born in 1929, Martin Luther King was leader of the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. He used Gandhi’s nonviolent methods to combat racial injustice. King organized numerous peaceful protests U.S. cities, including the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
As a child, King attended church regularly. His belief in the church’s mission led him to study the ministry in college. After earning a PhD degree at Boston University, he decided that church work helped him satisfy his “inner urge to serve humanity.” In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent protests against racial inequality.
In 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots followed in many U.S. cities. After his death, King received numerous posthumous awards. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was declared a U.S. holiday.
Martin Luther King showed the best traits of an INFJ. He was committed to his ideals and ready to put himself in peril to defend them. He was a brilliant speaker, articulate and forceful. He was able to convince others of his beliefs and pinsire them to action.
Born in 1889, Hitler was the leader of Nazi Germany from 1934 to the end of World War II. He was responsible for the deaths of at least 5.5 million Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Like many INFJs gone bad, Hitler had an unhappy childhood. He got in trouble at school, and his father beat him regularly.
Hitler’s only love was art, which his father considered a waste of time. Adolf was sent to a technical school where he performed poorly and dropped out. After his father died, he worked as a watercolor artist to make a living. His hopes for the future were dashed when he was rejected by Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts because of his poor academic record.
Hitler had an idealistic streak typical of many INFJs. He was a vegetarian, often trying to persuade friends to give up meat in their diet by describing the inhumane slaughter of animals. He quit drinking and smoking, as well. He was kind to a select few people around him and to his dogs, which he loved. Some of Hitler’s extreme behavior has been blamed on his amphetamine addiction during the war.
Born in 1957, Osama bin Laden was the founder of al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Bin Laden also claimed responsibility for other deadly attacks against civilian and military targets.
Bin Laden was raised a devout Muslim. As he was growing up, his main interest was religion, charitable work, writing poetry, and reading. In these respects, he was a model INFJ. Colleagues described him as gentle and soft spoken. However, like many INFJs, he was considered a mystery even by family members. He was known to be opinionated and severe in many situations. In the Muslim tradition, bin Laden had five wives and fathered over 20 children. Most of his wives were educated women, not subservient females as one might expect.
Bin Laden’s career as a jihadist began when he joined Muslim forces in Pakistan against the Soviets as a young man in 1979. His life ended in 2011 when he was killed in a covert military operation carried out by U.S. Special Forces and the CIA on the orders of President Barack Obama.
David Koresh was the charismatic young cult leader whose “Army of God”—the Branch Davidians— had a 51-day stand-off with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The siege began after the cult stockpiled weapons to prepare for the apocalypse. The ensuing firestorm left 76 cult members and 4 federal employees dead. Koresh shot himself in the head.
Born to an unwed teenage mother in 1959, David Koresh was raised by his grandparents in Houston. He was a lonely child, often ridiculed by kids his own age. He did poorly in school and eventually dropped out. Finding comfort in the Bible, he memorized long passages by the time he was twelve. A high school dropout, he moved to Hollywood at the age of 20 in a failed attempt to become a rock star.
At 22, Koresh moved to Waco, Texas, in 1981 to join the Branch Davidians. Taking over the cult after the death of its leader, Lois Roden, he instituted “spiritual weddings,” which permitted him to have sex with female followers of all ages. As a result, he had 12 children with women other than his wife.
With a sense of misguided idealism, Koresh exalted his own ego at the same time as his Christian bliefs. A powerful orator, he transmitted his ideals to others, as other INFJ cult leaders have done. His Myers-Briggs traits went unchecked and eventually expressed themselves in extreme, destructive behaviors.