The last of Keirsey's Four Temperaments is the Idealist.

Recall that Idealists - or NFs - tend to be abstract in their thinking and communication and cooperative in their use of tools. As a result, they tend to excel at diplomacy. The Idealist bucket contains a smaller bucket for each of the four MBTI SF variants:

  • Mentoring Teacher (ENFJ), with their uncanny ability to take control of just about any situation as they quest for learning, both in their charges and within themselves.
  • Mentoring Counselor (INFJ), working with people more one-on-one, gently helping their mentees to discover their true path.
  • Advocating Champion (ENFP), espousing their experiences and beliefs with energy and enthusiasm  and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Advocating Healer (INFP), working in the background to preserve and restore the health and relationships of their friends, neighbors, and community.

The scheduling Teacher and Counselor use their preference for a clear agenda and their ease with directing others to help people learn and grow, the extroverted Teacher on a larger scale than the introverted Counselor. The probing Champion and Healer, on the other hand, prefer to disseminate information rather than direct, and so prefer to give voice to and act on the behalf of others.

Just as each temperament has a predisposition towards or against strategy, tactics, diplomacy, and logistics but have greater or lesser skill in the areas as well, each of the four Idealist variants have some facility with the roles of the other variants. The introvert and extrovert roles can fairly easily switch sides, but it tends to be much harder for a judger to swap over to a perceiving role, and vice versa. Even so, Idealists are likely to be much better at all four roles than they are with tactics, strategy, or logistics.

Idealists are intensely interested in the humanities - anything which involves transmitting ideas through words. They are driven to be constantly in communication with the world, directly via spoken conversations and speeches and indirectly via articles and newsletters and blogs. Idealists are very concerned with the morale of those around them (as opposed to Guardians who are much more concerned about their neighbors' morality) and (as you may have guessed) have an affinity for any task that involves working with people.

Idealists are the ultimate altruists - their greatest happiness comes from helping others. Whereas Rationals view the future with immense skepticism, Idealists tend to see good everywhere, especially in the time to come. Idealists take a metaphysical attitude towards their past, believing that the reasons why things turned out the way they did are unknowable.

Idealists prefer to be out on the road, searching for the meaning of life or whatever knowledge they are questing after. This constant search, coupled with their belief that things will only get better, leads them to focus more on what might be tomorrow than on what is today or was yesterday. "The future's so bright I gotta wear shades" is classic Idealist thinking.

Idealists base their self-esteem on having empathy for and being ever benevolent to the world. Authenticity in themselves and others is very important. They tend to be very enthusiastic, and to infect those around them with this exuberance. They go with their gut rather than waiting for detailed logic or rationales to be constructed. One way their constant search for their true self manifests itself is in a desire to be recognized as the unique person they know they are. In its ultimate expression, this desire finds themselves aspiring to become the sage who learns to ignore worldly concerns and focus on the truly important questions and matters. Whoever set Deep Thought off on determining the answer to Life, The Universe, And Everything was certainly an Idealist!

Idealist leaders are catalysts, using their innate people-focused talents to transform a set of disparate persons into an energetic group capable of just about anything. Their intense focus on their people goes a long ways towards making their catalyzees both able to believe that they are capable of achieving such heights and willing to give it a try.

As a strong Thinker there's no Feeling in this Braidy Tester (well, just a tiny bit anyway), so you won't see much evidence of Idealist qualities here. Which is pretty weird, considering that most of the point of my job is to mentor my teammates! My team will tell you, though, that while I love working with people and helping them grow, I really don't have a clue how they are feeling, beyond signs I have picked up over the years (e.g., redness and swelling around the eyes often results from crying, which usually means the person is unhappy and/or upset about something). Others on my team are strong Idealists, however, and watching them do their thing inspires me and helps me learn ways to improve my connection with my team.


*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great coding skills required.

[Typo fixed 27 Sep 2006: SF -> NF]