“The general? To me, she’s royalty.” — Lor San Tekka
One of Star War’s most beloved characters, Princess-General Leia Organa is surprisingly difficult to type. Most people say she’s an ESTJ or ENTJ but there is also a complelling case to be made that she’s an INFP like her brother Luke. I ultimately decided to stick with typing her as an ESTJ, but if you’d like to read the argument for INFP here’s a link to a really good post about that.
Leia is a leader. It’s hard to tell if she would have chosen that path for herself in a galaxy at peace but it’s where she is now. Like her adopted father Bail Organa (an ESFJ) and the mother she never knew (Padme, an ENFJ), Leia goes into politics with the goal of helping people and setting the galaxy to rights. In terms of her personality, though, I think she’s actually a lot more like her father Anakin (an ENTJ).
Like Her Father Before Her
Leia’s most visible mental process is Extroverted Thinking (Te), nicknamed “Effectiveness” by Personality Hacker. I believe it’s also her strongest type function. She’s a take-charge sort of person who is fiercely loyal to family and values, and expects the same level of commitment from others who choose to fight alongside her. And she commands the same kind of unfailing loyalty that the 501st had for Jedi General Skywalker during the Clone Wars.
That Leia uses Te is prominently displayed in Episode IV. Her response to Darth Vader, her criticism of her rescuers, and the way she instantly takes charge of every situation are all characteristic of dominant Te types. Women who are TJ types, particularly the extroverted ones, are often stereotyped as “unfeminine” control freaks but this is unfair and betrays a misunderstanding of what really motivates TJs. Extroverted Thinking is what drives us to adhere to tested principles of order. TJ tpes often do that by upholding tradition and established rules, but Leia has come to believe it is her duty to tear down the current system instead of support it (something Anakin does as well, with much less altruistic results).
If we go back before A New Hope to the novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, we see that initially Leia is working to uphold the system that’s already in place. She goes from assisting her father in the Imperial Senate to representing Alderaan in the Apprentice Legislature. Initially, she thinks she’s doing good there. That the system still works. She needs to be show through direct experience that is not the case before she starts fighting for the Rebellion — a path her parents are already on, which means that it turns out she really isn’t rebelling against the ideals and system of order she holds most dear.
Principles Before Self
One of the reasons people type Leia as an FP type is that she is focused on doing what is right. They see her as a value-driven person, which she is but that’s not exclusively an FP trait. One of the things Lenore Thomson notes about Extroverted Thinking in her book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual is, “They’re so accustomed to putting aside their immediate interests for the sake of their principles that they lose sight of their own needs and priorities” (p. 262). TJ types can be altruistic and values-driven in their own way.
There’s a scene in Leia, Princess of Alderaan where Leia takes time off from fighting the Empire to hang out with Amilyn Holdo. Leia’s stated goal for this exercise is to try and figure out who she is outside her expected roles of senator-in-training and princess. That chapter begins with the words, “Step one in being a totally normal person with totally normal concerns was to spend time hanging out with friends, doing nothing.” Even there, though, she remains focused on her most pressing concerns: the fact that her parents seem increasingly distant and her frustration with the inefficiency of Imperial bureaucracy. This isn’t someone whose deepest motivation is to be true to herself and her ideas, but someone who is driven by her principles and her desire to get things done.
This principles-focused aspect of Leia’s personality is also behind a lesson that she wants Poe to learn in The Last Jedi. Poe, an ESTP hero, is a great pilot and an inspiring leader, but he doesn’t get the bigger picture that Leia has always fought for. She tells him that Holdo “was more interested in protecting the light than she was seeming like a hero,” and assumes he’ll realize that is a good thing. Leia is a selfless individual who devoted her entire life to furthering the cause of hope and peace in the galaxy, and she has a great desire to pass on what she has learned. She knows, like so many SJ types do, that past experience can be the best teacher and thinking things through can save a lot of headaches in the future.
Curiosity and Duty
I’ve compared Leia to her father, Anakin, but she isn’t an ENTJ like him. Like her adopted father Bail Organa, Leia’s co-pilot function is Introverted Sensing (Si) rather than Introverted Intuition (Ni). Her focus isn’t on innovating the future so much as it is on shaping the present in a practical way. Leia does have some strong intuitive tendencies from her tertiary Extroverted Intuition, but that’s not what she relies on most of the time to make sense of new information.
Introverted Sensing prompts us to rely on concrete facts and reliable standards. It filters immediate sensory impressions through the lens of established knowledge and past experiences. In practice, this function shows up as Leia collects facts and information that will let her accomplish tasks most important to her. She researches the Empire’s crimes in Leia, Princess of Alderaan and those of the First Order in Bloodline. She risks everything to get data files about the Death Star to the Rebellion. She also makes decisions about what types of expertise to acquire, such as when she chooses not to continue her Jedi training.
Extroverted types are often more comfortable with their tertiary process (which is also extroverted) than with their co-pilot process (which is introverted) even though it’s usually stronger and more reliable. That’s why Leia looks so strongly Intuitive. She uses Extroverted Intuition quite a bit. It lets her be more relaxed and open to possibilities, understanding in A New Hope why Han has to follow his own path, picking up that something’s wrong in Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back, and staying open and curious while dealing with the ewoks in Return of the Jedi.
When Extroverted Thinking types become stressed, they tend to fall into their inferior Introverted Feeling function. that does not, however, mean that they suddenly become overly emotional. In fact, both Naomi Quenk and Lenore Thomson point out that what actually happens with ESTJ types is that they double-down on their “efforts to stay impersonal, logical, and in control” (Thomson, p. 278). They may misinterpret others’ intentions and becomes distressed or anxious, but that’s rarely visible from the outside (Quenk, p. 130). The only time we really see it in Leia is in the books, which give us a glimpse into her mind. Outwardly, she tries very had to stay in control.
A great example of this is ground in the opening of The Empire Strikes Back. Leia knows Han wants to leave but she doesn’t want him to. Rather than just tell him that, though, she latches on to logical reasons the Rebellion needs him — “You’re a great help to us, you’re a natural leader.” Thinking types are often uncomfortable expressing their feelings, and to make up for being unsure they try to counteract feelings of uncertainty through logic. From the outside, they may start to look short tempered and unreasonable.
When pushed far enough (either by an external stressor or something going on inside their minds), Thinkers may blurt out their own feelings in a way that seems totally out of character. Leia’s frustration bubbles out in her, “You stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder” comment as well as kissing Luke to get back at Han. Later in the film she blurts out, “I love you.”
Another great time of stress in Leia’s life happened when her son turned to the Dark Side. In The Force Awakens, she and Han talk about how they both coped with that by going back to the only thing they were ever good at. Lenore Thomson notes that when ESTJs are flooded with emotions they’re not sure how to process, “They stick firmly to what they know how to do” (p. 278). Leia eventually works through that and finds peace, but it was a huge moment of change and growth for her as a character.
“It should be noted,” Lenore Thomson writes, “that ESTJs are inclined to assign higher priority to impersonal obligations than to personal ones” (Personality Type, p.276). From hints in the films and what happens in the Bloodline novel, I think this is part of the reason that Leia’s marriage and relationship with her son fell apart. She does not bear all the blame (especially not for the decisions that Han and Ben made). She did, however, make choices that often prioritized her commitment to rebuilding and protecting the Republic over her personal relationships.
Perhaps it is (in part) seeing these relationships fall apart that prompted the personal growth Leia experiences between The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. When we see her in this film she is a much more mature, balanced version of her ESTJ type. In Naomi Qunek’s book on how stress affects our personality types, she notes that mature ESTJs and ENTJs can integrate their Introverted Feeling side in healthy ways. These people “often delight in the newfound pleasures of warmth and close relationships with their children and grandchildren. Friendships with peers may also become increasingly important and enjoyable” (Was That Really Me? p. 94).
General Organa is a calm, centered person full of wisdom who has developed a deep appreciation for the people around her. She doesn’t have a relationship with her son or husband, but she has younger leaders like Poe and Rey to mentor and friends like Amilyn Holdo and Larma D’Acy at her side. And she prioritized restoring the relationships she lost, especially with her son. That’s why she asks Han to bring Ben home and why she gives her life to complete that mission and turn Ben back to the light.
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