Maya Angelou was an American author, poet, and civil rights activist. She is best known for her award-winning memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, as well as numerous collections of poems and essays. 

Apart from being a writer, Angelou was a tireless advocate for civil rights. Throughout the 1960s she worked alongside civil rights leaders like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make

The author and activist devoted her life to bringing about positive change in the world. Even after her passing in 2014, Maya Angelou’s legacy of love and acceptance still resonates with people around the world. 

Based on an analysis of her observed behavior and motivations, Maya Angelou is most likely an ENFJ personality type and an Enneagram Two

Maya Angelou’s Myers-Briggs Personality Type: ENFJ

Idealistic, socially aware, and compassionate, ENFJs strive to make the world a better place. ENFJ personality types often feel personally responsible for bringing about positive change in the world; they focus their energy on motivating and inspiring others. As an advocate and humanitarian, Maya Angelou embodies many of the characteristics of this type. 

A born leader, Angelou was able to rise from the poverty and abuse of her childhood into a prominent and influential figure from the early 60s until her death. Angelou was committed to teaching and inspiring others to look for the good and represent the change they wished to see. While warm and kind, Angelou was also assertive; she was known for never backing down when it came to the causes she believed in. 

"Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.."

 — Maya Angelou

E / Extravert: Maya Angelou was tireless in her pursuit of altruism and equality. She believed that as long as she was alive, she had a job to do on earth and worked hard to get it done. Angelou believed in the importance of rest — but said she could never rest for too long. As an Extravert, she was energized by keeping busy in her work with people. While she is famously known for her writing, she also said that writing was the hardest thing for her to do. It was more natural for Angelou to focus on her external world, rather than to go inward. 

N / Intuitive: Angelou was both a dreamer and a doer. She was idealistic and envisioned a world where anything was possible. While faced with many obstacles in her youth, she never gave in to what was expected of her and always questioned the status quo. As an Intuitive personality type, Angelou saw the limitless potential in herself and others. 

F / Feeling: Angelou possessed a deep understanding of people and the human spirit. She often talked about the importance of how we treat and talk to other people. One of her most famous quotes expresses the values of her Feeling personality type: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

J / Judging: Angelou was as decisive and stubborn as she was open-minded and accepting. She had a “get things done” attitude and was never afraid to step up and take action. Much of her career success was the result of her persistence and strong willpower. As a Judging personality type, Angelou always had a plan of action and was naturally gifted at organizing her work in order to accomplish her goals. 

Cognitive Functions

Fe / Extraverted Feeling: Maya Angelou said, “People will respond to you on the level in which you address them.” Angelou believed that if you treat other people with kindness and respect, they will rise to the level of kindness and respect that you expect from them in return. Her ability to deeply understand other people, communicate effectively and lead with empathy and compassion are strengths attributed to her dominant Extraverted Feeling. 

Ni / Introverted Intuition: One of Maya Angelou’s greatest strengths was her ability to view events and situations from multiple perspectives. In an interview, she famously said: “If you can’t change it, then change the way you look at it. Move to another position to look at it. In doing so, you may find a new way to change it.” Angelou’s ability to perspective-shift and understand ideas holistically was due to her Introverted Intuition. 

Se / Extraverted Sensing: Maya Angelou sought to live a full and meaningful life. She was an artist at heart. In addition to her work as a writer and activist, she was also a dancer, actress, singer, and film director. Confident and witty, she made it a priority to be present in everything she did — while admitting that sometimes staying present was challenging. Her abilities to adapt to her environment, stay present, and appreciate the beauty in life can all be attributed to her Extraverted Sensing. 

Ti / Introverted Thinking: Angelou possessed deeply held truths about who she was. She understood her value in the world and wouldn’t let anyone convince her otherwise. In a conversation with Oprah, she said, “I'm bringing everything I ever knew… everything good, strong, kind and powerful. I bring it all with me into every situation, and I will not allow my life to be minimized by anybody's racism or sexism or ageism. I will not.” Angelou’s ability to stand firm in her values and self-worth come partly as a result of healthy Introverted Thinking.

Fast Facts About ENFJs:

  • Make-up approximately 3% of the general population
  • Most likely of all types to believe in a higher spiritual power
  • Among highest in job satisfaction
  • Score high on these traits: Active, Pleasant, Sociable, Demanding, Impatient, Appreciative, and Compromising
  • Other famous ENFJs include Oprah Winfrey and Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Maya Angelou’s Enneagram: Type 2 (The Giver) 

Altruistic and empathetic, Maya Angelou was most likely an Enneagram Two. (According to Truity estimates, roughly 13 percent of people share this type.) Twos are motivated by a desire to feel loved and appreciated — which manifests in their expression of love and appreciation for others. Twos fear being unlovable and often dedicate their lives to taking care of other people. 

At a young age, Maya Angelou experienced racism, sexual abuse, and teen pregnancy. These experiences made her feel abandoned by others, and she frequently blamed herself for the problems she faced. But rather than dwell on her anger, Angelou became focused on sharing love and appreciation for her loved ones and others. She felt an innate sense of duty to fight for her belief that all people are deserving of love. 

Enneagram 2: Inwardly 

  • Possess a strong sense of meaning and purpose. Healthy Twos recognize their self-worth and work on guiding others to understanding their own value. This strength gives their lives immense meaning and purpose. Throughout her life, Angelou sought to live a purposeful life focused on uplifting and inspiring others. 
  • Kindness and reciprocity are core values. When asked what accolades matter most to her, Angelou responded, “I like for people to say I’m kind. It means that I’m still learning and that I’m able to forgive.”
  • Approval-seeking. Angelou sought to not only be accepting and loving towards others, she expected the same love and acceptance in return. In a 2000 interview with Oprah, Angelou said about her romantic relationships, “When I love somebody, I like him to be around; I like him to take me out to dinner; I like to look at the sunset with him. But if not, I love him and I hope he's looking at the same sun I am.” 

Enneagram 2: Outwardly

  • Kind and approachable. Angelou never met a stranger. She treated everyone with kindness, dignity, and respect. In an interview with Nelson Gonzåles, Angelou said, “I’ve seen evidence of kindness and generosity – and those have been the turning-points in my life which confirmed my own faith and my own belief in the work ethic and the possibility of being – not a possibility, my privilege to be generous and kind.”
  • Vocal activist. Angelou was a strong advocate for the causes she believed in. She used the power of storytelling to influence people to fight for equality. Her work explored important themes such as race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. 
  • Selfless leader. In an HBR interview, Angelou said, “A leader sees greatness in other people. You can’t be much of a leader if all you see is yourself.” The author believed that strong leaders see themselves as equal to the people who follow them and treat others as whole human beings deserving of love and respect. 

With her Myers-Briggs and Enneagram types, Maya Angelou was a strong, empathetic, and generous leader. Through her advocacy work, writing, and teaching, she’s inspired individuals around the world to lead with love, respect, and kindness.

Megan Malone
Megan holds an MS in organizational psychology and manages content and brand marketing at Truity. She is passionate about helping people improve their relationships, careers, and quality of life using personality psychology. An INFJ and Enneagram 9, Megan lives quietly in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband and two pups. You can chat with her on Twitter @meganmmalone.