In the world of fictional spies and investigators, novelist Tom Clancy’s character Jack Ryan holds an unusual position as a reluctant hero and participant in a world of clandestine adventures.
“I’m just an analyst!” is Ryan’s hopeful assertion – usually right before he gets tossed headfirst into a full-scale field operation.
Whether you are familiar with the library of Tom Clancy novels, the various Jack Ryan movies, or the new Amazon Prime TV series starring John Krasinski, Jack Ryan has been a ubiquitous character in the spy genre. But there are differences in personality among the different Jack Ryan portrayals you’ll find out there.
For our analysis, we are going to defer to the character in Tom Clancy’s books. This personality can be seen most consistently in Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Jack Ryan in the 1990 movie, The Hunt for Red October, and is fairly consistent with Harrison Ford’s and John Krasinski’s later portrayals.
So, where does this Jack Ryan land in the 16Personalities spectrum? From our review, he appears to be an Analyst, of course – specifically an Assertive Logician (INTP-A). Let’s dive into his personality.
We’ve begun with the Intuitive trait because it is often Jack Ryan’s defining characteristic. He is often described in the books, films, and TV series as an individual who can take the same information others have looked at many times and find conclusions no one else had seen.
The Hunt for Red October (both the novel and the film) winds up being an exercise in Intuition winning the day. Ryan is able to deduce that the Soviet submarine commander, Marko Ramius, is planning to defect and is able to provide insight into how best to communicate with him and help him in his plan.
Even as his role in the CIA evolves from desk-jockey analyst to more field operations, he maintains his ability to read events and come to quick and insightful conclusions.
“I’m an analyst. I don’t interrogate people – I write reports!”
Primarily, Jack Ryan is a Thinking type. It is what you would expect from someone who sifts through data from various sources and presents conclusions for a living. Before entering the CIA, he works in the financial markets doing something similar, finding solid companies to invest in through analysis.
He has a fairly limited tolerance for people who jump to emotional conclusions or make decisions based on emotional impulses. If it doesn’t make logical sense, Ryan really doesn’t think it is a good way to go.
This tends to serve him well in his analyst role, but it does start getting him into more and more trouble as his job becomes more political. He doesn’t have a lot of patience for politics or for actions taken for special interests or personal gain. For Ryan, it is important that choices have a rational basis.
That said, it’s not that Ryan doesn’t have emotions or doesn’t act on them sometimes. On the contrary, despite his rational nature, he can behave impulsively and emotionally, especially when he doesn’t have time or enough information to really think things through.
When he makes the decision in Patriot Games (the book and the film) to try to stop a terrorist attack unfolding in front of him, his decision comes from a deep emotional impulse. It downright angers him that anyone would take such an action. And as a person of Irish heritage, it further outrages him that the terrorists are acting in the name of being Irish.
Jack Ryan does have a certain level of idealism and a sense of duty. He professes that he really doesn’t want to be in the CIA, but he joins to protect his family, and he stays out of a sense of duty. (Oh, and he also really likes it deep down inside and finds the work more fulfilling than anything else he could take on.)
Despite his displays of emotion and idealism, he is most predominantly a classic Thinking personality type.
If Jack Ryan did have a plan for his life, it got very derailed somewhere along the way. He starts off as a financial advisor and makes a small fortune. He gets sick of working in finance, gets a PhD, and teaches history at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He moves on to the CIA under a lot of pressure and extreme circumstances. There, his career becomes more about what other people think he should be doing rather than any direction he would choose for himself.
He can sit down, find projects to work on, and be a self-starter when he needs to. But he doesn’t generally follow a definite plan for his life or the eventual outcome of his work. Serving his country, saving people, doing an exceptional job at what he takes on – these are what drive him in the moment. He’s not about having a big plan and seeing it through. He’s about doing what is necessary when it comes up.
In his job as an analyst, sifting through data, looking for patterns that others may have missed, and finding connections are all well served by his Prospecting personality trait.
Ryan also doesn’t have the best filters, another characteristic of many Prospecting types. He tends to say what he thinks, especially when he has knowledge others don’t or when he has a different take on things and thinks he is right. He has a hard time just holding his peace and not speaking up – even in a room full of people way above his pay grade.
Is Jack Ryan an Introvert or an Extravert? We’ve already said he doesn’t have an easy time keeping his mouth closed, especially when he knows he is right. But he also has a strong preference and tendency to work on his own, including research, analysis, and writing – things that tend to be more Introverted activities.
If we look at the early Jack Ryan from the movies – played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford – we see a shier, more tentative character who is definitely more partial to his analyst work and uncomfortable dealing with people.
In other portrayals, we see a Ryan who more easily works with others. John Krasinski’s Ryan is much more willing and comfortable working with people and getting what he needs from them. He also seems to genuinely get charged up when talking and working with others on his analyses and fieldwork.
In Clancy’s books, Jack Ryan really appears to be an Introvert. He has a small circle of very close friends and family and doesn’t socialize much beyond it. He spends a good portion of his time researching and writing. He is pushed by his mentor, Admiral Greer, to champion his research and conclusions, and Greer is the one who pushes him into fieldwork. Dealing with others, especially when it comes to politics and especially without Greer to act as a buffer, strains and exhausts Jack Ryan very quickly.
For the most part, Jack Ryan appears to be an Introvert, and therefore, a Logician. In some portrayals, however, you may see him acting more like a Debater (ENTP), and it is interesting to note the difference.
At least in his earliest days, Jack Ryan has an Assertive personality type. He doesn’t spend much time doubting himself nor does he spend much time in internal turmoil. He doesn’t get along with everyone perfectly, but for the most part, he isn’t deeply affected by other people’s opinions of him.
He likes being who he is, he likes doing his analysis work, and he is rightly proud of his achievements. He can be tentative when pushed out of his comfort zone, but he can also put this aside and act when he needs to. He can control his feelings and emotions, and he doesn’t spend too much time questioning his actions.
Ryan draws a lot of strength from his family, has a strong sense of right and wrong, and feels genuine pride in doing something valuable with his talent and abilities.
While there are many portrayals of Jack Ryan out there, he generally always displays similar characteristics. Predominantly, the character is a quiet Analyst with a talent for action and thinking quickly on his feet. He is pushed out of his comfort zone on a regular basis and does an exceptional job with it.
Are you wondering about the personalities of other recurring characters in the Jack Ryan stories? Here is our take on some of the other characters from Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels:
- Cathy Ryan – Assertive Executive (ESTJ-A)
- Jack Ryan Jr. – Assertive Commander (ENTJ-A)
- John Clark – Assertive Logistician (ISTJ-A)
We at 16Personalities enjoy presenting personality profiles of fictional characters as a way to better understand various personality types and traits. Ultimately, though, these characters are fictional and may display traits in different ways than we see in the real people around us.
We would love to hear your opinions as well. What thoughts do you have about Jack Ryan’s personality type? Share your comments below!