The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is one of the most widely used personality tests for leadership teams who want to identify the strengths, communication styles, and leadership preferences of their staff.
Designed in the 1940s by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, the MBTI test uses a series of self-reported questions to categorise people into one of 16 personality types.
Katherine and Isabel were heavily influenced by Carl Jung’s theory of personality types, which proposes four psychological functions: Thinking, Sensation, Intuition, and Feeling. These form the foundation of the Introverted, Observant, Feeling, and Judging personality traits found in MBTI results.
Debate rages over the effectiveness of MBTI tests, with some academics arguing that the test is not based on scientific evidence and is therefore "meaningless when it comes to determining someone’s ability or suitability for job roles".
As the test is self-reported, it can be an excellent way of allowing staff space to be self-aware and reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.
Research suggests that employees who see themselves clearly can be more confident, creative and effective as leaders.
People who understand their own personality type are also better able to see how they relate to others, which can improve their confidence and communication skills.
How can leaders and managers use the Myers-Briggs Personality test to improve their team’s skills and performance?
If you are building a team or managing a team, the MBTI test can be a useful tool in building an understanding of different personality types and how this influences people’s work and communication styles.
The information from the tests can be used to answer the following questions:
- What makes some team members more effective than others?
- Why do some team members perform well on certain tasks and poorly on others?
Armed with this information, you will be better equipped to support people as individuals and ensure their work is aligned with their strengths.
The knowledge of how your team differs in their preferences can also help you to create a more inclusive environment that brings the best out of multiple personality types.
ISTJ - The Logistician
Logisticians (ISTJs) tend to be serious and matter-of-fact as they live in a factual world of patterns and logical systems.
How can leaders get the best of out ISTJs
- Establish clear rules, policies and procedures from the outset - Rules and regulations are essential to ISTJs. They feel very insecure when their environment is uncertain and like to know the rules and regulations they must follow in detail.
- Use logical and concrete examples to illustrate desired outcomes - Focus on the practical elements of a piece of work and discuss its value. Avoid theorising, abstract concepts, or information that cannot be immediately used.
ISTP - The Virtuoso
ISTPs are logical and rational characters who are valued for their loyalty, practical ability and direct communication styles. However, they are less concerned with rules when compared to ISTJs, which can make them act unpredictably.
How can leaders get the best of out ISTPs
- Give them new challenges regularly - ISTPs love doing new things and can become bored with routines rather quickly, which means they relish solving new practical problems and coming up with inventive ways to make or fix things.
- Avoid micromanagement - As a subordinate, the ISTP prefers to work independently, coming up with their own solutions to problems. They value their freedom and don’t like being told what to do.
ISFJ - The Defender
ISFJ's tend to be efficient and responsible, giving careful attention to practical details in their daily lives. They typically operate quietly behind the scenes, seeking harmony and fulfilment for all those around them.
How can leaders get the best of out ISFJs
- Leverage their attention to detail - ISFJs are diligent about their work and great with the little details, which makes them excellent at proofreading, editing documents or reviewing final drafts.
- Highlight their achievements - Defenders can typically be very humble and unwilling to self-advocate for their achievements. This can hold them back when it comes to promotions and progressions.
ISFP - The Adventurer
People with the ISFP personality type tend to be quiet, reserved and easygoing. They can often get lost in their own minds while considering everything from numerous angles.
How can leaders get the best of out ISFPs
- Give them an open sandbox - Adventurer personalities are most successful when they can challenge themselves without being stifled by too many rules or regulations.
- Look out for signs of burnout - ISFPs can find work all-consuming and can end up working long hours without even noticing it. Make sure you remind them that it’s OK to take breaks and leave at a reasonable time.
INFJ - The Advocate
Those with an INFJ personality type tend to be quiet, caring, empathetic listeners. They are very private and often shy away from the limelight, but they have an imaginative perspective on the world that focuses on doing the right thing.
How can leaders get the best of out INFJs
- Allow them to have input into decisions - with a strong sense of how the world should be, INFJs can feel frustrated when they feel unheard.
- Leverage their insights into people - INFJs are excellent judges of character and can make excellent additions to hiring or promotion panels
INFP - The Mediator
INFPs are deeply caring and kind-hearted people who want to make the world a better place for everyone. Never one to shy away from helping someone out, INFP personalities care deeply about those around them and about their ideas and values.
How can leaders get the best of out INFPs
- Allow them to help others - INFPs are motivated by a desire to help individuals and groups and are less concerned with financial or number-based goals
- Encourage them to resolve conflict - INFPs are generally so committed to being nice that they have a hard time saying no or setting boundaries, which means long term concerns can remain unresolved without a bit of external help.
INTJ - The Architect
INTJs are usually brilliant, original thinkers with a tremendous drive to come up with well-thought-out, logical conclusions. They have a keen eye for detail and are natural problem solvers, able to analyze complex situations.
How can leaders get the best of out ISFJs
- Give them independence - as with ISTJs, ISFJs do not respond well to micromanagement.
- Remind them to slow down - INTJs can be prone to rush into decisions without taking time to reflect or consult others
INTPs – Logician
INTPs are independent investigators, driven by a desire to explore and create theories. They love the intellectual challenge of a good problem and will doggedly pursue solutions.
How can leaders get the best of out INTPs
- Listen to their ideas - INTPs use their intellectual skills to come up with novel solutions which are often outstanding
- Encourage collaboration - INTPs can become irritated with colleagues who want to slow them down by examining the details of a project, however the combination of their intellectual capacity and other people’s attention to detail can be extremely powerful.
ESTP - The Entrepreneur
ESTPs are outgoing, spontaneous individuals who live in the present. Their natural persuasion skills and solutions-oriented philosophy of “deal with it as you go” make them great leaders and entrepreneurs.
How can leaders get the best of out ESTPs
- Provide an Agile environment - ESTPs thrive moving at a fast pace, which means it’s important to create an environment where they can rapidly implement new ideas
- Leverage their creativity - ESTPs especially like positions where they can take charge, lead others, influence people, and get their hands dirty. They should be rewarded for taking risks and demonstrating initiative.
ESTJ - The Executive
Executives are the most loyal, conscientious, hard-working types. They are extremely determined to retain stability and order, and they’re always grounded in reality. Their great strength is their ability to plan ahead to ensure that things go according to schedule.
How can leaders get the best of out of ESTJs
- Ensure they focus on what counts - ESTJs weakness is that they can be too concerned with little details that don’t really matter or have low priority.
- Provide opportunities to engage with other departments - ESTJs like to feel part of a team and aligned with wider organisational goals
ESFP - The Entertainer
ESFP personality types are the performers. They enjoy being the centre of attention and are likely to try out new experiences. However, they are also kind-hearted and empathetic. They are often artistic too, enjoying anything involving creativity or drama.
How can leaders get the best of out ESFPs
- Involve them in marketing or customer-facing roles - with a natural performance abilities, ESFPs thrive in roles where they influence people
- Give feedback gently - while they thrive in the limelight, ESFPs can struggle with feedback that they perceive to be overly harsh or critical
ESFJ - The Consul
The ESFJ is the classic nurturer. They live in a people-oriented world and are feeders in the truest sense of the word, seeking to draw in people around them in order to encourage their growth, development, health and happiness.
How can leaders get the best of out ESFJs
- Give them project management responsibilities
- Provide consistency - Consuls will try to ensure the rules of the game are clear up-front and aim for consistency in all things
ENFP - The Campaigner
Campaigners are enthusiastic and quick to get involved. They're flexible but love deep, personal relationships. They're the first people colleagues want to go to for support and they're great at embracing big ideas and actions.
How can leaders get the best of out ENFPs
- Involve them in ideation - ENFPs are happiest when they are brainstorming new ideas and exploring novel solutions
- Let them lead change initiatives - People with the ENFP personality type are flexible and have a knack for coming up with new ways of doing things.
ENFJ - The Protagonist
ENFJs are natural-born leaders, full of passion and charisma. They live in a world of possibilities where they are quick to see opportunities to guide others in the right direction, often striving to meet everyone’s needs. They have an extraordinary ability to understand the motivations of others and genuinely want to help people.
How can leaders get the best of out ENFJs
- Let them lead conversations - ENFJs are unlikely to push their ideas on others unless they know everyone involved will benefit, which makes them excellent in negotiations.
- Manage their workloads - Even if their co-workers and bosses don’t grossly overwork Protagonists, the pressures of the workplace may still cause them to burn out as they put in tremendous amounts of energy to complete tasks.
ENTP - The Debater
ENTPs are very smart and curious thinkers who appreciate new ideas and insights. They learn better by doing than by listening. ENTPs love ideas that cut through complexity to offer a simple solution. They have a strong independent streak, being individualistic in outlook and preferring to follow their own moral compass.
How can leaders get the best of out ENTPs
- Involve them in the big picture - Debaters can provide insights into the options and consequences. Look to them to hammer home the realities and consequences of any decision
- Don’t let them dominate - Debaters unsurprisingly do tend to dominate debates, which is why it’s important to occasionally remind them to make space for others to contribute
ENTJ - The Commander
With their eye on the future, the ENTJ excels at developing strategic solutions to complex problems. They are drawn to analysis and want to understand everything in detail. Their exceptional intuitive ability enables them to take in information collected from various sources, weighing it for relevance before devising an appropriate action plan.
How can leaders get the best of out ENTJs
- Provide regular feedback - ENTJs tend to take things in stride and enjoy regular rational feedback that helps them improve
- Actively manage them - The best way to get an ENTJ to do something is to tell them to do it in a commanding, confident manner. They tend to reject lip service and prefer action.
The Myres-Briggs test is a famous method, and although it’s disputed it remains popular, there are risks of relying on it solely.
The problem with identifying your style is it confirms your preferences for behaviour and unless skilfully facilitated, doesn’t give you any tips on how to broaden your skill base.
You might know what your profile was, but, what if it changes over time? If your manager labels you as a particular personality type, will you encounter bias? Although the Myres-Briggs theory can give you a fresh perspective on your approach to work, it shouldn't define you.
Nonetheless, it’s a tool used by managers who want a broad understanding of the preferences and strengths of their staff.
Need to develop your Leadership and Management skills?
Here are just some of courses we offer at TSW:
- ILM Level 2 in Leadership and Team Skills
- ILM Level 3 in Leadership and Management
- ILM Level 5 in Leadership and Management
- Core Skills for Management Training Course
- Core Skills for Team Leaders Course
- Management Training Courses
- ILM courses and qualifications
- Leadership and Management Apprenticeships
- and more