This blog post is part of our Truity at Work series for those who are new to people management. In these posts, we’re creating useful content for managers and teams alike, helping you to understand personality, improve communication, and navigate conflict and change with ease. For an overview of the series, start with our introductory post here.
The best leaders don’t rely only on their strengths, they are flexible – not overusing or underusing their strengths, but adapting to each situation they face.
Yet we don’t start our careers with this level of nuance. It takes time and practice to not only develop our strengths to feel we can rely on them, but then to develop our non-preferred talents as well.
In the early stage of your career, whether as a team leader or not, your focus will naturally be on developing the skills associated with the middle two letters of your Myers and Briggs type – Sensing or Intuition, and Thinking or Feeling. Your preferred function will feel both natural and exciting to you. You will be able to see the potential in developing these functions and feel capable as you do so.
When you are more than a few years into your career, you will start to notice that these skills aren’t serving you as well as you thought they would. You’ll start to see that you need a few more tools in your toolkit to be successful. Those non-preferred skills won’t always be obvious to you, and you’ll feel a bit clunky when you try to use them. (This is your opposite preference for your middle two letters.)
This is when you have a choice – to stick with what you know, even if it limits your potential, or be okay with feeling like a beginner again. In the moment, that decision is hard to make. Many leaders don’t choose the uncomfortable path, much to the frustration of their team and organization.
To help you differentiate between the two options, below is an outline of how each of the 16 types see leadership, and one of the skills they need to develop later in their career.
Extraverted Perceivers as Leaders
ESTPs see leadership as the need to act quickly and confidently. They say what’s needed in the moment, even if it's a bit too direct. They assess risks as they arise and adapt without hesitation.
Their mid-career development needs to focus on building empathy for others. They need to get more in touch with other’s feelings and how people are impacted at a personal level. They need to learn to anticipate how people will react and alter their actions accordingly.
ESFPs see leadership as the ability to improvise, quickly adapting to what they see as right for each situation. They are at ease in even the most unexpected situations. They are also pragmatic, taking care of the practical issues first including the needs of their employees and customers.
Mid-career, ESTPs need to become more comfortable with analyzing and planning. That might be setting long term goals and monitoring their progress, or taking the time to analyze data before acting.
ENTPs see leadership as a space for innovation and change. They set a vision for the future, then expect others to manage their own work to achieve it. Given their dislike of bureaucracy, they can see leadership’s role as finding workarounds or removing the red tape altogether.
Mid-career, ENTPs need to get clear on their values and assess their leadership behaviors against them. This will make it easier to be consistent, even in exciting or stressful situations. They need to learn when not to change things, and to consider how change impacts people.
ENFPs see leadership as being passionate about their organization's purpose and ensuring the company has a culture that values people and teamwork. They aim to lead with consensus-based decision making, to ensure the company is living in accordance with its values.
Mid-career ENFPs need to become more comfortable with deadlines and metrics. Learning to create action plans with milestones and performance indicators attached will help to assess progress – yours and others.
Extraverted Judgers as Leaders
ESTJs see leaders as being reliable, hardworking and dependable. They focus on clarifying everyone’s role, being clear on the resources available and knowing when work is due. And if they don't have the answers, they will go and find them.
Mid-career ESTJs need to temper their hard work by taking time to ask more questions and assess different possibilities before leaping into action. Looking for hidden information can lead to better solutions and a better use of resources.
ENTJs see leadership as strategically setting goals and knowing the most efficient way to achieve it. They expect that not everyone will be on board with the plan, so they are comfortable making decisions on others behalf. They also tend to act first and apologize later to reach the goals.
Mid-career ENTJs need to learn the value of positive emotions at work. Celebrating successes with their team creates contagious energy that helps the team continue to succeed. It also engenders loyalty to leaders and teams that do good work and appreciate their efforts.
ESFJs see leadership as creating clear roles and processes to help everyone get their work done, while also enjoying work. They ensure people have the resources they need to do their best work.
Mid-career ESFJs need to switch focus to become more strategic – noticing the trends in their industry and being prepared for unexpected changes. They need to pay more attention to their hunches about where their industry is headed.
ENFJs see leadership as helping the team stay focused and on track, by sensing what is needed and ensuring everyone has it. They lead with inspiration and by example, only doing what they ask of others.
Mid-career ENFJs need to practice checking the assumptions behind their strategy. For example, they need to review historical data and observable specifics to ensure the strategy isn't built on weak or incorrect assumptions.
Introverted Judgers as Leaders
ISTJs see leadership as providing clear structure and order, and moving things forward methodically at a steady pace. They work hard to fulfill their duties while avoiding the limelight.
Mid-career ISTJs need to turn their attention to group dynamics and reading the room in group meetings. Being able to diagnose the emotional subtext will help them adapt to people with different motivations.
ISFJs see leadership as ensuring customer service is careful and attentive, whether that’s for internal or external customers. They are pragmatic, wanting to ensure people’s needs are met and they are improving others lives everyday.
Mid-career ISFJs need to become comfortable with logically analyzing data and situations. This will increase their confidence in making decisions that are outside their comfort zone.
INTJs perceive leadership as seeing the direction the organization needs to go in, and working hard to ensure they get there with as few deviations as possible. They want to take advantage of the best knowledge or technology to do that.
Mid-career INTJs need to understand what motivates people, particularly in their organization. Doing so will help them excite and engage people to their vision.
INFJs see leadership as aligning people’s skills to the organization's goals. They translate the vision into the smaller goals required, leveraging people's abilities to help achieve the vision.
Mid-career INFJs need to develop their ability to analyze the pros and cons of various options to determine the best way to plug gaps in the plan.
Introverted Perceivers as Leaders
ISTPs see leadership as efficiently achieving their targets, while adapting as needed to ensure the right work gets done, in the right way. They try to avoid personal drama getting in the way of progress.
Mid-career ISTPs need to seek out alternative approaches and different ways of doing things. They need to speak with different people, brainstorm and assess possible options to balance out their practical focus.
INTPs see leadership as having the right expertise and specialist knowledge for the role. They prefer to manage small teams, as large ones can slow down their progress.
Mid-career INTPs need to pay more attention to the concrete data and observable insights of the existing systems they are responsible for. They need to not just see the inconsistencies, but also the integrity of each system.
ISFPs see leadership as delivering the quality required without compromising their personal integrity. They are passionate about what needs to be done.
Mid-career ISFPs need to reflect on what they want their future to look like, and how well it matches the day to day reality of their current life. They need to consider other options and how to make choices today that, while they limit options now, can achieve their vision in their future.
INFPs see leadership as having a clear, deep vision of what’s important for the organization to accomplish. They’re flexible about how their vision is achieved, as long as their approach remains aligned to their values without any ethical shortcuts.
Mid-career INFPs need to develop ways to keep track of details. Keeping on top of schedules, commitments and deadlines helps signify that time is valuable. Being more grounded will help others see you as dependable and reliable.
In the early stages of your career, you will naturally focus on specializing in what you are good at. And while that is important, it also helps to remember that isn’t the only way to be a leader. As you can see from the above descriptions, each of the 16 types has their own valid and important approach to leading.
But it's not the whole story. As your career progresses, so do the skills you need to develop. Using your personality as a guide can help identify what you need to focus on to lean into your full potential as a manager and a leader.
Management can be a tough job and you need all the insights you can find to get the best from yourself and your staff, both now and in the future. To learn more about your leadership style, head to Truity@Work and choose the option for our full Typefinder in the workplace report. It’s designed to help you apply your strengths and get far better results.