Personality Types and Leadership

I had posted earlier on Myers-Briggs, personality types, and teams (here and here).  My interest in MBTI started 15 years ago with a boss who was an outstanding leader and leadership coach — he had led the VP’s detail in the Secret Service — and was very cultured and wise to boot. 

As our team went through some leadership sessions, my boss picked up very quickly that I wanted to be a “T” — using “Thinking” to make decisions from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable and matching a given set of rules.  But he wondered how strong the preference really was. 

What he was concerned about my misunderstanding of the relationship between personality type and leadership — it isn’t necessarily one’s type that’s important, it is how well one is tune with that type.  My boss’s concern wasn’t that I scored higher on “Thinking” over “Feeling” (Feeling = coming to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.)  His concern was that I was ignoring parts of my personality that could prove useful in leadership situations.  

The confirmation came when we were chatting and he somewhat obliquely asked about past romantic relationships.  Seven years on I still talked about my ex intensely, admiringly, and wistfully — a “strong” INTJ would have had no problem moving on.  He strongly encouraged me to focus on improving my “F” decision-making awareness.  Otherwise I would spend my career and life wondering why my wonderful, logical schemes kept falling apart.

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6 Responses

  1. I’d be sincerely interested in hearing what your boss thought were the MBTI types that most correlated to leadership. I began working with types and have found no correlation between this and leadership.

  2. Thanks for the comment…my experience (and I think my old boss would agree) is that there is no correlation in general. Some types seek it out more than others (ENTJ most famously), but being a successful leader is another question. I’ll blog on a few observations separately.

    The main use — for me, anyway — was to deepen my knowledge of myself. I have a lot of blind spots for which a self-knowledge “mirror” or three prove useful.

  3. [...] d a morton’s (blog here) comment on my original Personality Types and Leadership post (here) made me realize I hadn’t been clear.  I believe that one’s personality type does not [...]

  4. [...] Personality Types and Leadership — This post is one of my most personal, describing an epiphany I had about my personality. I used to strive for a strict separation among my work, leisure, community, and relationship selves. That separation no longer works for me, especially as a leader. For a long time, I tried to operate as I did when I was a worker bee. Work was something to be endured and was to be kept separate from the rest of my life and personality. Per the post, what I was really doing was shutting myself off from myself. This insight has radically changed my leadership priorities over time. [...]

  5. [...] on November 30, 2008 by Paul Ritchie I’ve posted on personality types and leadership a lot (here, here, here, here, and here).  So as you might imagine, I was quite keen on this site — [...]

  6. [...] Personality Types and Leadership — This post is one of my most personal, describing an epiphany I had about my personality. I used to strive for a strict separation among my work, leisure, community, and relationship selves. That separation no longer works for me, especially as a leader. For a long time, I tried to operate as I did when I was a worker bee. Work was something to be endured and was to be kept separate from the rest of my life and personality. Per the post, what I was really doing was shutting myself off from myself. This insight has radically changed my leadership priorities over time. [...]

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