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How do we help leaders reach their full potential?

It is well-established that our personality preferences tend to influence which activities are easier – or more difficult – than others. We also know that in order to be effective in leadership roles, we must enact a wide variety of behaviours that will both contradict and align with our preferences at different times.

What comes most naturally for leaders tends to be their strengths or key contributions. Meanwhile, those behaviours that require more concentration to perform may require development and may lag in terms of their quality.

In an effort to further understand how a leader’s MBTI® personality preferences – specifically their function pairs – influence their key contributions, Psychometrics Canada conducted a research study, Personality Type and Leadership, relating Myer-Briggs® personality type with various leadership activities. In this survey, ST SF, NF and NT type combinations were related to critical behaviours required for leadership.

We believe this information will prove useful in your work coaching both current and future leaders to become more successful by leveraging their natural talents and addressing possible gaps in their skill sets.

A Look at Myers-Briggs Preference Pairs and Leadership

ST Leaders: “Doing it Right the First Time”

Key contributions of ST leaders were found to include many activities related to the execution of work; not surprising given their common ‘bottom line’ approach. Their top strengths were listed as solving problems and analyzing issues (81% of those surveyed) and taking initiative (68%). As a result, it is likely that in leadership, ST leaders will be naturally good at:

  • Taking action and staying focused on objectives
  • Analyzing information and solving problems
  • Developing efficient procedures and policies
  • Applying their depth of knowledge and experience to challenges

SF Leaders: “Lean on Me”

While STs tend to focus on the execution of objectives and problem-solving as their key strengths, SF leaders more often reported that building relationships (83%), developing others (77%), and promoting teamwork (75%) were amongst their major contributions. These findings were not surprising given what we know of the SF preference’s natural approach toward providing for others’ needs. From this, SFs in leadership positions may demonstrate a natural proclivity for:

  • Building connections and involving people
  • Developing supportive and service-oriented work groups
  • Meeting the immediate needs of others
  • Taking a practical approach to problems

NF Leaders: “Inspiration for the Future”

NF individuals tend to consistently bring future-oriented development and inspiration of people. This pattern was echoed in our leadership study and in terms of their key contributions, as a strong majority of NF respondents reported that some of their key strengths in leadership were their ability to inspire and motivate people (84% of those surveyed), to develop others (81%) and to build relationships (87%). In their day-to-day, NF leaders are likely to excel at:

  • Inspiring and motivating individuals
  • Coaching and developing the potential of others
  • Identifying future needs and opportunities for others
  • Being open to new ideas and experiences

NT Leaders: “Begin with the End in Mind”

Just like NFs, NT Leaders tend to also be drawn towards possibilities of what could be. However, there is a significant difference in where they might focus this future orientation. NTs reported that their major leadership contributions included solving problems and analyzing issues (89% of those surveyed), displaying a strategic perspective (82%) and taking initiative (73%). As a group, NTs seem to see themselves as a source of critical analysis, a strategic mindset and a willingness to move forward. Therefore, when leading others, NTs will likely be good at:

  • Critically analyzing current method
  • Displaying a willingness to try new approaches and entertain new ideas
  • Implementing long-term bottom-line plans
  • Connecting ideas to strategic deliverables

Indeed, every MBTI personalitytype has obvious benefits to bring to leadership, simply as a function of their natural preferences. But it also should be noted that effective leaders are not specialists, nor should they be. Effective leadership requires a wide variety of behaviours and a broad focus on a multitude of issues. While we may all bring leadership strengths, the ability to flex our approach is a requirement for optimal effectiveness. Those who cannot do all of the things mentioned – and more – are sure to struggle in the leadership arena. This blog post discusses specifically the leadership blind spots revealed by each personality type, providing further opportunities for growth, coaching, and development.

Written by Aidan Millar

Visit the Psychometrics Canada Knowledge Center for more great tips and resources on using the Myers-Briggs for leadership development.