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Effective Leadership Skills: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Mohan is a family physician and a postgraduate associate dean working in the UK. He has a keen interest in self-regulated learning.

Effective leadership skills

Effective leadership skills

How Can My Personality Type Indicate My Leadership Potential, and Why Does That Matter?

Leadership potential doesn't necessarily mean you are about to take on a big Leadership role. Developing such potential is useful in everyday life, at home and at work, at play and in teams. It makes us successful in what we want to achieve, balances our expectations and helps us become better at communicating our ideas and visions.

We have talked about what we need to be, what we need to know and what we need to do in our journey towards achieving leadership insight. We mentioned assessing our personality types using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator © 1 test if you felt the need to.

Most of us view such testing with some suspicion and a sense of distrust. When I first did one, I had the same thoughts:

  • 'How can a questionnaire tell me what I am like?'
  • 'What if I change the answers tomorrow?'
  • 'Doesn't it depend on what mood I am in? '
  • 'Doesn't it depend on what situation I am thinking of when I answer a particular question?'

But the more I looked into the theory and evidence behind it, the better I understood the principles. Let me share this with you; I know you are curious!

1(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Myers-Briggs, MBTI, STEP III, and Introduction to Type are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)

Understanding the principles

Understanding the principles

Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgments sounder, and your life closer to your heart's desire.

— Isabel Briggs Myers


Myers-Briggs personality type indicator (MBTI©) tests are based on a solid psychological theory proposed by Carl Jung that has been tested and retested since its publication in 1962. The test is an efficient and effective way to analyse personality types and preferences. It gives you comprehensive feedback on areas of strength and aspects of your style.

In my last article, I asked you to reflect on any task you have been involved in leading. How did it make you feel? Did you get it done? Did you have an intuition about how it will pan out? Did you enjoy working with a team? Would you rather work alone? Do you prefer logic to gut feeling? Would you like tangible evidence as opposed to leaps of faith?

MBTI© is not just for leadership roles and business life - it helps in so many aspects of our life. Understanding our personality preferences helps us find the right fit for a job, understanding why we prefer some aspects of the job and not the other, helps us in our relationships and communication, and makes us learn better and teach better by adapting our styles suitably. It offers real insight into our comfort zones and discomfort zones.

Understanding Type Can Help in:

  • Finding the right job
  • Finding our preferred working style
  • Learning better
  • Teaching better
  • Personal relationships
  • Parenting
  • Supporting others
  • Insight into teams
  • More job satisfaction
  • Using our strengths and
  • Understanding our weaknesses

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.

— Clarence B Randall

Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers

Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers

The Myers-Briggs test was originally devised during World War II to analyse women in order to find the right wartime job for them - to look at the best fit for their personality type. It grew from there and is now considered one of the most widely used psychometric assessment tests in the business world.

Origin and Research

Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Myers, produced the Myers-Briggs type test based on the works of Swiss Psychiatrist and the founder of analytical Psychology, Carl Gustav Jung. The two women were both interested in people and personalities even before they came across Jung's theories. They were self-confessed 'type-watchers' for over 25 years. Watching, observing, reflecting and classifying personality types and behaviors. This hobby helped them to develop a more authoritative test that they put into action in several fields.

The Test was originally used during World War II to analyse women in order to find the right wartime job for them - to look at the best fit for their personality type. It grew from there and is now considered one of the most widely used psychometric assessment tests in the business world. The test was also trialled in the George Washington School of Medicine, where it was applied to over 5000 freshmen. Isabel Briggs-Myers and her team were able to study the students longitudinally, looking for patterns of success and for those who dropped out. They then co-related it with the original test outcomes.

The predictive value has been considerably enhanced through a wide application, research and refinement. The Test went through several incarnations until reaching its current, robust form.

Myers - Briggs four core dichotomies

Myers - Briggs four core dichotomies

Carl Gustav Jung ( 1875-1961)

Carl Gustav Jung ( 1875-1961)

Four Core Dichotomies

The MBTI test is based on Jungian four dichotomies in our personality. These dichotomies are Introvert- Extravert, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving

These come under attitude, information gathering, decision-making and how we structure and organise ourselves.

Where do you direct your energy to?

  • If you direct your energy more inward experiences and work alone, you are likely to have the type 'introvert' (I).
  • If you direct your energy outwards towards being in groups and teams, you will be an 'extravert' (E).

How do you gather and perceive your information?

  • If you take information in through what you see and perceive through your sense, you are 'sensing' (S).
  • If you can recognize patterns and inter-relationships focusing beyond what you see, you have 'intuition' (N).

How do you process and discern information and draw conclusions?

  • If you do this based on logical analysis, objectivity and detachment, you are 'thinking' (T).
  • If you do this based on personal and social values, focusing on understanding and harmony, you are 'feeling' (F).

How do you express your conclusions to the external world?

  • If you express this based on your discernment processes (I think, I feel), you are judging (J).
  • If you express this based on one of the perceiving processes (I see, I sense), you are perceiving (P).

The Four Core Dichotomies Are:

  1. Introvert (I) - Extravert (E)
  2. Sensing (S) - Intuition (N)
  3. Thinking (T) - Feeling (F)
  4. Judging (J) - Perceiving (P)
The 16 combinations of types

The 16 combinations of types


When you undertake the test that comprises a series of questions, you will be scored and allocated one of the 16 types.

Remember, Myers-Briggs is more about your preference rather than a black-and-white description of your personality. You may respond to both ends of the dichotomies at situations but feel more comfortable with your preferred type than the other.

Full details and more interesting information can be found at the Myers-Briggs Foundation website.

The Combinations of Types

As you would have worked out by now, the combination of the four pairs of dichotomies gives us 16 different permutations of personalitytypese. These are classified for simplicity according to the subset of alphabets of their traits.

For example, the ISTJ type:

They will have a preference of introversion and take their energy from their inner thoughts and musings. They are organised personally and feel a sense of purpose in life. They then set about achieving it with quiet efficiency. They have a sense about people but they may never express it.

The prefer working in a organised manner and are completer- inishers who get the job done. They are serious, sincere and work well within a structure. They can get annoyed at lack of structure and like getting things to the right place at the right time. They are always committed to the cause.

While this may sound like a bit of Cheiromancy or Tarot reading, it is very much grounded on science and evidence base.

When you undertake the test that comprises a series of questions, you will be scored and allocated one of the 16 types. The test could be done during recruitment, as part of job interviews and in many walks of professional life. It needs to be done and interpreted by experts, so don't be fooled by many crude imitations that are floating around on the internet.

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure: which is: Try to please everybody.

— Herbert B. Swope

You Are Sensing a Conclusion

Hopefully, this has given you an overview of MBTI and familiarise you with the concepts. You may not necessarily feel the urge to go right out and get this test done. Don't worry; there are other ways of analysing your leadership styles in simpler, more practical ways too. In the next chapter, we can go right to the basics and discuss what Carl Jung says about our fundamental personality archetypes buried deep within our subconscious.

We will discuss how these archetypes influence the way we think and react. We will know whether you like being a good mother, a wise king, a magician or a warrior! Before that, let us see how you set about completing a task. Take the following simple quiz and see whether you are an Autocrat or a Democrat. I'll explain Situational Leadership in another article.

Until then, there is plenty for you to be reflecting on. Thank you for your interest.



This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Mohan Kumar


Justina on February 09, 2016:

A plus.what a brilliant skills.much more to learn u got meee like seriously..

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on July 22, 2012:

Ecellent hub on a fascinating topic. I took this test years ago. It was so much fun to see what makes people different. All of those personality types can be effective in so many ways. Many votes. Great job!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on July 22, 2012:

Very cool! I took this test several times - once in college, once when I became a teacher, and once recently to figure out what I could do with myself besides teaching. Ha! I alternated between INFP and INFJ. But, it's no wonder I love writing, art, theatre, and having cultural experiences. Thanks for sharing this.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on April 22, 2012:

Excellent introduction to Myers-Briggs, Docmo. As I have commented before, the MBTI is one of my preferred instruments for determining an individual's personality preferences. I utilized many of the Myers-Briggs principles in formulating my "One Question Personality Test" (published as a Hub) which is surprisingly accurate.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 22, 2012:

Well i certainly got caught up in this article. I learned a lot, for example, I am an ISTJ and a democrat, YEA..Great hub!!!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on April 22, 2012:

Lots to think about and ponder. Interesting analysis. Voted up.

Michael Kromwyk from Adelaide, South Australia on April 21, 2012:

I find MBTI to be a great and inexpensive way to get to know your team and how you need to manage them. Recently I've started to also use whole brain thinking as this adds another level and dimension to how to manage people.

Thanks for this history as well...I learned a lot in this hub. Cheers Michael