Feeling uninspired by your management job? It may be that your temperament simply isn’t the right fit. Managing people or projects is often better suited to people with an ESTJ personality.
ESTJ is one of the 16 distinct personality types identified by two American writers—Isabel Myers and her mother Katharine Briggs—in the middle of the 20th century. Their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is now widely used in corporate settings and elsewhere, although some psychologists have questioned the usefulness of its personality profiles. (For more on this debate, see the section “Limitations of the MBTI Tool” below.)
Below, experts explain what it means to have an ESTJ personality.
What Does ESTJ Stand For?
Each MBTI personality type is based on an individual’s four psychological preferences. ESTJ stands for “extraversion, sensing, thinking, judging,” according to John Hackston, head of thought leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company.
He told Newsweek that a person with an ESTJ personality prefers:
- To focus their attention on “the outer world of people and things” rather than on their inner thoughts and reflections (extraversion)
- To pay more attention to “practical, solid” data rather than possibilities and connections (sensing)
- To base decisions on objective logic (thinking)
- To have their lives planned, structured and organized (judging).
What Are Some ESTJ Personality Traits?
Hackston said people with an ESTJ personality:
- Want to create order in the world
- Like to organize people and projects and get things done
- Solve problems logically, based on factual information and past experience
- Can be quite forceful in making things happen
- Enjoy being around people
- Take their family and other personal responsibilities seriously.
You “know where you stand” with an ESTJ type, he added.
Who Are ESTJ People Compatible With?
People with an ESTJ personality “can form very effective relationships with those who are happy to sit back and let the ESTJ take charge,” according to Hackston.
However, they can also “partner effectively” with people who argue with them, provided “the latter generally share their view on life.”
ISTJs (introversion, sensing thinking, judging) might be among the closest to ESTJs in terms of “interests and general approach,” he said.
Aqualus Gordon, associate professor of psychological sciences at the University of Central Missouri, told Newsweek that there is a lot of talk about “golden pairs”—highly compatible matches—of MBTI types. “To my knowledge, this hasn’t been researched directly, but there is a lot of buzz about it.”
Gordon explained that a type’s golden pair is generally determined by “changing every letter except the second.” The second letter, the “perceptive trait,” is how an individual sees the world.
“Having this trait in common will minimize differences in understanding one another. The flipped letters are said to help compensate for the weaknesses/blindspots of the other person,” he said.
For example, one partner might consider how moving home would affect their family’s income, drive to work and so on, while the other focuses on the impact on friendships and time spent with their children.
Gordon said the second letter formula does not work for some MBTI types, however. “ESTJs are one of these cases, as they may find any or most consideration of feelings to be irrelevant or even frustrating.”
ESTJs are often “golden paired” with ISTPs—introversion, sensing, thinking, perceiving—rather than ISFP, he added.
What Is the Best Career for Someone With an ESTJ Personality?
Since people with an ESTJ personality enjoy organization and this can include organizing people, many take on management or supervisory roles, according to Hackston. However, their “drive to get things done” can lead to success in many careers.
“What perhaps is more important for them is to work in an organization and a role where there are clear rules and responsibilities or where they can devise and implement these themselves,” he added.
It is difficult to prescribe actual career choices using the MBTI, Gordon said. It’s more common to talk about the type of activities an ESTJ would enjoy and how those fit into specific careers.
However, he added that ESTJ types are often found in fields such as real estate, insurance, stocks, management and law.
Gordon also said ESTJs can make good managers, “since they are good at organizing tasks, operations, structures and sometimes people.”
However, people of this type “don’t tend to be very innovative,” he pointed out, preferring to do things “the way they’ve always been done and always worked.” This could become an issue when they are managing people, as their colleagues may have fresh ideas they’d like to try.
Gordon also suggested that those with an ESTJ personality can “find feelings irrelevant” and may have difficulty making allowances for them in managerial decisions.
Limitations of the MBTI Tool
John D. Mayer, a psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire, told Newsweek that “the MBTI has a fascinating history,” but there was “a gap between the relatively high public interest in the MBTI and its high level of use, on the one hand, and research on the scale, on the other.”
Mayer explained: “A number of cautionary reviews about the MBTI came out in scientific journals during the period 1990-2010. Since that time, with a few exceptions, there have been relatively few peer-reviewed publications that use the test and have appeared in customary psychology journals.”
Other researchers such as Gordon defend the tool, saying MBTI and “associated type theories” receive a lot of critical scrutiny, “most of which I would call baseless.”
Gordon added: “I haven’t found any arguments against these types of tests that are based on actual research”—except for a 2005 study published in the Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.
That research found that “conclusions regarding the superiority of either the MBTI or other instruments are, at present, premature,” he wrote in a 2020 article for Psychology Today. In his article, Gordon also suggested that the academic community did not take the work of Myers and Briggs seriously at first, because they were women and did not have graduate degrees.
The available research, Gordon told Newsweek, “actually demonstrate[s] that the MBTI is equal to or more valid than academically respected personality tests” such as the “big five,” also known as the five-factor model.
However, Mayer suggested that the MBTI was “out of step relative to contemporary work in the field of personality psychology.” Its four dimensions “fail to map onto dimensions of personality studied today,” with the partial exception of extraversion-introversion, he said. “For that reason, scientific evaluation of the instrument has fallen off.”
John A. Johnson, professor emeritus of psychology at Penn State University, told Newsweek that while he is “more sympathetic toward it than most academic psychologists,” he does have reservations about the MBTI’s categories.
He said the “fundamental problem” with placing people into categories is that a vast number are in the middle ground between opposing types. But the MBTI “insists on forcing people into a type or its opposite, such as ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert.’
“This throws away a lot of information about people in the middle. Someone who is barely above the line will be more similar to someone barely below the line than [to] people in the same type category with more extreme scores.”
The MBTI tool “compounds this problem with four forced categorizations and then claims, incorrectly, that there is qualitatively distinctive information in each of the 16 four-letter type categories beyond what can be known from a person’s separate scores.”
Richard W. Robins, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, agreed, telling Newsweek that the MBTI approach is “analogous to measuring people’s height and then classifying them as either tall or short and ignoring more precise differences in height.”
He suggests there are other “fundamental problems” with the tool:
- A person’s personality type (or score on each of the four dimensions) is “often quite different” when the person retakes the test, even a few weeks later when “no real personality change is likely to have occurred.”
- The MBTI scores “do not consistently predict success in school, job performance, health or other life outcomes that we know are related to personality.”
- It omits an important aspect of personality. The neuroticism-emotional stability domain, which is one of the “big five” traits, is not considered.
- Some type descriptions are so vague they could apply to almost anyone—for example, “concerned with how others feel about you” or “bored by routine”.
The academic debate continues, but Gordon pointed to the MBTI’s “widespread use in business and among organizations and casual users.” He added: “People understand and identify with their results in ways that they cannot or do not with other tests or theories.”