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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Study

Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument in the 1940s. MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung, a Swiss-born psychiatrist who researched and published studies on psychological types in the 1920s. The instrument was designed to determine individual preferences and to promote more constructive use of differences among people. MBTI test results enable organizations to assign personnel to tasks that fit their abilities. It is one of the most widely known psychological instruments today and is used all over the world (Kroeger, Thuesen, and Rutledge, 2002).

The MBTI instrument analyzes our preferences using four dichotomies: Energy, Information, Decision, and Action. Each dichotomy consists of two personality areas. Energy and Action are attitudes observed by the outside world. Information and Decision are internal processes that we use to make sense of the outside world. The preferences are not right or wrong, good or bad. They are our inclinations, our first choice in our approach to dealing with the world.

  • Energy. Extraverts (E) receive their energy from their experiences with people. They refuel through personal interaction. Introverts (I) focus internally and are energized through their own internal experiences.
  • Information. People with a Sensing (S) preference make sense of the world using their five senses. People who prefer iNtuition (N) understand the world through insight.
  • Decision. Those who prefer Thinking (T) make decisions based on logic and principles, whereas those who prefer Feeling (F) make decisions based on personal and social values.
  • Action. If one’s preference is Judging (J), this person likes a structured approach, living life in a controlled way. Those who prefer Perceiving (P), on the other hand, are spontaneous and open ended in their approach to life (Hewertson, 2015).

The MBTI instrument assigns a four-letter type indicator that summarizes an individual’s preference. For example, ESFP indicates an individual with a preference for Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving (Kroeger et al., 2002).

Individuals develop preferences early in life, and these preferences usually do not change. We become comfortable with our preferences, which allows us to cope with confidence in this complex world. We are capable of using our non-preferences when necessary, and as we mature, our non-preferences enhance our ability to perform in new ways. But our non-preferences do not become our preferences, just has left-handed people do not become right-handed people (Kroeger et al., 2002).

Right-handed people can learn to write with their left hand, but it takes hard work and a lot of practice. I have known programmers that prefer Visual Basic over C#, and programmers that prefer C# over Visual Basic. Give them the same requirements, and each of them was capable of writing excellent code to solve a problem in a reasonable amount of time. They did it in their own way using their preferred development language. Could the C# programmer write code in Visual Basic, or the Visual Basic programmer develop solutions in C#? Absolutely! But it would take more time and more effort for them to write code in their non-preferred languages. You can think of the Myers Briggs Type Indicators in the same way.

Tables 2-4 through 2-6 contain a summary of MBTI and a comparison of the MBTI scores of the general population verses IT professionals. If you have never taken an MBTI test, write down the temperament preference that agrees with you as you read the descriptions.

In contrast to the findings of Judge et al. (Northouse 2007) concerning leadership and extraversion, MBTI studies of IT professionals have found that two-thirds of IT geeks are introverted. This comes as no surprise to anyone that has spent time with IT geeks. IT geeks are generally less extraverted and more introverted than the general population. According to Carl Jung, the preference between introversion and extraversion is the biggest discriminator among people (Kroeger et al., 2002).

As discussed earlier, researchers have found that extraversion is the most important trait of the Big Five concerning leadership. This finding puts most IT geeks at a disadvantage when it comes to being an effective leader.

Generally, introverted people are more comfortable working alone than in groups and find themselves drained after prolonged social interactions (Kroeger et al., 2002). Such a predilection does not lend itself well to being a strong communicator or motivator. These introverted geeks must work hard at communication and motivation tasks; they generally don’t like those tasks, and those tasks don’t come naturally to them.

Introverts are energized by their own thoughts, ideas, and concepts and are generally not motivated to influence others. As discussed earlier, leaders are required to motivate and influence their team members. IT geeks in leadership positions generally are challenged when it comes to motivating others.

Introverts generally require time to think about situations before making decisions (Kroeger et al., 2002). This predilection may put IT geek leaders at a disadvantage when the situation requires a quick decision.

Leaders are expected to model the way, to set a positive example. Considering the Big Five study results, IT geeks scored below the norm on image management, indicating a lack of concern for projecting a smooth, polished self-presentation in interpersonal settings. IT geeks that do not care about their appearance will have a difficult time attracting followers. Their predilection for poor image management is likely related to their introverted inner focus and lack of conscientiousness. Non-geek leadership will frown upon a geek leader who does not monitor the image he or she portrays.

As Erika Andersen stated (Andersen, 2012b), most of us can learn to be more effective leaders. IT geeks can learn to use their less-preferred extraverted style just as a Visual Basic programmer can learn to code in C#. It may take some effort, but you can learn to lead out loud!

Table 2-4 MBTI Extraversion and Introversion Study Results

Temperament Preferences

General Population (CAPT Study)

General Population





Extraversion (E):

Need for sociability; energized by people and contact with lots of people

Prefers to work with other people (teams, parties, gatherings, work groups)

Speaks first, thinks later

Finds listening more difficult than talking

Needs affirmation from others to feel confident in own performance




Introversion (I):

Territorial—needs own private space; drained by a lot




of people contact

Prefers working alone (reading, writing, studying) or working with a limited number of people

Prefers depth over breadth

Rehearses things before saying them

Perceived as a “great listener”

Believes “talk is cheap,” respects people who use words efficiently

Data derived from Institute for Management Excellence. (2003). “Differences between ‘Computer’ Folks and the General Population.”; and Kroeger, et al. (2002). Type Talk at Work. New York, NY: Dell.

Table 2-5 MBTI Sensing and Intuition Study Results

Temperament Preferences

General Population (CAPT Study)







Sensing (S):

Practical and realistic; wants facts, trusts facts, and remembers facts

Focuses on details and may miss the big picture

Focuses on the external (what is observed); does not use or trust intuition

Likes to focus on the moment; would rather take action than think about taking action

“Fantasy” is a dirty word; “seeing is believing”




Intuition (N):

Innovative; seeks a better way

Wants ideas; likes metaphors and vivid imagery

Focuses on the internal (own inner voice); may find ideas coming to them with no idea of where they come from

Thinks about several things at once

Believes time is relative

Gives general answers to questions instead of specifics




Data derived from Institute for Management Excellence. (2003). “Differences between ‘Computer’ Folks and the General Population.”; and Kroeger, et al. (2002). Type Talk at Work. New York, NY: Dell.

Table 2-6 MBTI Thinking and Feeling Study Results

Temperament Preferences


Population (CAPT Study)

General Population





Thinking (T):




More comfortable with impersonal, objective judgments; makes decisions based on logic and objectivity

Prefers and follows rules, principles, laws, criteria

Good at logical arguments

Stays calm in situations in which others are upset

Will argue both sides of a discussion

Believes it is more important to be right than to be liked

Feeling (F):

More comfortable with value judgments, may be put off by rule-governed choices

Makes decisions based on personal preferences and others’ feelings

Good at persuasion

Will over-extend personally to accommodate others Easily takes back comments that may offend others Empathetic toward others




Data derived from Institute for Management Excellence. (2003). “Differences between ‘Computer’ Folks and the General Population.”; and Kroeger, et al. (2002). Type Talk at Work. New York, NY: Dell.

IT geeks are generally less sensing and more intuitive than the general population. There are slightly more IT geeks who prefer intuition over sensing.

IT geeks in leadership positions with a preference for sensing have a natural sense of the movement of time (Kroeger et al., 2002). While not an identified leadership trait, this is an advantageous preference for estimating how long tasks and projects will take.

IT geeks with a preference for sensing tend to focus on individual pieces of the puzzle instead of the picture the completed puzzle produces. For geek leaders, this can be a disadvantage. There could be a tendency to fix what is seen as individual performance issues rather than take actions that motivate and energize the entire team to work together to reach a goal.

Leaders who prefer intuition have no problem seeing the picture, but may not see how all of the puzzle pieces fit together. They easily see patterns and future possibilities. For IT geek leaders with this preference, intuition is a strength that enables them to think strategically and systematically, to create a vision for the future of their team and project. It enables them to use their vision to drive creative change. Unfortunately, almost half of IT geeks tested did not have this preference.

Bill Gates’s ability to simultaneously conceive and pursue a big-picture vision, a computer on every desk in every home running Microsoft software, and to be as detailed oriented as necessary to write great software, is extraordinary.

IT geeks prefer thinking much more than the general population does. There are far more thinkers than feelers in the IT profession.

Cross-cultural research has shown that thinkers make up about 86% of middle managers, 93% of senior managers, and 95% of executives. Leaders of all temperaments tend to clone themselves, hiring and nurturing other leaders who think as they do (Kroeger et al., 2002).

Because IT professionals are predominantly thinkers, this trait is an indicator that IT professionals have the ability to advance within their organizations if they can develop other complimentary leadership skills and if they can overcome their natural leadership challenges.

From a thinker’s perspective, the world is a series of problems to be solved (Kroeger et al., 2002). IT geeks solve technical problems for a living, and IT geek leaders with a thinking preference are driven to solve problems with little regard to the human element. They may come across as critical and harsh concerning their subordinates’ performance. As discussed earlier, this preference makes encouraging the heart a challenge for IT geek leaders.

Whereas MBTI studies may show that IT geeks prefer thinking over feeling, this does not make geeks more intelligent than people who prefer feeling over thinking, and it does not mean that IT geeks do not have emotions. It does mean that IT geeks prefer thinking over feelings when they make decisions. Instead of preferring to make a decision based on what people care about and their different points of view, IT geeks generally prefer to look at the principles that are applied and to analyze the pros and cons. Instead of being primarily concerned about values and what is best for the people involved, IT geeks generally prefer to be logical and impersonal.

Dale Carnegie first published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1937, and the lessons taught in that book are still relevant today. Part Two of the book is called “Six Ways to Make People Like You” (Carnegie, 2010). The six principles Carnegie presented are summarized in Table 2-7.

Table 2-7 Dale Carnegie’s Six Ways to Make People Like You





Be genuinely interested in others.

“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”



“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feelings, which are not.”


Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that one of the simplest ways of gaining good will was by remembering names and making people feel important—yet how many of us do it?”


Be a good listener. Encourage others to

“Isaac F. Marcosson, a journalist who interviewed hundreds of celebrities, declared that many people fail to make a favorable impression because they don’t listen attentively. ‘They have been so much

talk about themselves.

concerned with what they are going to say next that they do not keep their ears open.... Very important people have told me they prefer good listeners to good talkers, but the ability to listen seems rarer than almost any other good trait.”


T alk in terms of the other person’s interests.

“For Roosevelt knew, as all leaders know, that the royal road to a person’s heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures the most.”


Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

“The unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way, and a sure way to their hearts is to let them realize in some subtle way that you recognize their importance, and recognize it sincerely. Remember that Emerson said: ‘Every man I meet is my superior some way. In that, I learn from him.’”

Data derived from Carnegie, D. (2010). How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

IT geeks generally do not try to appear caring, warm, or tactful—this disposition is not their first preference. Instead they generally prefer to be impersonal, to avoid allowing their personal wishes or other people’s wishes to influence their decisions. This general preference makes leading by encouraging the heart very challenging for IT geeks.

As Bill Gates has shown, IT geeks are capable of encouraging the heart, but they need to be cognizant of the disparity between their personal preference and the behavior required and expected of effective leaders.

IT geeks generally prefer judging over perceiving more than the general population does. As described in Table 2-8, two-thirds of IT geeks tested prefer judging over perceiving.

This general preference toward judging gives IT geeks a leadership advantage. Leaders are expected to establish plans for their teams and manage the implementation of those plans. They need to be decisive and to work hard to set a positive example. IT geeks with a preference toward judging are capable of leading in this way. lists Bill Gates as an INTJ (Rational™ Portrait of the Mastermind, n.d.), meaning that he is an Introvert (I) verses an extrovert and he prefers Thinking (T) over feeling. Yet Gates is a visionary, an effective communicator and motivator, and he has demonstrated that he encourages the heart. He is proof that IT geeks can come to be great leaders, and he sets the example for other IT geeks, demonstrating how they can adapt their preferred style and make a difference for their team, their project, their organization, and maybe even the IT industry and the business world.

Table 2-8 MBTI Judging and Perceiving Study Results

Temperament Preferences

General Population (CAPT Study)

General Pop. (Keirsey/Myers)

Computer Professionals (Management)

Judging (J):

Likes closure and solid plans, goals, and timetables Work comes before play

Likes to make decisions and move on and to complete things and get them out of the way

Organized: keeps things in order




Does not like surprises

Perceiving (P):

Likes open and fluid options

More playful and less serious; work does not always come first; work must be enjoyable

Likes to keep options open and explore; resists making final decisions

Easily distracted

Prefers creativity and spontaneity to neatness and order Changes the subject often during conversations




Data derived from Institute for Management Excellence. (2003). “Differences between ‘Computer’ Folks and the General Population.”; and Kroeger, et al. (2002). Type Talk at Work. New York, NY: Dell.

The differences in personality preferences are the source of miscommunications, politics, interpersonal conflicts, and the like. But if everyone were an introvert, our projects would not benefit from ideas generated in lively brainstorming sessions fueled with the energy of extraverts. And, if everyone were an extravert, our projects would not benefit from the introvert’s deep thinking and listening skills required to develop solutions. Each temperament preference brings its own strengths, and as leaders, we must manage the inevitable conflict among people with different styles and leverage their ability to contribute to the success of our projects.

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