Myers-Briggs Types, Gender, and Leadership Potential

I’ve previously covered the topic “What If I Don’t Want to Be a Leader,” but there’s more I’ve been thinking about around leadership as it relates to career and financial success. Watching Mark Zuckerberg ring in the trading bell with Facebook’s IPO, I wonder why I didn’t drop out of college and start a social network in my late teens. Why Zuck and not me? Well, I didn’t go to Harvard, I didn’t come from a wealthy family, I didn’t know how to program beyond getting a Geocities page live and looking somewhat decent, and, oh, I was… and still am… an INFP.

INFP’s aren’t known for their leadership abilities. Apparently most leaders are ESTJs. What are all the acronyms about? They’re Myers Briggs Personality Type indicators. You can take a test online to find out your type here:, if you don’t already know (post your type and what you think it reveals about you and your leadership style in a comment.)

Reading Wall Street Journal’s latest article on comments from female CEOs in the Fortune 500 (there are 18 of them, a whopping 3.6%) should have inspired me — instead, it disheartend in my quest to discover a realistic professional path. Beyond results, the successful women all touted the importance of networking, mentorship, and all-in-all being a people person. This is something that I am not and never will be.


I – Introverted (vs Extroverted)

N – Intuitive (vs Sensing)

F – Feeling (vs Thinking)

P – Perceiving (vs Judging)


“INFPs have very high standards and are perfectionists.” (Yes.) Consequently, they are usually hard on themselves (uh huh), and don’t give themselves enough credit. INFPs may have problems working on a project in a group, because their standards are likely to be higher than other members’ of the group. In group situations, they may have a “control” problem (What, me, control problem?.) The INFP needs to work on balancing their high ideals with the requeirements of daily living. Without resolving this conflict, they will never be happy with themselves, and they may become confused and paralyzed about what to do with their lives.” (Did Someone just summarize the last 7 years of this blog in a Myers-Briggs type description?)


Results still count for a lot in terms of professional potential. But results are defined not only in how you complete your projects, but how you brag about them, and how you manage a team and con the team into letting you take all or most of the credit for the work (after all, as a manager, if things under your watch are done well, you must have had a huge part in that, right?) As the CEOs discuss in their WSJ commentary, it’s especially important for women to speak up for themselves because men tend to expect less from women.

“‘Men selectively listen,’ said Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier. She recalls making points in boardrooms, then watching the group take note of a male later saying the same thing. ‘When that happened, I’d stop the conversation and say, Do you realize I said that 10 minutes ago?” She says that women have to take responsibility for the dynamic around them, not just say woe is me.

But how can you do that when, if you’re an INFP, you “do not like conflict and go to all lengths to avoid it. If they must face it, they will always approach it from the perspective of their feelings.”

The reality is, business leaders tend to be ENTJs or ESTJs — Extroverted, (Intuitive or Sensing), Thinking and Judging. Literally the EXACT OPPOSITE of my personality type. This site  lists leadership styles for all the 16 personality types, but really, most leaders (especially in highly competitive industries such as technology) must be able to handle the cut-throat, conflict-filled lifestyle. They literally call the ENTJ “The Executive” as a type, vs “the Idealist” INFP.

ENTJs are natural born leaders. They live in a world of possibilities where they see all sorts challenges to be surmounted, and they want to be the ones responsible for surmounting them. They have a drive for leadership, which is well-served by their quickness to grasp complexities, their ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and their quick and decisive judgments. They are “take charge” people.

In a very interesting chart found here, there is a breakdown of Myers Briggs type by gender and total percentage of population. While gender proves to play little role in most of the breakdown, there was a significant difference in the T vs F role, where 75% of all female responders were “feelers” whereas 43% of all men were (the rest were “thinkers”). Given the titles for each of the 16 types below (with a statistic on the total percentage of the population surveyed that fell into that category), one would see that the types that sound like they’d make good business leaders fall into the T camp (ENTP, ENTJ, ESTJ, ESTP.)

ISTJ (The Duty Fulfiller) — 11.6%

ISFJ (The Nuturer) — 13.8%

ISTP (The Mechanic) — 5.4%

ISFP (The Artist) — 8.8%

INFJ (The Protector) — 1.46%

INTJ (The Scientist) — 2.1%

INFP (The Idealist) — 4.4%

INTP (The Thinker) — 3.3%

ESTP (The Doer) — 4.3%

ESFP (The Performer) — 8.5%

ESTJ (The Guardian) — 8.7%

ESFJ (The Caregiver) — 12.3%

ENFP (The Inspirer) — 8.1%

ENTP (The Visionary) — 3.2%

ENFJ (The Giver) — 2.5%

ENTJ (The Executive) — 1.8%

This is not to say that “F” types couldn’t be good leaders, but generally speaking if you are an F type you are going to struggle with holding your own in conflict situations.

Another breakdown (which says the above math adds up to more than 100%) shows the population breakdown as follows:

ESTJ – 12%

ESFJ – 12%

ESTP – 10%

ESFP – 10%

ISTJ – 9%

ISFJ – 9%

ISTP – 7%

ISFP – 7%

ENFJ – 6%

ENFP – 6%

ENTJ – 3%

ENTP – 3%

INTP – 2%

INFP – 2%

INTJ – 1%

INFJ – 1%

ENTJ is relatively rare, which explains why there are so few executives. Even rarer is INFP’s, which are far from leaders. We are supposed to be good councilers because when we are good at seeing other people’s sides (when we are not involved in the conflict) and understanding their feelings. This is not something that is valuable for a CEO, however, when they have to fire staff in order to maximize the bottom line. This isn’t just for CEOs — it’s for all business executives across the board. As a marketing professional, I struggle with the necessity to move into management in order to move up in my career, while not being able to accomplish all I think up on my own. I doubt I’ll be able to succeed over the long term in marketing or business at all due to this.

Smart women (or men) who are non-leaders might seek out a partner who fall into the leadership side of the spectrum, so someone in the partnership can succeed in business, but alas, I’ve found myself another INFP, so we can be idealists together looking out at the sad state of the world while attempting to find happiness outside of wealth.

Recommended Careers for INFPs include writers, counselors, teachers, psychologists, musicians, and religious workers. Since I’m an atheist, the last one is out, and since I have no talent, musician is out, so writer, teacher or counselor it is. Except I’m a marketer, and I still want to be a successful one. And I want to prove (to myself) than an INFP can be a leader too.

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4 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs Types, Gender, and Leadership Potential”

  1. I took this and got ESTJ, which kind of surprised me. I don't consider myself someone who actively seeks out leadership opportunities, but I do find they tend to fall into my lap at work and even in my personal life. I'm one of those people who has NO desire to be a CEO whatsoever, but I like managing projects (I manage all CEU programs & training at my company). When I read the description of an ESTJ, I fit it almost spot-on though.

    Interesting post! 🙂
    Laura recently posted..Super Secret Pregnancy Post – Week 4

  2. Thank you for sharing. This is super fascinating to me. I am mostly an INTJ, but as I've gotten older, the I/E and N have been less consistent when I take the test. The E ideas are definitely as a result of feeling confident at work. If you had asked me while in college, I would have said that I never wanted to be a manager or a leader. My ideas on that have changed in the last few years though and I now see that as a path that I will most likely pursue in the next few years.

    It also fascinates me that, in the tech industry, there are so many NT people that I almost think we are normal.
    Leigh recently posted..Financial Independence: What I Would Do

  3. I've tested more than once as an INTJ, but the N and J are not strongly expressed. So I've also tested as other types, and find reading through the descriptions that I can relate to several aspects (but not all) of multiple types. I'm surprised that INTJs are only 1% of the population, as it seems to me that many people profess to be INTJs (perhaps this type is just interested naturally in Myers Briggs, though!)

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