Personality Types and Leadership

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Created by Ísabella Rós Ingimundardóttir



This article will examine different personality types and diverse leadership styles, exploring the ways that personality traits can influence the leadership style and effectiveness of an individual. This is highly related to project management since every team within an organization, e.g. a team of people working together on a project or an interdisciplinary team within the organization, requires a good leader. There are a few leadership styles a team leader can use to his or her advantage, but a leadership style should be compatible with the type of person the leader is and align with their values. It can be beneficial to identify ones natural strengths and weaknesses, in order to use it to their advantage in their leadership.

Leadership styles have been in constant development throughout the years and it is interesting to connect them to the sixteen personality types, defined by Myers-Briggs. Personality traits play a significant role in shaping individual behavior, including the behavior of leaders. A review of the current literature suggests that some personality traits are commonly associated with successful leaders, such as extroversion, emotional intelligence, and openness to experience.

Extroversion, which refers to outgoing and sociable behavior, is often linked to leadership effectiveness as it allows leaders to build strong relationships with their followers. Emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and manage emotions, is also seen as an important personality trait for leaders as it allows them to effectively handle complex situations and respond to the needs of their followers. Additionally, openness to experience, or a willingness to try new things and embrace change, can lead to innovative leadership strategies that can drive organizational success.

It is important to note that the relationship between personality and leadership is complex and not always straightforward. While personality can influence a leader's behavior and decision-making, situational and organizational factors also play a critical role in determining leadership effectiveness. It is also important to note, that effective leadership does not only depend on personality traits, but also other factors that reach beyond, such as experience, training, and other situational factors, that will not be taking into an account in this article.

Personality types, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI):

The history of personality types (MBTI)

In the 1940s, Kathrine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It was based on the work of a Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, who developed a model of eight combinations of psychological types. Briggs and Myers were interested in understanding people‘s natural inclinations and preferences, as they believed it could help individuals choose their right career, find fulfilling relationships, and improve their communications with other people [1].

The MBTI is based on the idea that there are four basic dichotomies of personality: Extraversion (E) vs Introversion (I), Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P), to describe ones attitude, perception, judgement, and orientations.. These differentiations form sixteen possible personality types, which are each represented by a four-letter code (e.g. INFJ, ESTP). Initially, the MBTI was used in the workplace, as Briggs and Myers believed that it could help companies better understand their employees and improve their team dynamics. Today, the MBTI is used in a variety of settings,, including career counseling, personal development and relationship counseling. However, the test is not without controversy, as some psychologists have criticized its validity and reliability. Some have even argued that it oversimplifies complex human behavior [2].

MBTI personality types:

Attitude: Extroversion (E) vs Introversion (I)

The source of ones energy is one of the most important distinction between people, according to Jung, because it describes both the source of one’s energy, the direction of it, as well as the focus [2].

Extraverted people have their energy flow out toward the objects and the people in their environment. They tend to be outgoing, assertive, and get energized by social interactions. Often, they rely on their environment for stimulation and guidance and are eager to interact with the outer world. Extraverts are often sociable, enjoy group activities, and are more likely to think out loud[1].

Introverts however, tend to be reserved, and reflective. Their energy is drawn from the environment toward inner experience and reflection. They often get their energy from spending time by themselves and prefer to spend time alone or in small groups., while introverts prefer quiet environments and are more likely to think before they speak [1].

Figure 1: Persons attitude [3].

Perception: Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N)

There are two types of how people perceive their experiences and their surroundings, by sensing or by intuition.

Sensing refers to establishing what already is, and bringing awareness to what is happening in the present moment. People who are sensors tend to focus on the concrete, observable data, and details. Intuition refers to the perception of possibilities, the perception of the unconscious. People who are more intuitive than sensing may become more imaginative, theoretical, and creative, since focusing on abstract ideas and concepts comes easy to them. To conclude, sensors prefer tasks that are practical and familiar, while intuitives prefer tasks that are novel and creative [1].

Figure 2: Persons perspective [3]

Judgement: Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)

How people use their judgment can also be divided into two main groups: thinking and feeling. Those that naturally gravitate towards being a thinker, are the people that come to a decision by connecting the dots very logically. Their thinking relies on cause and effect principles, and tend to be both objective and impersonal, in relation to their decision making. Persons who are more thinking than feeling are generally objective, have analytical inclination, and prioritize logic and objective criteria in their decision making [1].

On the other hand, those who are more on the feeling side of the spectrum, rely much more on relative values and is more subjective. It relies on the understanding of both the personal values, as well as the group values. People who are more feelers than thinkers, try more to understand people and take their feeling into an account when making a decision. Typically, they prioritize empathy, harmony, and subjective values in their decision making [1].

Figure 3: Persons judgement [3]

Orientation: Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)

Orientations to the outer world, or attitudes, can also be divided into two categories: judging and perceiving attitude.

An individual with a judging attitude tends to be concerned with decision making, wants closure, and organization. For people with a judging attitude, their perception tends to be shut off as soon as they have observed enough to make a decision. Judging people might find it difficult to cope with ambiguity or uncertainty [1].

Person with a perceiving attitude is often open, curious and interested. Their outer behavior usually seems to be spontaneous, and they are open to what is new and changeable. They tend to be flexible, adaptable, and prefer to keep their options open, and may have it difficult to stick to a plan or make decisions quickly [1].

Figure 4: Persons orientation [3]

Leadership styles

Different leadership styles

A leadership style implies to how leaders develop their strategy, implement their plans, communicate with their team members, and respond to changes. It can differ in methods, the leaders characteristics, and their behavior in relation to their facilitation, their motivation to their team members, and how they essentially manage their teams. It is shaped by variable factors, such as the leaders personality, their skills, their values, and of course their experience.

Northouse establishes six leadership approaches; Transformational leadership, transactional leadership, Laissez-Faire leadership, authentic leadership, servant leadership, and adaptive leadership [4].

Table 1: Leadership styles
Transformational leadership Transactional leadership Lassez-Faire Leadership Authentic Leadership Servant Leadership Adaptive Leadership
Transformation takes plave when required behaviour is performed as a whole. A transaction between employees and organization that relies on rewards and punishments. Absence of leadership. Focus on authenticity, being genuine and real. Emphasize on creating strong relationships, to enable the followers to reach their full potential. Focus on adapting
Leader creates unity, develops bonds, creates energy, and installes passion in his followers. Leader emphasizes structure, every employee has a role or responsibility. Leader gives complete freedom to employees regarding decision making, and offers little support. Leader has a genuine desire to serve others, builds strong connections with his followers, has a real sense of purpose, knows his values and behaves accordingly, is transparent with his followers, and leads with his heart. Leader is a good listener, has empathy with his followers, and values them. Leader engages people in adaptive work and helps them deal with conflicting values.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is described as understanding the culture, changing it and realigning it with a new vision of the organization, along with revising the shared assumptions, its values and norms [5]. The leader ensures that the transformation takes place when the required behavior is performed as a whole. He takes control of the situation, communicates with the group, and creates a common vision for the team members. By creating unity, developing bonds, creating energy, and installing passion, he ensures his team will succeed [4]. Transformational leaders integrate creative insight, persistence and energy, intuition and sensitivity in the leadership to shape a new vision in their organization [6]. This leadership style has faced some criticism because it revolves around motivation and morality and for not being ethical, since it’s based on emotional factors not rational ones. It lacks conceptual clarity and is difficult to define the exact parameters [4]. The characteristics of a successful transformational leader is that the leader needs to be creative, have good communication skills and represent a change. He needs to have emotional endurance, be charismatic and have a lifelong learning mindset [7].

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership style is a leadership style that relies on rewards and punishments and is best described as a transaction between the employees and the organization. A transactional leader uses various methods and exhibits various behaviors to achieve specific goals, based on that rewards will have a positive impact on the team members and punishments will have a negative impact. The leader clearly emphasizes structure and decides on the team's rewards and punishments. Every employee has a role or a responsibility, and the team works together towards their reward [7]. For transformational leaders to be effective, they must regularly fulfill their followers expectations and the leader is required to be able to meet and respond to the reactions and changing expectations of their followers [8].

Studies have shown that transactional leadership has positive associations with followers trust, value congruence, and job satisfaction [9].

Laissez-Faire leadership

Laissez-Faire is a leadership style that describes the absence of leadership [4]. The leaders give complete freedom to their followers when it comes to decision making and offer little support to their subordinates. This leadership style is more effective in situations where followers are highly skilled, motivated, capable, and willing to do things on their own, and is useful where decision making is easy, and followers perform routine tasks with less flexibility of criteria. It should not be used in situations where followers lack knowledge, experience, or expertise, which can lead to poor performance of employees [10].

Authentic leadership

Authentic leadership focuses on the leadership being genuine and real and is about the authenticity of the leader and his leadership. The main characteristics of authentic leaders are that they have a real sense of purpose, have their own values, build strong and sincere relationships, have self-discipline, and lead with their hearts. They know their values and behave according to them. They are both compassionate and consistent and put effort into building strong relationships with others [4]. Studies show, that this leadership style has a positive impact on the follower’s psychological-based variables, such as their well-being and motivation, and can increase their job satisfaction and performance at work [7].

The key factors that influence authentic leadership the most are confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience, and the leader has a genuine desire to serve others. The leader needs to acquire or develop these qualities in order to apply them to serve others, which can be complex since it is often developed through critical life events. The leader is transparent with its followers, and is not afraid to show that he is human [4]. This leadership style has been shown to be effective and associated with higher levels of job satisfaction and the overall performance of employees.

This leadership style has faced some criticism for being still in its formative stages of development, and not being clear enough regarding how it results in positive organizational outcomes.

Servant Leadership

A servant leadership style puts the needs of others first, focuses on human values, and emphasizes on creating strong relationships with the people around you, enabling them to reach their full potential. It is considered the leadership model of both the present and the future, being all about ethical decision making. Some main features of a servant leader is being a good listener, having empathy with its members, treating people well, being both generally and personally aware, preferring persuading others instead of using force, pursuing dreams instead of short-term goals, and preferring serving its members rather than being served. This enables the members to feel empowered to suggest new solutions and results in improved communication between all parties [7].

The advantage of being a servant leader includes valuing people by treating them like goals instead of vehicles, contribute to human development, and improves performance by guiding its employees and improving them. The disadvantages are that there is a similarity with the transformational leadership approach, it fails in goal-oriented systems, damages the hierarchical order, and some employees might not respond to this approach, and it might even harm some [7].

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is follower centered and focuses on how leaders encourage their followers to adapt when facing problems, challenges, and changes. The leaders prepare and encourage people to deal with the change, and it focuses on the activities of the leader in relation to the work of their followers, rather than the characteristics of the leader [4]. First, the leader helps their followers to address the challenges they are facing and figure out the situation of these challenges. There are three kinds of situational challenges: primarily technical challenges, technical and adaptive challenges, and primarily adaptive challenges. If the challenge is technical, the leader addresses the problems with his authority and expertise. If the challenges are adaptive, the leader moves the adaptive process forward by engaging in several specific leader behaviors, including getting an overview of the situation, identify the challenges, regulating personal distress amongst followers, maintaining disciplined followers attention on the work, giving the work back to the people by making sure they are not overly directive in the leadership, and protecting the leadership voices from below, by making sure the are listening and are open to ideas from people at marginalized groups. Finally, the leader directs their work in a process called adaptive work, which occurs in a holding environment where people feel safe to face potential changes in their roles, priorities, and values [4]. This leadership style has been shown to be successful in engaging people in adaptive work and is unique in helping followers to deal with conflicting values in the work environment [4]. This leadership has faced some criticism for being based mostly on ideas and assumptions, but not on established research. It is also criticized for being too wide ranging and abstract, and not having clear conceptualizations of recommended behavior [4].


Benefits from knowing your personality type:

Realizing the personality types of you and your team can assist with numerous things related to the workplace.

Building strong relationships
Understanding your own personality traits, along with your team members is beneficial for building strong relationships. It gives recognition for differences and respect, allowing people to understand each other better. It gives people a chance to appreciate the value of having differences in the way people think, act, learn, communicate, and so forth. By understanding other’s perspectives, it helps to shed light on both common values along with different values, which can assist in creating a ground for strong relationships [11].

Information flow
It can assist with transferring information between team members, by understanding how people take in the information (their perception) as well as how they prioritize the information to form a decision (their judgement), which results in enhanced clarity and efficient team work. Also, by taking into account how people’s attitude is, can help one convey the message in a clear way. That is, if they are extroverted, they might prefer replying or make a decision by talking face-to-face, whilst those who are introverted might want to think about it by themselves for a while before they reply [11].

Improved self awareness
Understanding your own personality traits enhances the clarity and comfort about your own work style. It can assist one in realizing their strengths and weaknesses, their opportunities for growth, as well as their blind spots. It might as well help one relies the way they prefer to communicate, learn, take in information, their team work style, as well as preferred supervision style an work environment [11].

Putting together a team
Focusing on communication styles, it has been shown that teams with similar communication styles perform their tasks more quickly, experience less conflicts, they like each other more, and listen to each other more, whilst teams with diverse communication style are more effective, produce better outcomes but may take more time [11].

By understanding personality types, a leader can better connect with their team members, create a more positive work environment, and ultimately drive better business results. However, it's important to note that personality type is just one factor in effective leadership, and leaders should also consider other factors such as skills, experience, and organizational culture.

Connecting MBTI personality types and leadership styles:

By connecting the personality traits to a leadership style that could benefit the organic tendencies within themselves, the leader could enhance their natural skillset through organic leadership.

Evaluating them together:

Transformational leadership
Compared to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, it can be seen that most likely the transformational leader is an extrovert that can bring the energy up and motivate their team members and being more comfortable with social interactions, likely someone who perceives its surroundings by intuition, by seeing the possibilities rather than the concrete and being more imaginative and creative. Likely, this leader has more feeling than thinking in their judgment, being capable to make people feel heard and seen, and tuning with its members emotions with ease. Finally, this leader most likely has a perceiving attitude, with a behavior that seems spontaneous and open to what is new and changeable.

Transactional leadership
Compared to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, it can be seen that most likely is someone who perceives its surroundings by sensing, by focusing more on the concrete facts and observable data. Likely, this leader likely has more thinking than feeling in their judgement, being capable to make objective and impersonal decisions, and being analytical and logical.

Laissez-Faire leadership
This leadership styles is very hands-off, where the followers are given freedom to make their own decisions without much support from their manager, like mentioned before. To connect it to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, this leader likely is an independent thinker who does not like to micromanage. It is also likely that this leader has a perceiving attitude, being more flexible and adaptable, and may have more difficulty sticking to a plan. This leadership style does not indicate if this person is either an introvert or an extrovert, neither if it is more likely that they perceive their experiences and surroundings by sensing or intuition.

Authentic leadership
As previously mentioned, an authentic leader is someone who leads with their heart and has integrity. Compared to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, this leader could either have an extroverted or an introverted attitude, and could perceive their environment either by sensing or intuition. Most likely, this leader uses their judgement with feelings, making him more empathetic and rely on their values, as well as a judging orientation, preferring to have things in order and avoid ambiguity.

Servant leadership
Compared to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, it can be seen that most likely someone who perceives its surroundings by intuition, by seeing the possibilities rather than the concrete and being more imaginative and creative. Likely, this leader has more feeling than thinking in their judgement, being capable to make people feel heard and seen, and being more empathetic. Finally, this leader most likely has a judging attitude, being more organized and systematic, which might assist in creating structure within their leadership approach.

Adaptive leadership
Adaptive leadership puts emphasizes on flexibility, creativity, and being able to adapt. Connecting that to the Myers-Briggs personality traits, this leader most likely an extrovert, being able to motivate and inspire others and have an intuitive perception, making them more imaginative ad creative. This leader could either use their judgement with thinking or feeling, and have either a judgement orientation, or a perceiving one.


Some limitations to the personality test is that the Myers-Briggs personality test has been criticized. The dimensions measured with MBTI are dichotomous, rather than preferences existing across a continuous scale, and therefore excluding one over the other [12], which supports that even though a person naturally gravitates towards a specific dichotomy in the Myers-Briggs personality test, this person might naturally have strong aspects on the other end of the spectrum. Additionally, concerns have been raised about its usage among practitioners due to numerous psychometric limitations regarding both the reliability and validity of the Myer-Briggs personality test [13].

Another limitation to this article is that the author assumes the connection between leadership styles and likely character traits of that leadership style, based on what is most prominent. Leadership styles can be learned, and do not have to be the leaders core personality traits. Rather, it could be learned behavior in order to succeed. By understanding what characteristics are most evident in each leadership style, as well as understanding ones natural personality traits, one can better use their strengths and weaknesses to reach their full potential in their leadership.

Annotated Bibliography

The following resources are the key resources used for this article, and can provide basis for further and deeper studies on the topic

Briggs M., I., Mccaulley, M. H., Quenk, N. L., Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indivator. Third edition. Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. California.
This book is a manual for the Myers-Briggs personality types. It serves as a comprehensive guide for the development and usage of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and all of its authors are experts in the field of personality psychology. It provides a thorough overview of theoretical foundation, the history, and practical application of the MBTI. It is detail oriented and provides clear explanations of complex concepts in relation to the personality types, along with practical guidelines for usage in both personal life as well as work life.

Kroeger, Otto and Thuesen, Janet M. (1988). The 16 Sixteen Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work. Dell Publishing.
This book is an introduction to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and describes the sixteen personalities it generates in detail, Each type is given a detailed description and analysis, and underlines their approach towards work, relationships, and other areas of life. The book is a useful description of the sixteen personalities, but it is worth noting that the book is somewhat outdated, being published in 1988, and the MBTI has undergone several revisions and updates since then.

Myers, I. B. (1998). Introduction to type: A guide to understanding your results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press.
This book is a deeper dive into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and is intended for people that have already taken the personality test. It focuses on practical applications and provides numerous of examples regarding how individuals can use their personality trait knowledge to improve their performance in life. The book is excellent to gain better insights into how the MBTI can be used to achieve full potential of the usage of personality traits.

Northouse, Peter G. (2016) Leadership: Theory and practice – Seventh edition. Western Michigan University. SAGE Publications Inc.
This book is a comprehensive overview of the field of leadership and covers a wide range of leadership related topics, including various theories of leadership styles and behaviors. It emphasizes on practical applications and provides numerous of real world examples of both effective and ineffective leadership in several settings. The book is very accessible and an excellent resource to gain more insight into various leadership styles.

Demirtas, Ozgur and Karaca, Mustafa. (2020). A Handbook of Leadership Styles. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
This book is a broad overview of multiple leadership styles, including traditional styles as well as newer styles. It puts emphasis on practical applications and offers guidance on how to develop effective leadership skills. There are multiple real world examples of effective and ineffective leaderships in various of settings, including business, politics, and education.

Key references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Briggs M., I., Mccaulley, M. H., Quenk, N. L., Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indivator. Third edition. Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. California.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kroeger, Otto and Thuesen, Janet M. (1988). The 16 Sixteen Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work. Dell Publishing.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Retrieved from on the 15.04.2023
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 Northouse, Peter G. (2016) Leadership: Theory and practice – Seventh edition. Western Michigan University. SAGE Publications Inc.
  5. Bass, Bernard M. (1991). Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectation. New York: Free Press.
  6. Bass, B. M. and Avolio, B. J. (1993). Transformational leadership and organizational culture. Public Adm. Q., pp. 112–121.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Demirtas, Ozgur and Karaca, Mustafa. (2020) A Handbook of Leadership Styles. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  8. Kuhnert, K. W., and Lewis, P. (1987). Transactional and transformational leadership: A constructive/developmental analysis. Academy of Management Review, 12(4), 648–657.
  9. Jung, D. I., and Avolio, B. J. (2000). Opening the black box: an experimental investigation of the mediating e ects of trust and value congruence on transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 21, 949–964.
  10. Zareen, Memoona, Razzaq, K, and Mujtaba, B. G. (2014) Impact of Transactional, Transformational and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles on Motivation: A Quantitative Study of Banking Employees in Pakistan. DOI 10.1007/s11115-014-0287-6
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Myers, I. B. (1998). Introduction to type: A guide to understanding your results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press.
  12. Pittenger, D. J. (2005). Cautionary comments regarding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57(3),210-221
  13. Boyle, G. J. (1995). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): Some psychometric limitations. Australian Psychologist, 30(1), 71-74.
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