Temperament and Leadership: One NF’s View

coffee breakAn article on the OKA website is titled, What, and Where, Is Power? A Look at Leadership through the Temperament Lens. I read the article with some surprise. It seemed spot-on for all the temperaments except mine—the NFs (Idealists). The article refers to NFs as “The People People.” This is out of step with how I see myself as a very highly expressed introvert. The article focuses on the NF’s feeling preference but does not, in my opinion, give enough attention to the intuition preference.

Granted, the two extraverted types in this temperament (ENFJs and ENFPs) may indeed be “people people.” Perhaps even the INFPs, with their dominant introverted feeling, might fit that description. But INFJs, like me, with dominant introverted intuition? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. INFJs are intensely interested in people. We find them to be fascinating subjects of study. Our dominant intuition focuses on concepts and patterns relating to human behavior. But our interest in personal relationships is generally limited to family and a small circle of close friends. If coworkers become friends, that’s great. But we don’t seek it out. A business environment isn’t conducive to the deep emotional connections that INFJs find meaningful. We’re happy to maintain businesslike relationships. We don’t expect that everyone we work with will like us, nor do we expect to like everyone we work with.

NFs seek harmony in their professional relationships, as in all relationships. They prefer a business environment that is collaborative rather than competitive. As leaders, NFs foster personal growth rather than the zero-sum game that competition engenders. NF leaders genuinely care about the well-being of those on their team and want to help them build their skills and improve their performance. They’re likely to acknowledge when someone does well and to offer encouragement when someone is unsure how to proceed. And if things go badly, NF leaders are unlikely to criticize; instead, they’ll look for mentorship opportunities and examine the environment for obstacles to success.

Mere “compliments” or “a pat on the back” may be regarded by many NFs (particularly the introverts) as hollow and insincere—and in fact, they can be demotivating for some NFs. The perfectionist INFJs and INFPs strive to perform well as a matter of personal integrity. To be complimented by their manager in front of their peers can be mortifying and can undermine their accomplishment in their eyes. Singling out one person, when the entire team is working hard, can demoralize others—and NFs know this. They don’t want to be praised. They want to be consulted. To show that you respect their abilities, ask for their expertise.

NF leaders exercise power by harnessing the abilities of their team. Their feeling preference focuses their attention on meeting the needs of their employees, while their intuitive preference drives them to constantly look for ways that everyone on the team (including themselves) can improve. They respect the individual while working for the common good—and they expect their employees to do the same.

Looking for more information on temperament and leadership? The Keisey.com website offers articles on getting along with your boss, based on temperament. The site also offers articles on presenting to a boss with a different temperament than yours.


4 thoughts on “Temperament and Leadership: One NF’s View

  1. I’m an INFP and agree with everything in this article. I would definitely say I’m a ‘people’ person. I’m always looking for ways to hear them, empathize, and help them grow. I’m a bit shy an introverted in my methods, but the intent is there. I don’t always say anything; I’m often feeling for a person across the room, without approaching them.

    I do strive for harmony — for myself and others.

  2. I recently confirmed I’m an INFJ from an intense two-day leadership session I’ve been subjected to and realizing my personality type in that situation for me was a bit of a disturbing experience.

    Aware of the percentages of managers based on temperaments, I was curious to know how many leaders are out there who are INFJ. This is how I ended up on your page.

    I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with the statement that INFJ can be comfortable maintaining professional relationships with colleagues and desire nothing more than that.

    1. According to the book “Introduction to Type and Leadership,” INFJs account for 1.5% of the population and 2% of leaders. While it’s nice to know that our representation among leaders outpaces our representation in the general population, that number is still small. That makes it more difficult to find mentors of our own type. I find the book helpful, though. It’s available at the following link:

      I’ve only recently stepped into a leadership role, and I’m still getting my bearings. There are a lot of things I need to learn to do better. One of my biggest challenges is understanding that others aren’t as self-motivated as I am. INFJs and INTJs are the most independent of the types, so I don’t quite grasp the concept of people wanting others to tell them what to do. 🙂

      I can imagine that learning your type in a leadership forum might be an uncomfortable experience. NFs altogether total about 15.5% of leaders (and 16.5% of the general population), so you probably wouldn’t have a lot of company. On the bright side, INFJs bring unique insights that other types might find valuable.

      I’ll do some research to see if some online communities exist for INFJ leaders. I also think that seeking mentors among INTJs would be useful. They have similar work habits to INFJs–yet they have a good grasp of the importance of using objective data for persuasion and decision-making, which INFJs can struggle with.

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