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The four temperaments and management/leadership style

In his book Please Understand Me, David Kiersey argues that while there are 16 recognisable types based on MBTI™ preferences, some of the preferences are more important than others and combine in a way to make 4 basic 'temperaments'.

Kiersey classifies the four temperaments in the following way:
SJs   The Guardians   (ISTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ, ESTJ)
SPs  The Artisans       (ISTP, ISFP, ESFP, ESSP)
NF   The Idealists        (INFP, INFJ, ENFP, ENFJ)
NT   The Rationalists   (INTJ, INTP, ENTP,ENTJ)

Temperament theory provide us with a useful way to think about difference but it is more useful in some contexts more than others. Temperament is very important when understanding people’s preferred teaching and learning style, and in understanding the type of managers style people adopt. Temperament theory has less to offer when we examine other differences, including how people react to change (see Page x.) or how people are influenced by others.

Summary of the four temperaments and management style

SJ – The Guardians
As their name suggests, people who have a preference for sensing and judging are, by nature, fairly traditional in their approach to life. They like structure and established order and are great respecters of the status quo. SJ managers are comfortable working in traditionally structured organisations and stress values such as loyalty, punctuality, responsibility and respect.
SP – The Artisans
The combination of sensing with perceiving leads to a SP temperament which is practical and hands on and which values room for manoeuvre, spontaneity and risk-taking. SP managers have their feet firmly on the ground, but they value creativity and can be fairly unconventional and opportunistic in their approach. They are often at their best when dealing with a crisis.
NF – The Idealists
Intuitive feelers all share the desire to make the world a better place for people – hence the label 'idealists'. They carry these ideals into their management roles where they stress the importance of growing and developing the organisation through vision and values. They also underline the importance of developing and motivating staff and treating them with dignity and respect.
NT – The Rationalists
Intuitive thinkers are drawn to seeing the big picture and then analysing what they see using objective logic. As managers this translates into a concern for how the system works and how it can be improved. NT managers are very motivated by 'vision' and strategy. They like devising conceptual models and approaches and in finding innovative solutions to problems.

Type of leadership style preferred by different types of staff

If you have already undergone a MBTI session with your staff then the following information can help you understand how different types of people in your team prefer to be managed.  If you don’t know your staff’s preferences, then you can use the information in this website to show you how you can identify people’s preferences. Remember the point of this exercise is to help you become more sensitive to how individuals want to be managed and how by varying your behaviour even slightly you may increase your staff’s job satisfaction and enhance their performance. Unless you only employ people of one temperament it means as a manager you will have to vary your behaviour so that you can treat staff differently. Use the menu on the right to access the next section on how to manage the different temperaments.


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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