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ESTJ Personality Traits, Cognitive Functions, and Characteristics

There are 16 people in a room, each with a different MBTI personality type. A phone rings. Some people look around to see if anyone else is going for it first. Others start approaching the phone hesitantly. In the meantime, one person has already picked up and answered it — it is the ESTJ in the room. Duty is on the other side of the line. Before anyone else even knows what’s happened, the ESTJ has made a plan of action and assigned them all a task!

ESTJs are born leaders. But what exactly makes them behave the way they do? Let’s explore the defining traits of this personality type.

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What is ESTJ?

Known as The Administrators, sometimes also dubbed the Supervisor or Executive personality, ESTJs are part of the SJ Protector, or the Guardian temperament, as defined by the psychologist David Keirsey. They are characterized by their commitment to loyalty, objectivity, and hard work. Perhaps more importantly, they are not only devoted to those values for themselves but would also be willing to stand up for them, even in the face of overwhelming odds. So it should come as no surprise that the ESTJs often rise in the ranks of their chosen career.

Another important characteristic of The Administrators is their tendency to rely on logic, facts, and established ways. Their practicality combined with their outward focus, assertiveness, and sociability often makes them stand out as leaders in a team or any other group that has a common goal. Their affinity for order and tradition leads them to value family and hierarchy.

However, this focus on rules and established ways, if very salient, may be perceived as rigidity or stubbornness by others. In their commitment to completing a task and taking charge, ESTJs may also be seen as insensitive to other people’s feelings or opinions. Their to-the-point attitude and decisiveness may seem too direct and imposing to others. But of course, this is all a matter of degree, as well as the perceiver’s own psychological makeup.

If you are not an ESTJ yourself, you might be picturing a person you know, maybe someone at work or at school, who possesses these qualities. If you are on the other side of the personality spectrum, such as an INFP or an ENFP, there is a chance you think of this person as overbearing. But just imagine trying to get something done in a team without someone like that!

Below we have dived into ESTJ preferences, functions, strengths, and weaknesses in more detail. But first, let’s look at some statistics related to this type.

It often seems that leaders are hard to come by in society. And that’s despite the fact that ESTJs are the most common personality type out there — they make up 13% of the total population. So it’s very likely that you know at least a few ESTJs if you are not one yourself. What’s more, if you know a few ESTJs, it’s likely that most of them are men. Almost two-thirds of ESTJs are male. There’s a good reason for that — women tend to be Feelers more often than Thinkers. ESFJ is actually the most common category among women. However, a female ESTJ is still not uncommon and women ESTJs often stand out as leaders in their community or workplace.

ESTJ Preferences

As you probably know, Preferences are the categories that define a person’s natural tendencies within the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. They determine the type of personality according to this inventory. There are a total of eight MBTI preferences, organized in four pairs of opposites. Each person leans towards one or the other preference to varying degrees. However, it’s important to remember that everyone uses each of these preferences in different situations — it’s a person’s tendency to use one or the other in any given pair that determines their personality type.

  • Extroversion vs Introversion – Indicates whether people’s energy is directed outwardly or inwardly
  • Sensing vs Intuition – Indicates whether people focus more on the concrete or on the symbolic
  • Thinking vs Feeling – Indicates whether people base their decisions on facts and logic or on emotion
  • Judging vs Perceiving – Indicates whether people prefer more structure or more flexibility in their lives

The ESTJ’s Preferences are Extroversion (E), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), and Judging (J). So if a person is an ESTJ, they are more inclined to direct their energy outwardly and be more pragmatic. Below we’ve defined each of ESTJs’ preferences in a bit more detail.

Extroversion

Extroverts prefer to direct their attention outwardly and to spend time with other people. ESTJs recharge their energy through social interactions rather than spending time alone. They are sociable and charismatic. Unlike introverted types, The Administrators enjoy being the center of attention; they are talkative and love to draw an audience. Combined with their other personality traits, ESTJs’ extroversion drives them to organize and coordinate with other people to achieve their goals.

Sensing

Sensors tend to focus on the present and the data coming in through their senses. ESTJs value facts and objectivity. They think in concrete terms and have a realistic view of the world. Lofty ideas and hypotheticals are unlikely to get their attention. The Administrators rely on common sense and established ways. They tend to be wary of untested solutions or ideas without a practical application. This accounts for their affinity for norms and customs. Although it can sometimes make them seem stubborn or inflexible, it also lends them the crucial function of keeping traditions alive.

Thinking

Thinkers base their decisions on facts and logic. ESTJs value objectivity and rarely take emotions into account when responding to a situation. That’s not to say that The Administrators don’t have feelings, but rather that they prefer to rely on reason when deciding how to move forward. Since they often disregard emotions, including those of others, they can sometimes be perceived as inconsiderate. Their commitment to what’s right may sometimes make them too quick in pointing out other people’s flaws. However, it’s important to remember that they don’t mean any harm, but simply approach confrontations as pragmatic matters.

Judging

As Judgers, ESTJs prefer to think and approach tasks in an orderly and structured manner. They enjoy having a routine and don’t like to leave tasks unfinished. Deadlines are important for them and they avoid unpredictable situations. Judging, here, does not refer to being judgemental, but rather to a person’s approach to everyday activities. You are unlikely to catch The Administrator slacking on the job or daydreaming. An ESTJ will not rest until all responsibilities are taken care of and order is established. That’s not to say that an ESTJ is necessarily rigid — they can be if their desire to maintain stability is overexposed. But that’s also true for Perceiving personalities, if their flexibility is taken to the extreme; they may become unable to complete tasks or commit to anything.

ESTJ Functions

Cognitive Functions are sometimes hard to grasp even for people who have a fairly good understanding of the Myers-Briggs personalities. In fact, people sometimes gloss over them and focus mostly on the four letters of the personality type. However, some MBTI aficionados argue that the four letters are just code for what really matters, and that’s the cognitive functions. Another way to look at it is to view the four-letter personality type as describing how a person tends to behave, while cognitive functions describe their internal motivations and innate responses to stimuli.

What do cognitive functions mean? We’ll provide a brief overview here, but for a more in-depth exploration check out our page on cognitive functions.

Every person relates to the world in two main ways — taking in information from the outside world (Perceiving function) and making decisions based on that information (Judging function). Each of these main functions is split into two basic ways in which they can be approached. Perceiving can be done mostly through Sensing or through Intuition, while Judging can be done either through Thinking or Feeling. To complicate things just a bit further, each of these four functions can be either introverted or extroverted, depending on the area in which these functions operate — either inside ourselves or in the outside world. So we have a total of eight cognitive functions, all of which are present in everyone, but four of them are shadow functions, which we don’t really access most of the time.

  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Introverted Sensing (Si)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Extroverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Extroverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Extroverted Sensing (Se)
  • Extroverted Thinking (Te)

How do we determine the four main functions of each type? Following a couple of simple rules we can derive the order of any given personality type’s four functions. The first one is the dominant function, one which we are very good at using. The second is also salient and relatively developed, while the third and fourth are functions that we may benefit from developing. In fact, it could be argued that in order to derive the full value from MBTI’s assessment, we need to focus on our least developed functions and work on improving them.

The ESTJ’s dominant function is Extroverted Thinking and the auxiliary function is Introverted Sensing.

Extroverted Thinking

Te is ESTJs most often used function, also known as the dominant function. This means that ESTJs base their decisions on rational considerations. This function helps them organize their thoughts in a sequential and structured way. It allows them to infer the consequences of actions, which accounts for ESTJs’ strong affinity for organizing work in the most efficient way.

Their pragmatic outward focus also drives them to take charge and lead others in their goal of completing a mission. What’s more, this function accounts for The Administrators’ strong aversion to idleness — they want to be productive. They look at the world and they see inefficiencies that need correcting and believe in their ability to correct them and lead others in that goal.

Introverted Sensing

ESTJs’ use of this auxiliary function is also relatively high. As Sensors, The Administrators pay close attention to the information they take in from their senses. The Si function helps them remember experiences in great detail. It also allows them to compare past to present experiences and draw connections between them. What this means in practical terms, is that The Administrators have an inclination to follow rules and are strong believers in established ways of doing things.

Short of being inflexible or unquestioning, when expressed in a healthy manner, the Introverted Sensing function leads ESTJs to see that there is a good reason for things to be the way they are. Another way the Si function is expressed in The Administrators is through their ability to notice and point out deviations from established ways. This may lead others to perceive them as critical.

Extroverted Intuition

ESTJs use this tertiary function less than their dominant and auxiliary one. The Ne function allows The Administrators to interpret information in a more abstract and symbolic way. It gives them the ability to connect events through meaning. Extroverted Intuition can also help ESTJs explore new possibilities and see the hidden potential. If The Administrators work on developing this function it can aid them in becoming more flexible and could introduce more novelty to their life.

Combined with their practical and task-oriented nature, Extroverted Intuition motivates the ESTJ to find creative ways to increase efficiency and productivity. It also makes them more likely to bring a project to fruition — as ESTJs cannot stand leaving tasks unfinished. So in a sense, working on this function can help The Administrators develop their inventive side, and thus break the stereotype of rigidity associated with this type.

Introverted Feeling

ESTJs are least likely to use this inferior function from their stack of four. Nevertheless, when they do use it, they base their decisions on emotions. Introverted Feeling helps ESTJs establish their inner views and attitudes. It also allows them to be more in tune with their feelings, as well as those of others. The Administrators use this function to relate to others who share the same values. However, the fact that ESTJs use it the least, predisposes them to a sort of shortsightedness when it comes to other people’s values and motivations.

Unless this function is well developed, The Administrators might have a tendency to assume that others should operate in the same way they do. This in turn could lead others to believe that ESTJs are stubborn or insensitive. Since The Administrators often become leaders in their field of work, due in large part to their Extroverted Thinking function, their leadership style can be significantly improved if they develop their Introverted Feeling function.

ESTJ Strengths and Weaknesses

What connects Princess Leia from Star Wars and Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones? Not much it would seem, except maybe their blue blood and impeccable hairstyles. However, there’s one more notable characteristic they share — they both fit the ESTJ profile! As you might notice from the list of famous ESTJs — both real and fictional — representatives of this type may fall anywhere on the spectrum between good and evil.

The Administrators, like all other MBTI personality types, can have a certain trait expressed in a healthy and functional way. But if left unchecked it can turn into a hindrance to their growth and development. ESTJs are some of the most hard-working, loyal, and decisive people out there. But they can also be perceived by others as too rigid or lacking empathy. The good news is, it’s never too late for anyone to start working on their flaws. Below we’ve outlined some common strengths and weaknesses of the ESTJ personality type.

ESTJ Strengths

The qualities below often come naturally to an ESTJ. If harnessed with sensitivity and moderation, they add up to an individual who is highly valued and respected by those around them. A healthy ESTJ often becomes an indispensable part and a driving force of a well-functioning community.

Dutiful and reliable – ESTJs have an unwavering commitment to duty. If they see something as the right thing to do, they will stop at nothing to achieve the same, even if they meet with resistance from people around them. The Administrators’ respect for tradition also drives them to devote a lot of energy to maintaining family and community ties. This makes them an important part of the glue that binds society together.

Loyal and decisive – The Administrators have an affinity for order and security, which makes them very reliable and trustworthy. They tend to believe in established hierarchies and follow rules even if they are pressured not to, by some external force. They are naturally brave and will stick up for those close to them. You can count on an ESTJ to keep their word and stand by their principles.

Closure-seeking and result-oriented – ESTJs look at the world and think of ways to make it better and more efficient. They bring order to chaos and do not like to sit idly, especially if there are tasks pending. ESTJs’ discipline and hard work guarantee that they will almost always go through with a project they set out to complete. Their strong organizational skills also make them proficient in motivating and mobilizing others in the pursuit of a common goal.

Social and energetic – The Administrators have a seemingly inexhaustible well of energy. They enjoy the company of others and often bring an upbeat mood to social situations. The ESTJ humor — often witty and dark — can be contagious. ESTJs tend to prefer long-term, stable relationships, making them dependable friends.

Strong and efficient leaders – ESTJs have all the characteristics of a good leader. They like order and predictability. They follow rules and standards and expect the same regard from others. They believe in their abilities and in their vision of what’s right. It comes naturally to The Administrators to guide others and to assign roles and tasks, while they keep an eye on the progress towards an objective.

ESTJ Weaknesses

Too rational and unaffectionate – ESTJs’ strong belief in the value of pragmatism and concrete facts makes it difficult for them to express emotion. Their strong sense of responsibility and focus on the task at hand may lead them to ignore their feelings. They may even view emotions as unimportant or as a hindrance on the way to their goal.

Too direct and insensitive – The ESTJs’ stereotypically low emotional intelligence often extends naturally to other people. The Administrators are sometimes perceived as too direct or judgemental. They may be too quick to point out the flaws and mistakes of others in their desire to preserve what’s right and what works. They have high standards for themselves, and expect the same from others, sometimes failing to appreciate different ways in which people operate in the world.

Overly confident and dismissive – ESTJs’ strong convictions combined with their belief in their competence make it hard for them to accept that they could be wrong. They like to deal with concrete facts and naturally see themselves as leaders, which can lead them to dismiss other people’s opinions. Their preference for established ways also makes them wary of untested solutions on principle, so they are reluctant to try out new approaches, even if they have potential. They are generally uncomfortable with unpredictable things.

Bossy and overbearing – ESTJs may feel uneasy in the backseat and it may even cause them stress. Since the world for them is an objective set of facts, they may often feel that they know exactly what needs to be done. This can make them seem overbearing to others. If uncalled for, their desire to take over may leave others feeling dismissed or inadequate. They are generally concerned about social status.

Although the weaknesses described above can rarely be observed in an ESTJ, they are not inevitable. In fact, simply knowing what deficiencies a person is prone to can help alleviate them. If a person takes care to avoid falling into the traps that their particular mix of traits sets up for them, they have already done a large part of the work in achieving their full potential as an individual.