Religious leaders and the 'Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator'

Thursday, 10 January 2013 00:00

I was listening to a programme on the radio that reported some research by Kroger and Oswald (2012) into the personality traits of religious leaders using the 'Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator' much loved by HR and management professionals and probably familiar to you all.
The ideal religious leader in the USA was defined as an ENFJ(Extrovert, Nurturing, Feeling, Judging) in the research. This translates into someone who leads with a strong vision of the future, insists that people behave well towards each other, practice what they preach, are good at spotting talent and encourage people that show potential.
The radio programme ran the test on an Anglican Bishop, an Imam and a liberal reform Rabbi. (apologies if this sounds like the start of a bad joke !).


The test results were as follows:

The Bishop INTP: Introvert, Nurturing, Thinking, Perceiving Leads by creating ideas, taking risks, challenging the status quo and expecting people to take responsibility for themselves

The Imam ESTJ: Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging, Leads by a confident down to earth approach, requires a respect for authority and systems, sets clear measurable targets and sometimes neglects to consult or involve staff.

The liberal reform Rabbi ESFJ, Extrovert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging, Leads through participation and consensus, is ready with praise, fosters co-operation, acknowledges good work and avoids direct criticism.


My interest in the above does not concern the religious context but the possibility that there may be two factors which can influence our Myers Briggs rating. There is firstly our own personality and quite clearly this is central to using the test in the first place. My second point is that maybe as individuals we are also influenced by the culture of the organisations in which we work and over time this begins to shape the way we operate. It is also possible that organisations recruit according to a particular type and this has both advantages and disadvantages. The negative side influences both diversity and the presence of alternative perspectives in organisations which can be the spring board for innovation and creativity.

I use Myers Briggs frequently as a tool in management coaching. I regard it as a spring board for discussion rather than an end in itself. But I was interested to reflect on the way our careers (and the organisations that have shaped it) may play an important part in the way our scores evolve. It also opens up the possibility that once we are aware of what may have influenced us, the possibility for change opens up.

One of the skills of a good consultant is getting to grips at an early stage with a particular organisational culture. Judgements are made as to whether this background supports the business needs and strategic direction of the company. In the same way that individual personality styles can be influenced by prolonged exposure to a particular organisational culture, maybe that very culture can be changed when needed by exposure to appropriate individuals from within. Despite its age, it is great to think how useful Myers Briggs remains a useful tool to start us thinking.


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Home Case Studies & Work Examples Religious leaders and the 'Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator'

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