Interview: Leadership Consultant & MBTI Expert

We speak to Sherrie Haynie, a leadership consultant for CPP and an expert on the Myers Briggs Indicator test

“I work for CPP, the publisher of the Myers Briggs Indicator tool,” explains Sherrie Haynie over the phone. “I help people use the tool ethically. I also work with leadership teams, practitioners of the tool and leaders generally.”

Haynie has pulled together some research, from existing CPP data, which shows that out of a sample of 19,632 IT employees, the two most frequently occurring types are ISTJ (19.4%) and ESTJ (13.6%).

This is interesting because, whilst INSTJ may be the personality type most associated with IT, the focus is usually on introversion. Yet this extremely large data set reveals that, in fact, only 54.5% (hardly more than half) emerge as introverts. And a very significant number are profiled as ESTJ.

This is even truer amongst the smaller (465) sample of IT Executives, where only 50.4% profile as extroverts: fewer (17.2%) are INSTJ and more are ESTJ (14.2%). Although the really marked difference with IT leaders is the prevalence of INTP at 10.3%, compared to 7.9% of the general IT workforce. This tallies our own recent digging into the subject.

Haynie suggests that whilst there has always been a traditional preference towards introversion and “concrete information” amongst people who go into tech careers, things are beginning to change.

“What we have found more recently is that the stereotype of the technical person being a geek is starting to break that down. There is such a broad range of expertise and talents needed [in IT] outside that closed door of computer programming. There needs to be a range [of people] who can be visionary, look into the future, stay on top of trends and be very collaborative with other organisational leaders. It is not the IT of 20 years ago.”

“The leaders in IT roles today are responsible for helping others to grow and develop [and] it is not just the computer skills that were [previously] required of them.” You could argue that leadership skills are the same, irrespective of industry.

Haynie feels the biggest differentiator amongst leaders is how self-aware they are. “It is not just knowing what your Myers Briggs type is,” she explains, “that information by itself, is not very useful. We’re responsible for our [own] professional lives.  Anyone can be a successful leader, if they are aware of what they need to develop.”

One of the core ways in which Myers Briggs is misunderstood, is that it doesn’t take into account scales of the indifferent attributes, e.g., introversion. “Myers Briggs just shows what you were born with,” says Haynie “it doesn’t show you how much you use it, or show it.” If you have two people: one appears to be a hardcore introvert and one appears to be slightly introverted, according to the theory, they were probably born with the same predisposition. The level they are displaying this characteristic actually comes down to environment.

Interestingly, she has found from research that there is a similar distribution of the preferences around the world. Yet “the way they demonstrate behaviours my look different from one country to the next. Someone with a preference towards introversion in Mexico or Italy (for example), might look more animated. Whereas someone who prefers extroversion in Finland might appear very quiet. [This is] because it is their cultural expectation of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.”

“I think the greatest misunderstanding is we try to over interpret those letters so it becomes stereotypical,” she continues. “My job is to educate HR professionals who use this as a leadership or professional development tool. You can’t know everything there is to know about a person based on those four letters. It is one part of who you are, it is the part you were born with, but there are so many things that are involved with developing your personality that the MBTI type is just one piece of the puzzle.”

She feels this is why it can easily become dangerous: “It is not something that just anyone should get their hands on because they’re not understanding it correctly. For example, if an organisation was using Myers Briggs for selection or recruitment we say it is absolutely unethical. There are other tools for selection. But Myers Briggs was only ever designed for development.”

“If you have a preference for INTJ, ISTJ that is still just one part of your personality,” she concludes. “We can learn and develop the skills we choose. That is who we are.”