Myers Briggs Type Indicator: Diversity

by Ron Potter

We can see almost daily comments about diversity.  It creates great division when it seems to be lacking and it’s talked about in glowing terms when it’s promoted as the issue that will solve all of our problems.  The issue I get concerned about is that we think of diversity in too narrow terms.

Most of the time we are thinking about and talking about race or gender.  While these are very important I believe there’s much more to diversity than those two categories.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be talking about and focusing on race and gender, I’m saying there is more to consider.

Myers-Briggs Helps with Diversity

A couple of years ago I wrote several blogs focusing on the use of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  I’ve been amazed at how many questions and comments I’ve received from people wanting to know more about MBTI in general and asking questions about specific situations and wondering if understanding MBTI would help.

This is why I’m starting a short series on MBTI again.  I have not gone back and read any of my previous blogs.  I just wanted this series to be inspired by my current thinking.

MBTI is Not a Label

Most of the teams I worked with wanted to label everyone to help them understand the person better.  I always discouraged this practice and I didn’t like to hear about trained professionals who thought labels were a natural conclusion.  They are not!

MBTI checks for preferences.  Meaning, in a given situation what would your natural preference chose?  This doesn’t mean that you can’t train yourself to look at things from many aspects, not just your natural preference.

In fact, the best leaders I’ve worked with have trained themselves to look and behave in the world in almost all of the MBTI aspects, not just their natural preferences.  I’ve even asked people who work for these great leaders to tell me what they think the leader’s MBTI is.  They can’t.  They can see them perform, ask questions, make decisions using almost all of the facets of MBTI.  It’s one of the things that make them a good leader.

I’m not going to go into great depth with every aspect of the MBTI.  I’m going to focus on the four natural pairs, how they conflict and can also complement each other.  I will also look at the statistics I’ve found that show how much of each time is present in the population as a whole as well as in business leadership teams.

Four Pairs

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the four pairs that exist within MBTI.  They are:

  • Energizing – Extraversion vs Introversion {EI}
  • Perceiving – Sensing vs Intuition (SN)
  • Judging – Thinking vs Feeling (TF)
  • Orientation – Judging vs Perceiving (JP)

Each person has a “preference” for one unit of each pair.  For instance, my MBTI is ENTJ.  That means that I have a tendency to be Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.  Thus ENTJ.

Be Careful

I can’t tell you how many times people have said something to me like, “I’ve taken the MBTI many times and I always come out the same.  I’m an ESTP.”

Be careful on two fronts.  The first is that you are not an ESTP or any other type.  It simply means that you have a preference for a certain set of pairs.

Second, be careful what you remember.  For those people who have said that or something similar to me, I’ve asked to see their previous results.  They are almost always wrong.  They have simply categorized themselves into something they like or that resonates with a particular type but they are totally wrong in what they remember as their tested and identified type.


There are a couple of other stories I would like to tell you.  I was once asked by the head of the psychology department in a major pharmaceutical company to help her with her team.  I told her I wanted to collect MBTI data of her staff so they could see how each other approached the world.  She agreed.  However, once the letter went out to her staff I received a scathing email from one of her managers.  She wanted to know how I could expect to promote the work of these charlatans who weren’t even scientists with such an esteem group.  I simply said that her boss had asked me to do it and to hang in there.  As we finished the session, this person quietly came up to me and asked if I could do a session with her team.

A Rose by Any Other Color

Another experience I’ve had over the last few years is that clients would say to me, “We don’t use MBTI anymore.  It’s very dated.  Now we use [name of another product].  I said that was no problem, would they please send me what literature or website they had and how their people fit into this “new” chart.  I would read through the data and then in every case, did a full day session with the team to help them understand themselves and the team in more depth.  They were always amazed at how much I had learned in such a short time.  What I often didn’t tell them that the “new” product was simply MBTI repackaged with different words and colors.

Granted, some of the language is dated and could be upgraded for modern teams to understand better.  But the essence of MBTI is solid and extensive.

I hope you’ll enjoy and learn from our journey over the next few weeks.

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