MBTI in advanced coaching and leadership development

I completed the OPP workshop in advanced coaching and leadership development using the MBTI instrument last week. I have used the Myers Briggs Type Indicator both Step I and the more detailed Step II in coaching for a number of years. I find it is an excellent foundation for the client to develop their self awareness and empathy with others, as well as to establish rapport and an understanding of personality preferences between coach and client.

The workshop focused primarily on type dynamics – the theory is that personality is not merely the summation of the characteristics of the four letter ‘type’ which describes preferences in terms of extraversion / introversion, intuition / sensing,  thinking / feeling and judging / perceiving, but that for each individual one of the mental functions (thinking – feeling – intuition – sensing) is dominant, with the other three taking auxiliary (second), tertiary and inferior (fourth) positions. Furthermore an individual develops competence across all four functions during a lifetime, developing their dominant and auxiliary in childood and early adulthood and their tertiary and inferior functions in mid-life and later life. Exploring this in myself generated some insights into my own career path and life history.

The dominant function is a prime determinant of leadership style. In extraverts the dominant function is obvious while for those with a preference for introversion it is often hidden and it is the auxiliary which is observed. So for an ENTJ the dominant function is Thinking – they are and appear to be,  strategic, decisive and take charge – the ‘Director’. For an ISFP the dominant or most trusted function is Feeling but this is hidden in the inner world of conscience, core values and beliefs. What you may observe is their auxiliary sensing function – practical and focused in the here and now. It may be more difficult to understand their ‘lead through others’ approach and what is driving them.

The workshop also explored reactions to stress and what can happen if the dominant function ‘takes over’ leading to a more extreme version of a person’s most natural behaviour and under extreme stress when the dominant function collapses and a person finds themselves ‘in the grip’ of their inferior function which is often underdeveloped and immature.

The ENFP at their best is creative, sees the big picture and how things fit together and is full of ideas about future possibilities and energised by change – anything is possible. Under stress the same person can lose touch with reality and escape into endless future options and possibilities, demanding change for its own sake. In the grip of an underdeveloped inferior sensing function the ENFP can lose their sense of perspective focusing on small or unimportant details.

I was reminded what a rich source of insight the MBTI instrument is. It can easily form the backbone of a coaching programme supporting significant self exploration and understanding well beyond the best fit 4-letter type which is as far as most people go. It can also generate insights which can significantly enhance a person’s leadership capability and effectiveness by developing and deploying their skills across all four functions and by recognising when their dominant function needs to be moderated by their auxiliary, or indeed when they are ‘in the grip’ of their inferior function.

Leave a Reply