A Look at the ESFJ Leader
You know those people who lead with an iron rod and don’t take no for an answer?
They’re probably not ESFJs.
You were worried for a second.
To ease your anxious soul, I’m here to tell you that ESFJs usually fall more on the Big-Bird-hugging-children side of the energy spectrum than the “rule by the sword” side.
Many ESFJs will find themselves in leadership positions because they are naturals with people. They gravitate towards groups and often get “voted in” to higher roles. Extraverted Feeling, or “Fe” for short, is the mental process that helps ESFJs manage the emotional atmosphere. Fe is an objective function that keeps the stakes level for everyone involved.
If Barry and Ken both want a promotion, they’re going to have to meet the objective criteria necessary. However, bringing their desires to light will inform the ESFJ of their wishes. The ESFJ will keep their performance and desires in mind as they lead the group. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ESFJ’s best friend, they’re not going to give you a promotion just because they like you. They will treat everyone and their wants objectively, but they will be aware of your hopes.
Feel free to wish upon a star around these playas.
They take everyone’s perspective into consideration.
ESFJs are skilled at motivating everyone to participate in a project. I see many an ESFJ party planning and event organizing in their off time. Sure, some do it for a living, but many find the process of organizing people towards a common goal fun.
Nobody got time for that.
You can find ESFJs all over the globe in a range of positions. I have an ESFJ aunt who promotes healthcare research, an ESFJ friend who works construction, and an ESFJ colleague who teaches small children how to wiggle. They can’t help but find their way towards people, and of course, people are everywhere.
Watching your every move.
Listening to your every word.
Cataloging your every internet search so that they can send you ads for things you don’t actually want just to mess with you.
No worries though.
ESFJs are there to guide you when things get creepy.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
They Encourage Participation and Resolve Conflicts
Whereas ESTJ leaders view individual competence as the highest form of efficiency, ESFJ leaders believe a cohesive unit makes for a more efficient team. The speed and ability of individual workers matters, but not as much as their willingness to put forth their efforts for the collective. ESFJ leaders want people to “put their heads together” and to come to a solution together. They value collective participation. No man/woman/child is an island. They want everyone to put their hands in the sand so that when someone feels gold, everyone does.
Don’t play monopoly with them though.
In that scenario, “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” only works in their favor.
Given that ESFJs value cohesion between the group so much, they can get irritated when the group doesn’t align in a way that’s conducive for the workplace. Yet, they are naturally equipped to handle such missteps.
Let’s pretend there’s a quiet bakery called “Cupcakes Anonymous” that is headed by an ESFJ in a quirky chef’s hat. The ESFJ leader has three individuals under them, all with their respective roles. Ben runs the register. Daryl bakes the cupcakes. Janice decorates the cupcakes. Our leader hops around and helps wherever needed.
ESFJs are all-stars.
What can I say?
But things aren’t all gravy in this sweetheart destination.
The ESFJ is aware that there is a particular tinge to the dynamic between their workers. For the sake of your entertainment, let’s say these workers have beef with each other. Daryl doesn’t think Janice appreciates the level of care he puts into making sure the cupcakes aren’t burnt. Janice thinks Ben believes he’s better than her because he gets to handle money. Ben thinks Daryl hates him because he turned off his timer on accident that one time ten months ago.
Welcome to my soap opera.
One day the tensions heat up because Cupcakes Anonymous gets a huge order that needs to be fulfilled within a short time span. Otherwise, they risk losing the client forever.
Of course, this is the very day that the three workers start yelling at each other. As their worry to meet the deadline builds, so does their contention.
Y’all couldn’t have waited a few hours to explode?
Of course not.
Of course, the ESFJ is aware of how perturbed everyone is and gives credence to that, but they know the clock is ticking. The ESFJ, always at the read to solve human problems, steps into the kitchen and sorts everyone out. Our leader navigates the emotional sphere with grace, convincing each of the workers that they like and need each other, utilizing concrete evidence to support the ways they constantly help and affirm each other. Janice doesn’t look down on Daryl, she loves how he whisks the batter. Ben doesn’t think he’s better than Janice, he actually gets stressed out from handling money. Daryl doesn’t hate Ben for the timer mishap, it was a simple mistake that happened once. Tensions cool and the cupcake order is fulfilled on time.
ESFJs are adept at handling human issues such as these where individuals have to be in tight spaces with each other and can backlog some of their grievances. Had the individuals handled these feelings on their own earlier, everyone’s stress would have cooled much quicker. But people are human, not just cogs in a machine. Of course, individuals would be affected by each other, both positively and negatively.
Good thing ESFJs can set everyone straight.
They Want to Make Everyone Happy
ESFJ leaders naturally will others towards a positive, forward-thinking outlook. Their ability to navigate the needs and desires of people really helps to get people on their side. In leadership roles, ESFJs often assume the role of “caretaker.” This isn’t to say all ESFJs are kind, devoted individuals, but that they really try to direct others in order to fulfill the needs of everyone.
Let’s imagine an ESFJ nurse. She’s actually the “head” nurse who is placed in charge of training incoming staff. As new nurses arrive at her station, she quickly assesses the individual strengths of each individual but also takes into account their relative desires and preferences. The ESFJ leader may, for example, send Becca to work her shifts in the West Wing because she has a passion for working with children and has proven she works well with them.
Much like ESTJs, ESFJs have a strong preference for experiential knowledge, which works through their high-intensity auxiliary mental process of Introverted Sensing. ESxJs quickly assess and learn the strengths of their workers by way of observing them over time in order to determine who would best perform where. For the ESFJ, the happiness of their workers is a valuable factor to be taken into account in their placement. Many ESFJs organize people with positive emotive tendencies towards areas where they are will perform better.
Why put someone in a role that they hate only because they’re good at it?
Okay, but other than money.
ESFJs are aware that individuals who don’t feel supported in their roles will eventually leave the company in search of significance elsewhere. An ESFJ might even argue that if feelings aren’t taken into account, a leader isn’t performing their duty well. People and emotions are a package deal. If you aren’t willing to take their desires, worries, and grievances into consideration, why are you in charge?
They Garner Support
Much like ISFJ leaders, ESFJs value everyone’s input. In the eyes of xSFJs, the way that individuals approach each other in the workplace speaks miles about the kind of person they are. ESFJs want their group to be on a friendly basis with each other so that when work issues pop up, it’s not “I don’t want to go help Lynn, the sales guy” it’s “I will do whatever I can to help my friend Lynn in sales.”
The SJ temperament (ISFJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ESTJ) generally values upholding community standards and making sure everyone is doing their part. Whether that means contributing through efficient productivity, mediating between people, or generally handling logistic information like “what needs to be where and when?” SJs give much credence to individual responsibility that helps the group stay in motion.
If you use a grocery cart, you better put it in the cart rack.
SJs will annihilate you if you don’t.
As an SJ, ESFJs are thus incredibly aware that each and every single person plays a critical role that will negatively affect the organization if they shirk their duties. The goal is to keep the system running and it can’t run if people are dropping the ball. Knowing this, ESFJ leaders work to affirm people wherever they can. The more support people get, the harder they work.
Affirming others can look like a range of things, but in the case of the workplace it can be as basic as saying “thank you.” The ESFJ leader might thank someone for the great job they did on their project or the level of effort they put into staying behind after hours. ESFJs are attuned to who is doing what, where, and when. Thus, very little gets around the ESFJ in charge. Especially good deeds.
Watch out kidlets.
Someone is going to get applause today.
They May Force You into The Collective
ESFJs care deeply about those they lead, however, they’re not always tactful when someone is negatively affecting the group atmosphere. For the ESFJ leader, all of their workers need to be on the same page, performing their role and, ideally, enjoying their time. Individuals who clearly don’t want to be there will irk the ESFJ to no end. Worse still are the workers who refuse to participate at all.
If the ESFJ leader tasks everyone to grab a pair of gloves and clean the company bathroom but Gary thinks he’s better than everyone and refuses to help, the ESFJ will be on that problem STAT. The ESFJ will suggest a brief sit down with Gary. It might go something like:
ESFJ Leader: Everyone is working together on cleaning the bathroom today. It’ll go quickly if we all pitch in! It’s not fun for any of us, but it needs doing and if we put our efforts together, we can make it happen!
Gary: Good for you, but there’s no way I’m doing that.
ESFJ Leader: We need your help, Gary! We’re all counting on you!
ESFJ Leader (internally): Suck it up, buttercup.
Gary: You need to go back to school because there’s nothing to count on here.
ESFJ Leader: I may have to ask you to leave for the day if you’re not willing to perform the duties of your job, which include cleaning the facilities. I’m sorry, Gary.
ESFJ Leader (internally): gtfo, honey.
For those individuals that deviate from common goals, the ESFJ leader might come off as pushy. Regardless of how kindly they filter their words. The ESFJ wants everyone to get along and to assist each other wherever possible, so they do not often tolerate the lone wolves who refuse to lift a hand when the going gets tough.
I don’t blame them.
I’m also on team “pitch in or else.”
However, there are times when people have good reason to not join the fray. Maybe there’s a company party that the ESFJ leader is trying to will everyone to join, but several introverts might refuse to go because they know how quickly their energy would deplete. The ESFJ wants everyone at the party in order to show support for the whole group and might not see preserving energy as a good reason for their workers to withhold themselves. ESFJ leaders are less apt to take into account individual reasonings that don’t contribute to a cohesive whole.
For workers under the care of ESFJs, it might be helpful to consider that the ESFJ mindset is always on effecting the most people. It’s a compliment to you that they want you there for every event or party, but it’s reasonable to have your own desires and needs. The ESFJ leader can’t help but take your feelings into account. An open conversation will likely ease both parties towards seeing each other’s viewpoints.
What Are Your Thoughts?
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Jami Cannon is an MBTI® enthusiast who hopes to shed more light on the SJ experience. She holds a very stereotypical degree in History (MA) and loves to learn all she can about the people around her.