A Look at the ESTJ Leader

What’s hard on the outside but gushy on the inside?

A can of beans.

That joke sucked, but it might have gone better if I was more effective. I’ll call up an ESTJ to direct me next time.

Don’t you just love terrible transitions?

I think we’re all pretty aware of how grand Extroverted Thinking is when it comes to leadership. The function grants both ESTJs (Te-Si-Ne-Fi) and ENTJs (Te-Ni-Se-Fi) a natural awareness of the most effective process conceivable to complete a task. In simple terms, Te helps you determine “the best way” to do something. This includes finishing a task in the quickest and simplest way all the while expending the least amount of energy.

Too bad that wasn’t my birthright.

I can’t even put up a tent without the help of seven children and a corkscrew.

Don’t ask.

As ESTJs are our topic of discussion at present, I will note that their auxiliary Introverted Sensing allows them to master effectiveness with prolonged exposure to a task. An ESTJ forklift driver might, for example, become the quickest and most competent driver in the battery plant over a short period of time. They might even find themselves giving pointers to others when needed because they can’t help but put in their two cents if they believe someone could benefit from it. ESTJs become quite efficient at the processes they conduct daily and often find themselves mastering their roles before moving onto the next rung in the hierarchy.

They sound just peachy, right?

So what’s the deal with half the internet complaining about their ESTJ bosses?

I’ll tell ya.

Dominant, demanding, and brash are all characteristics I’ve seen attached to ESTJ leaders in type forums. My own ESTJ husband says that he can display some of these characteristics if he’s put into the worst set of circumstances imaginable. For the Te dominant, usually the least appealing work scenario translates to having inefficient workers who aren’t competent at their jobs and won’t accept redirection.

Need a visual?

We love those.

Let’s say the ESTJ leader tells everyone that their task for the day is to remove all of the leaves from a large open field. Everyone has done this task before and “should” know what is expected of them. The ESTJ wants everyone to use a leaf blower without having to remind them, just as he/she would, but the majority of individuals will probably grab a rake instead. The ESTJ will begrudgingly accept this, but they won’t find it optimal. They’re aware that people can be set in their ways, and as such they will plan to instill a company-wide preference for leaf blowers during the next meeting they run.

However, when the ESTJ leader looks out into the field and sees Chad picking up individual leaves with his hands again, the ESTJ will become so irritated that if they don’t explode into a thousand pieces (Option A), they will probably implode (Option B).

If our hero chooses Option A: A yelling match will likely ensue between ESTJ The Great and Chad The Incapable.

If our hero chooses Option B: Welcome to cardiac arrest.

Of course, there’s always an Option C, but the point of explaining why ESTJs get a bad rap would be mute if we considered that the majority of actual ESTJs handle their irritation without the dramatics. (These people exist. I promise. Bear with me.)

The leaf problem boils down to the ESTJ believing that using a leaf blower is such an incredibly obvious solution that Chad must either be purposefully wasting company resources or just plain stupid to be caught using his hands. Most especially if the leader has told Chad fifteen different times that leaf blowers would finish the job quicker.

ESTJs thus don’t always get a kind, fluffy bunny image attached to their four-letter code. They’re willing to address problems they see in their workers and don’t always put it in the nicest terms possible. This isn’t to say ESTJs are big meanies out to steal everyone’s sunshine—heck, I married one and he gives me a pocketful—but they can become easily frustrated by people who don’t see the clear, simple methods they see because of their dominant function.

Much like everyone else, if we’re being honest.

How can you not remember offering to give me a $500 gift card for coffee, mom?

My Si banked that a long time ago.

As we dive into ESTJ leaders, do keep in mind that their natural tendency to find the best ways to accomplish tasks aren’t meant to stir the pot, but to help everyone succeed collectively.

Minus Chad.

Chad can suffer.


  1. They Optimize Strengths

ESTJs are often willing leaders, although they also don’t always need to be the person at the top of the food chain. Much like ISTJs, they want the most capable person leading the group and know they aren’t always that person. They can’t help but take this fact into consideration as it makes the whole process of the workday smoother if the most optimal individual is leading the pack.

Honesty is the best policy.

Unless someone’s asking you what age they look.

Don’t answer that.

You’ll lose either way.

ESTJs are actually extremely skillful in determining the capabilities of their workers. They quickly learn who does what in the best way and thus will naturally allocate tasks in the most effective way.

ESTJs remind me of ENFPs in their ability to help people find their most effective place. Where ENFPs are all about seeing the potential in others and inspiring them to pursue their dreams, ESTJs are all about finding the individual’s skill set and guiding them towards the tasks most applicable to those skills. As ESTJs and ENFPs share cognitive functions, this happy similarity seems indicative of their wiring.

Yay, brains!

…please don’t think I’m a zombie.

In regards to optimizing the strength of their workforce, my husband used this example of a village, which I find quite helpful in exploring how ESTJs maneuver their people:

Inside a village, everyone has their natural gifts. A farmer farms, a blacksmith makes weapons, and a carpenter builds whatever is needed for the community. The output will be most effective given this arrangement. However, if you make the farmer build the village wall, the blacksmith farm the village field, and the carpenter forge the village weapons, the output is going to be much less effective than it would have been if you put the individuals in their natural element from the start.

My ESTJ went on to say that when it comes to any form of efficiency issue within a business, 90% of the time it could be solved if people were simply placed in the departments that utilized their natural gifts. He even stated, “Leadership roles are more than just standing in front of people and telling them what to do. You will be trying to gain trust all the time as a leader. You have to take their values into account. The organization should try to move their people around rather than simply get rid of them.”

Does that sound like something a heartless mongrel would say?

Hard nope.

Now how’s that for the haters?

  1. They Prize Efficiency and Accuracy

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it about twelve times more: ESTJs are efficient. They want to complete as many tasks within their scheduled time frame as possible. Yet frustration will build in them if they aren’t given enough notice to complete these tasks to the best of their ability.

When I asked my husband why he personally thought efficiency was important he stated, “Why use 1,000 nails to hold a board to the wall when you only need to use one? You’re wasting your time and you’re wasting resources.”

In a similar vein, my husband likes to give me crap for using 10 bobby pins when I pull my hair back. It’s a running game where he will guess the amount of bobby pins I’ve used and I will guess how exasperated he will be at the number. I’ve used upwards of ten before, which sounds a bit much, but you basically have to strangle curly hair to make it lay how you want. Or have high Te. In case you were wondering.

Fun times.

ESTJs also want their tasks to be completed well. They don’t half-@$$ problems and will do what is supposed to be done to the T.

“If you’re going to do it, do it right the first time.”

Yes, dad.

ESTJs are also great at determining which tasks take priority and have the highest urgency. This is a pivotal skillset given a leader is always having to make the choice over what tasks their staff should complete first. ESTJs are like the copper conductors of the workforce: they can channel where the energy should flow with ease and great strength.

I’m living for this metaphor.

  1. They Respect Practicality and Hard Work

ESTJs care about rules that make sense and will implement them accordingly. They’re not afraid of pointing out ways someone is or isn’t following procedure. However, these rules need to be practical for the ESTJ to get behind them. For example, an ESTJ might take issue with some dress code rules simply because the way you dress doesn’t affect your ability to do your job. In a nonhazardous environment, that is.

Or if you have to bend down a lot and you’re wearing a pencil skirt.

Those things make it hard to even walk!

ESTJs ultimately want their sector to run smoothly, but once all of the kinks are flushed out of the system, they might feel at a loss. This type wants to work hard and be useful. A job isn’t always just a job to them. It’s a place they can thrive. When it gets to that point and the ESTJ leader is completely hands-off because their effective principles have already been taken in and implemented by the group, they might wonder why they are even around.

Just for paperwork? Just for staring at the wall? Just for crying silently in their office replaying Friends episodes mentally wondering why Rachel chose the likes of Ross over Joey?

I will stand on my Joey hill until the end…even though the series is long over.

You get me.

The ESTJ is naturally directive and wants to be actively contributing in their position. They want to be needed. When it seems they no longer are, they will often want to be moved somewhere else where they can help fix new problems. They will, in my husband’s words, “easily step into gaps in the system,” learning what needs to be learned well enough so that they can teach others in the future.

  1. They Make The Hard Choices

We’re going to spend some time flushing out the “ESTJs are domineering leaders” vibe because, no.

Hard pass to that generalization.

It’s easy to forget that anyone who is an ExxJ type leads with an extroverted judging function, which naturally orients them towards addressing the group. Thus, to think every ESTJ is out to reign over their staff has completely misjudged their cognitive wiring. (Can ESTJs be like this? Sure. But it’s not the norm, as some would have you believe.) What an ESTJ is out to do is assist the group in the objective, practical matters.

A concept ESTJs may identify with is Servant Leadership. Within this ethos, the leader’s goal is to “serve” his or her employees by helping them perform to the best of their ability. The servant-leader will offer their staff advice and help all the while pointing out missteps.

You can’t point out the positives without addressing the negatives too.

Well, you can.

But it won’t improve things.

Unless we’re talking about your relationship to your cat who won’t listen to you either way.

ESTJs can be some of the most lenient leaders until someone doesn’t meet their expectations or blows off their duties. If this occurs, that person will have to re-earn the ESTJ’s respect. The ESTJ can purposefully become a micromanager if the person doesn’t shape up. For things to revert back to normal, the individual will have to prove they can perform without them being there. ESTJs view competent people as those who can do their job at the normal capacity without having their shoulders looked over.

I always like talking about firing in these leadership articles because it personally scares the crap out of me.

On the topic of ESTJs and firing, they don’t have much of an issue letting people go who can’t perform. However, inferior Fi is an interesting beast. If an ESTJ knows that someone who hasn’t been performing for a period of time (despite attempted redirection) is a single parent of five kids, the ESTJ will likely have a harder time approaching the situation. ESTJs can worry whether they are doing the right thing with their inferior Fi and situations like that can really get to them. Most of the ESTJs I know care deeply about providing for themselves and others, so the idea of taking that ability away from someone, even when they aren’t performing, isn’t a pleasant situation for the ESTJ.

When I asked my husband what he would do in this situation, he said he would try to help that single parent find another job in the organization or somewhere outside the company. He couldn’t stand the idea of not doing something when kids were involved. This isn’t to say every ESTJ would feel the same, but inferior Fi clings to certain values so firmly they have to do what is right or won’t be able to sleep at night.

Little does anyone know how squishy ESTJ hearts are.

Except for doctors.

They probably know.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you have any insights or experiences to share with other readers? Let us know in the comments!

Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type or The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic. You can also connect with Jami via Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter!

Other Articles You Might Enjoy:

The Flirting Style of the ESTJ Personality Type

What It Means to be an ESTJ Personality Type

10 Things You Should Never Say to an ESTJ

The Top 7 Gift Ideas for ESTJs

About the Author:

Jami Wilson 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. Jami is married to a dynamic ESTJ and is servant to a beautiful white cat named Rakovitch. Follow her on YouTube, Twitter, or Medium @ Your Chill ISFJ.

Get an in-depth look at the #ESTJ leader and their unique strengths and abilities. #MBTI #Personality

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Jami Wilson

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Get an in-depth look at the #ESTJ leader and their unique strengths. #MBTI #Personality