Personality Theory and Management Practices

Theories of Personality
Written by James C. Gammage

Let’s take a moment to discuss personality theory and how it applies to management practices.

Two primary areas of concern that many businesses tend to overlook is human personality and the fact that people of different types perform differently than people of other types due to their inherent natures.  While at first this may not seem like much of an issue when faced with the, “You’ll work for money, so you’ll work as we see fit.” mentality that many companies, businesses, and organizations employ with their workers; one must inevitably begin to question whether or not there could be an identifiable increase in the potential productivity and work output of a team organized to take their individual types into consideration.

Personality Theory

The study of human personalities is neither a new concept, nor even a very recently thought about topic.  Historical data reaching back as far as Plato in 340 BCE and Aristotle in 325 BCE show that, as far back in history as those important figures, just how humans behave and interact was something we as a species were striving to understand.  Personality theory itself covers a wide range of topics, and various forms of testing and assessments that delve into the human psyche to determine behavior.  However, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on two easily accessible methods by which to determine personality that have been time-tested, well-researched, well-documented, and are very effective means through which to garner accurate results as to the personality of those who take the assessment.

Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory

Published in 1943, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory or MBTI for short, was developed by Katherine Briggs.  She initially received inspiration for the research when she observed that her daughter’s future husband, while compatible with her, saw the world in a very different way.  Thus began the extensive literature review.  Katharine Briggs located Carl Jung’s Psychological Types (1921; 1923), in which she found that he already conducted extensive research pertaining to the exact field she was interested in.  Using his data along with help from her daughter, then Isabel Myers, and a host of other resources, she was able to expound upon Jung’s forays into personality research and formulate her own thesis concerning the sixteen different types that make up all of humanity.

For more about Carl Jung, click here.

After its initial publication, the inventory met with widespread approval and immediately became popular.  Since then, it has been refined, revised, and updated to the point that nearly two million people take it a year globally and it is used in all facets of life whether that be marriage counseling, job searching, education, or a myriad other venues.  For information concerning the MBTI, or to schedule an assessment, visit this site.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS-II)

David Keirsey, an internationally renowned psychologist began his career by seeking to aid school teachers, counselors, students, and parents when he was approached by Isabel Myers who assessed him and introduced him to the world of the MBTI.  From there, he took what the Myers-Briggs team did and expounded upon that data further, developing the personality types, the data, the test and knowledge into his ‘temperament sorter.’  While following the same principles as the MBTI, the KTS-II (most recent version) provides more insight and different looks into the nuances of each personality type.  The Keirsey sorter is actually somewhat more accessible to a general user than the actual MBTI.  It can be found here.

Personality Theory encompasses a much larger field of study and research than that which Myers-Briggs and Keirsey did.  Quite obviously, one can stand to learn much more than the brief descriptions provided here concerning both the MBTI and the KTS-II.  They are included merely to lead into the next portion of this narrative.

Types of Personalities

Incorporating Personality Theory into Management Practices

So, let’s assume that you’ve got your team together.  Perhaps you’re the four or five people working out of a loft apartment in the city.  Perhaps you’re the small business that has a team together and a piece of office space in a town somewhere in the US.  Perhaps you’re from a larger corporation that’s already well established and grounded in the brick and mortar businesses throughout the US or even the world.  So how does any of this apply to you?  How can we take that next step beyond looking at a cool tool to analyze oneself and put it into some type of practice?  Furthermore, once we do, how will it benefit the company?

Well, one of the key aspects to being an effective leader is ‘knowing your people.’  What the MBTI and KTS-II offer are ways to ‘know your people’ with a bit more depth than what you would be able to determine by simply doing a company ‘ice breaker’ or ‘meet and greet’ around the conference table.  This allows you to truly understand how your employees tick, how they’ll more than likely interact with each other, how they’ll more than likely interact with you and the other leadership, and finally how they’ll more than likely interact with your customer base.

Let’s take a look at one of the types and how they behave in given situations.  INTP.

An INTP is best suited to being a behind-the-scenes systems developer.  Someone you can count on to be able to root through processes and organizational structures and find inconsistencies.  They are also suited to creating organizational structures, systems, and rules sets.  They work most comfortably alone or in a very small like-minded group.  These are not the personnel you would want to put out on the floor or out on the streets dealing with people face to face.  INTPs are prone to not put much weight or thought into emotions and feelings.  Due to a strikingly acute lack of any shred of care of what others think of us, INTPs will sometimes overlook social ‘norms’ and inadvertently offend those more prone to be emotional in their day-to-day lives.  Also, as a result of this, they sometimes come across as aloof or arrogant which can turn potential clients and business partners away.

So, reading this blurb the question inevitably will come to light of why should this form of personality theory matter?  Should someone not be hired that displays such traits?  Well, no, not necessarily.  Despite the initial pang I’m sure that brief overview gave many of you, having an INTP on the team is a huge benefit to the background stuff that makes your business work.  INTPs have an acute sense of detecting inconsistencies and contradictions in processes and operations and are able to come up with ingenious ways to correct them as to provide for a more efficient operating environment.

While this very brief and very basic example focuses primarily on one of the sixteen types, take some time to familiarize yourself with the others and read the literature out there to see how best to implement the employees you have.  You might be startled at the results you come up with.

An INTP is also not suited to being in a direct leadership role.  While they will step up and do what is necessary when there is no one else capable of doing so, an INTP is not interested in leading large amounts of people all at once.  This is not to say that they cannot excel in such a role, but more so to highlight the fact that this personality type is your behind the scenes person.  If you notice one of your mid level managers is struggling with dealing with people and their feelings, you might have yourself an “NT” on your hands.

All in all, this is not meant to be an in-depth research report into either of these two subjects.  It is mean to foster thinking outside of the box and to generate discussion.  Take some time to do the research, follow the links, and take a look at the resources out there.

Psychology is a well-established science and as such is constantly updating its knowledge as time goes on.

For more information on personality theory as a whole (aside from just MBTI and KTS-II:

Google Scholar (As an INTP, I’m a huge fan of google scholar.  It combs through every technical journal, research journal, textbook, and other accredited resources around the world in order to return accurate data concerning the topic you’re interested in researching.  In this instance, it provided a return of 2,040,000 results.  If you’re ever in a situation where someone claims to be able to “debunk” a google scholar search return, especially with one link, you may just want to quietly exit the conversation.)

About the author

James C. Gammage

James C. Gammage is an aspiring science fiction writer who also serves as part of the active duty US Army. He is currently working on a degree in clinical psychology and is an avid reader of all things science fiction.