Leadership tips for ISFJs

Blaire Palmer
Jun 10 · 3 min read

Much overlooked and under-valued for leadership roles, Myers-Briggs ISFJs have some critical qualities to offer as leaders.

They are great listeners, dedicated to getting stuff done and often have a great sense of humour (pretty important in these challenging times!). They are motivated to help others to shine rather than by their own personal agenda or advancing up the promotion ladder. And they are trustworthy and consistent — qualities that make it much easier for their team and peers to know what to expect.

But because they aren’t great at self-promotion, tend to avoid conflict and feel more comfortable with the here and now, they sometimes miss out on taking the most senior roles in business. This is our loss as well as theirs because when senior teams are made up of extroverted, larger than life visionaries (ENTJs) you often find a lot of self-serving behaviour, personal conflict, stubborness, politics and distance from the realities on the ground.

How can ISFJs be better leaders?

Leadership is all about bringing about change and taking people with you. ISFJ Leaders have a leg up in that people typically like them and trust them. Certainly at more junior levels they will be respected. This is all essential to drive change.

We NEED leaders like this but we tend not to see people like this as leaders.

But at more senior levels they may be perceived as ‘weak’. Because they don’t shout about their achievements they may not be well known enough to be taken seriously for the top jobs. And they often don’t have a compelling or visionary change agenda. They’re more focused on their people being treated right, their people getting credit, their people having a life outside of work and, if they happen to be customer focused, their customers being treated like human beings. We NEED leaders like this but we tend not to see people like this as leaders.

1. ISFJ Leaders need to find a compelling purpose or calling

ISFJ leaders are driven by their principles and values. As leaders they need to turn these principles and values in to a manifesto for change. They need to stand for something. Knowing what drives you and what you care about and then turning that in to a platform for change makes you appear more leader-like without selling your soul to the devil. You simply magnify something that’s already there.

2. ISFJ Leaders need to muscle in to conversations

ISFJ leaders often talk about being ‘appropriate’. They don’t like conflict and they don’t want to step on toes. This means they may not be heard in meetings unless they have seniority. As a coach for ISFJ leaders I have found that they tend to be VERY opinionated however! It’s not that they don’t have a view. They feel extremely strongly on a whole variety of issues facing their orgainsation. They just don’t feel it’s appropriate to share how they feel in such a raw way. If this is you, you’re wrong. At senior level your feelings on topics are important and are based on decades of experience. Speaking your mind is what you’re being paid for.

Empower, don’t rescue.

3. ISFJ Leaders need to create strong boundaries

ISFJ types tend to go above and beyond for other people. In order to avoid conflict they may pick up tasks that really should be done by others. They are very understanding of personal issues that might affect their colleagues and will often allow employees to go home early if they need to attend to something outside of work. All of this can mean they are far too busy to lead. And if you recognise yourself here, it could also mean that more senior colleagues don’t see how you could take on a more senior role because you’re too in the weeds of the role you have. Get very clear on what your job is, how you add value and what you expect of others and don’t waver. Empower, don’t rescue.

ISFJ Leaders often feel like misfits in their organisations. But they possess qualities that deserve representation at the top of business. As an ISFJ Leader you can grow and evolve to leverage your natural talents and innate qualities, to be seen as leadership material by those at the top of your company WITHOUT compromising who you are in your heart.


Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker, author and coach. She specialises in working with ISFJ Leaders who want to have impact at the most senior levels in their business without compromising who they are. http://www.thatpeoplething.com/change-management-leadership-coaching/

Blaire Palmer

Written by

Agent provocateur, CEO, columnist, world authority on the future of leadership, keynote speaker, Former BBC Today Producer

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