ESTJs are ambitious, organized, direct, and eager to take the lead.
Reading time: 16 minutes
The ESTJ is one of 16 types from the popular Myers-Briggs tradition. In this post, you’ll learn about how the ESTJ type is related to the modern, scientific personality system known as the Big Five. You’ll also see the interpersonal behaviors and career interests that many ESTJs have in common.
You can jump straight to any section by clicking the links below. Otherwise, we’ll start with the classic definition of the ESTJ personality type.
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In the popular Myers-Briggs or 16-personalities tradition, all personalities belong to one of 16 types. Each type is defined by preferences across four cognitive functions:
ESTJs are Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging.
Extraverted people are focused outwards. They prefer exploring and engaging with the external world of people and objects rather than reflecting on the inner world of ideas and thoughts.
People who prefer Sensing tend to gather information through direct observation. They prefer using their five senses to learn about their world rather than more intuitive, theoretical approaches to learning and understanding.
People who prefer Thinking often lean heavily on logic, consistency, and correctness when making decisions. Unlike those who prefer Feeling, they are less easily swayed by empathy or other social considerations when evaluating a course of action.
People who prefer Judging tend to relate to other people through their decision-making preference, which is Thinking for ESTJs. Other people will see TJ-types, like the ISTJ, as exacting and precise.
While the 16-personality framework and its complex cognitive functions are fun and intriguing, they are less useful for predicting important life outcomes, like relationships, health, happiness, hobbies, educational and career outcomes.
The reality of personality differences is much more complicated than 16 types. This complexity is why modern personality science uses dimensions or traits to describe personalities, rather than simple categories or types.
For example, labeling someone as “Extraverted” or “Introverted” is a vast oversimplification. Every individual falls somewhere on a broad spectrum between highly extraverted and highly introverted.
Moreover, a single dimension like Extraversion/Introversion is inadequate for fully describing someone’s personality. In general, several dimensions are necessary to create a complete picture of an individual’s unique character.
Below, I’ll describe how ESTJs fit into the modern world of personality dimensions.
In personality studies, scientific researchers often use a trait-based approach to describing the differences between people instead of using personality types. The most well-established method is the Big Five, which describes differences along five broad dimensions:
Your combined positions across all Big Five dimensions describe your personality.
How does this relate to the ESTJ? People with the same type tend to have similar (but not identical) Big Five dimensions.
The graph below shows how ESTJs score on the Big Five dimensions. Each blue dot is an ESTJ, and darker blue areas mean more ESTJs are in that area.
For example, on the Openness dimension, ESTJs tend to score lower than average, so the Low and Very Low areas are very dark blue. But, you might notice that there are a few blue dots in the High area of Openness.
So, while most ESTJs tend to score lower than average on Openness, there are a few exceptions.
Below, you can see more detail on how ESTJs score on each Big Five dimension.
ESTJs tend to score lower on Openness to Experience, meaning they are often more conventional or traditional. About 90% of ESTJs score below average on Openness to Experience.
Openness to Experience describes your need for new information, feelings, and experiences.
Less open people prefer the familiar ways of doing things. They are less interested in trying new things or seeking out new experiences. They also tend to be less eccentric and have more conventional tastes in hobbies, music, and reading material.
Highly open people have diverse interests, and they may feel a constant need to learn and try new things.
ESTJs typically score very highly on Conscientiousness, with about 95% of ESTJs scoring above the average.
Conscientiousness describes your tendency to plan, organize, and persistently focus on long-term goals.
Highly conscientious people are more likely to set goals far in the future, then come up with detailed plans on how to achieve these goals. They are also more likely to stick to the goals they set and more persistent in working through difficulty to reach them.
Less conscientious people tend to be more spontaneous or impulsive. They are more interested in the present or short-term future, and more likely to change their mind, or change direction when obstacles arise.
ESTJs generally score higher on Extraversion, with about 80% of ESTJs scoring above average on this dimension.
Extraversion describes your assertiveness, enthusiasm, and experiences of positive emotions.
Like many ESTJs, highly extraverted people tend to be more socially outgoing and talkative, and they often seek out more stimulating environments (think loud, crowded, or risky and exciting situations). High extraverts also feel and express positive emotions (e.g., joy, laughter, excitement) more intensely and more frequently.
Highly introverted people are more socially reserved and quiet. They have a lower tolerance for highly stimulating environments and often retreat to calm and quiet situations in solitude. They also experience positive emotions less intensely and less frequently. For example, others may notice that introverts tend to smile and laugh less often than most.
ESTJs can vary widely in their Agreeableness. From the figure, you can see that individual ESTJs can fall anywhere on the spectrum from highly agreeable to highly demanding.
Agreeableness describes your interpersonal warmth, politeness, and empathy.
Highly agreeable people feel a deep need to maintain warm, friendly relationships and are naturally more hesitant to impose their will on others. They will be more considerate of how their actions impact others and try to reduce or resolve interpersonal conflicts when they arise.
Less agreeable (or more demanding) people are often less concerned with others when pursuing their own goals. They are more willing to create conflict or express disagreement across most situations and feel less discomfort during interpersonal disputes.
ESTJs vary widely in Neuroticism, but most fall on the low end of this dimension. About 70% of ESTJs score below average on Neuroticism.
Neuroticism describes how frequently and how intensely you experience negative emotions, like anxiety, anger, and sadness.
Less neurotic people, like many ESTJs, are more easy-going, have more predictable moods, and are more resilient under stress. They also experience less of the harmful types of self-consciousness, like rumination and self-doubt, reported by more neurotic people.
Highly neurotic people tend to worry more, have more frequent mood swings, withdraw when feeling distressed, and feel more self-conscious.
You are more complex than four letters
No two ESTJs are the same. Learn about your unique blend of personality dimensions.
There are several exceptional patterns commonly seen in the ESTJs:
ESTJs love rising to a challenge, especially when it involves opportunities to lead.
Their combination of high Extraversion and high Conscientiousness often leads to enthusiasm, persistence, and confidence. ESTJs typically prefer taking a leadership position rather than staying back or following others. They generally set high expectations for themselves and like taking responsibility for planning and making decisions.
With their high Conscientiousness and lower Openness to Experience, ESTJs often have a robust set of internal principles. ESTJs tend to see ideas and actions as either unambiguously good or evil, true or false, and right or wrong. They usually have straightforward, concrete opinions on moral and ethical concerns and are more likely to trust and value traditional institutions and conventional belief systems.
ESTJs are usually highly motivated by goals and have strong opinions on how to accomplish them.
ESTJs enjoy a good challenge and will often look for ways to add a competitive aspect to ordinary activities and several areas of their lives. When the pressure is on, they like taking the lead and making quick decisions. When they become intensely focused on winning or achieving a particular goal, they can sometimes come off as overly stern and critical.
ESTJs will often say what they mean and use very few words to say it.
High Openness is related to using more sophisticated, abstract language, whereas lower Openness (as seen in ESTJs) correlates with more straightforward, concrete words and phrases. Combined with this, most ESTJs tend to score lower on Agreeableness, which influences our use of polite, friendly language. The lower Agreeableness of many ESTJs may be behind their more direct and frank communication.
How do other people see and describe ESTJs?
The wordcloud below shows over 50 words used to describe people with similar Big Five personality dimensions as a typical ESTJ. Larger words describe the more prominent aspects of ESTJs.
Because no two ESTJs are the same, some of the words above may be better descriptors of a particular individual than others. You can see your personality’s own unique set of words with TraitLab’s free assessment.
Which words describe you?
Cautious or impulsive? Combative or compliant? Sentimental or cynical? Discover 100+ words that describe your unique personality.
You might have noticed that some individuals have a consistent effect on you every time you interact with them. For example, one particular friend might make you consistently laugh and smile more than usual. Or, one reliably passive coworker or classmate may tend to bring out your bossier, more demanding side.
Each of us has a typical interpersonal style. This style influences how others think and feel when they are around you, and in turn, it can affect how they interact back with you.
A classic method of visualizing interpersonal style is using the circular figure below. The vertical axis shows your style in terms of dominance, with a highly assertive style at the top (Assured-Dominant) and a highly passive style at the bottom (Unassured-Submissive). The horizontal axis shows your style in terms of warmth, with a cold and impersonal style on the left (Cold-Aggressive) and a friendly, empathetic manner on the right (Warm-Agreeable).
The shaded blue area shows the typical interpersonal style of ESTJs across eight dimensions. Notice the areas where the blue area extends closer to the outer edges of the circle. These are the aspects that most heavily influence ESTJs’ interactions.
As a group, ESTJs are unusually balanced in their interpersonal style. Notice that the blue area is closely aligned with the middle circle. There are no dimensions in which ESTJs are extraordinarily high or low.
One interpretation of this balance is that ESTJs often appear as socially well-adjusted. In terms of their interpersonal warmth, they can compromise and show affection when appropriate, but they can also push back and make demands when necessary. In their social dominance, they will happily lead others and take charge when given the opportunity, but they are capable of stepping back and following if needed.
There are two dimensions on which ESTJs are slightly, but not significantly, above average. Some individual ESTJs may be even more extreme in these two dimensions:
The chart below shows how the personality traits of ESTJs are related to the classic RIASEC career interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Your unique blend of these interests dramatically influences how well a career feels like a good fit.
On each dimension, you’ll see areas where ESTJs tend to crowd up (shown by the dark blue bars). These are the areas where ESTJs are most likely to fall.
But, you’ll also find ESTJs the entire range of each dimension. While most ESTJs tend to have relatively low Investigative interests, there are still a few ESTJs who score above average.
Most ESTJs tend to have the following pattern of interests:
High Conventional interests (Organizers): People with strong Conventional interests excel in roles that require categorizing, planning, and systematizing information and processes. Examples include financial officers, budget analysts, office managers, database analysts, and systems administrators.
High Enterprising interests (Persuaders): People with strong Enterprising interests are often skilled communicators who enjoy influencing, persuading, and leading others. They actively pursue leadership roles and opportunities to bolster their status and reputation. Examples include sales and marketing directors, politicians and political organizers, and executives.
Average Social interests (Helpers): People with strong Social interests fit well with careers that involve helping, comforting, caring for, and teaching other people. Examples include physical therapists, counselors, clergy, social workers, doctors, and nurses.
Average Realistic interests (Doers): People with high Realistic interests enjoy careers that allow them to work with their hands or tools to get a job done, rather than thinking or talking about it. They may also gravitate towards jobs with opportunities for working outdoors, competition, and risk-taking. Examples include police officers, military officers, professional athletes, farmers, builders, mechanics, forest rangers, and woodworkers.
Low Investigative interests (Thinkers): People with strong Investigative interests prefer roles that require observation, researching, and understanding ideas. They tend to prefer working with data and ideas rather than working closely with other people. Examples include medical researchers, chemists, software engineers, scientific reporters, and statisticians.
Low Artistic interests (Creators): People with strong Artistic interests prefer jobs that require innovation through artistic and intuitive skills in less structured tasks and environments. Examples include artists, novelists, actors or actresses, musicians, curators, and designers.
Remember that these rankings only describe the average ESTJ, and personality types can only offer very general descriptions of career interests. Even if you see yourself as an ESTJ, your unique set of career interests may vary from the above descriptions.
Most ESTJs’ share Conventional (Organizing) and Enterprising (Persuading) interests and will prefer highly structured, traditional career paths than involve motivating, managing, and leading others. ESTJs also show tremendous diversity in the other four career interest dimensions, and individual ESTJs fit well in a wide variety of disciplines and industries.
Examples of positions and titles with strong Conventional and Enterprising interests include:
ESTJs are usually less interested in jobs with heavy Artistic and Investigative demands. These positions are less structured, focused on ideas and data, and demand creativity and innovation rather than traditional solutions. ESTJs may be highly competent in any of these roles, but their natural strengths may be underused.
Examples of these roles include:
Your personality type only gives you a rough approximation of your underlying traits. As described in this post, ESTJs can vary widely in their Big Five dimensions, interpersonal style, and career interests. Just knowing that you are an ESTJ doesn’t tell you that much.
So what’s the next step? Skip the types entirely and learn about your unique blend of personality traits, interpersonal style, and career interests by directly measuring them at TraitLab. Get started for free and see your Big Five dimensions with the Basic assessment.
Header photo by You X Ventures