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Life's Independent Thinkers (INTJ)

Excerpted from "Type Talk at Work"
Otto Kroeger, Janet M Thuesen

When you consider how few INTJs there are in the US population, it is astounding how much influence on corporate and academic life they have had. Their capacity for intellectual and conceptual clarity gives INTJs both vision and the will to see it through to completion - leadership qualities that are prized in our society. Perhaps more than any other type the INTJ has played a dramatic role in shaping Americal corporate culture.

INTJs view the world in terms of endless possibilities (iNtuition), to be manipulated, conceptualized, systematized, and translated through objective decisions (Thinking). These decisions are readily implemented because of their daily lifestyle of structure, schedule, and order (Judging). Their Introversion is the arena for developing their many ideas, which are usually many more than will ever be realized. However, the four preferences combine to convey confidence, stability, competence, intellectual insight, and self-assurance.

These four preferences are things that most people naturally rely on for strength and confidence, especially in the upper echelons of business. INTJs won't embarrass us by Extraverting when we least expect it, but will instead convey confidence that everything is in good hands. Rather than getting locked into details and specifics as a Sensor might, they translate the facts to a bigger picture to provide perspective. While subjectivity may be comforting to most people it is objectivity that we associate with business. And out society operates and gives rewards based on a J time and goal-oriented model. The INTJ packages these four qualities in a way that is not only generally appealing but is indeed relied upon for leadership and direction.

There are few things that a well-integrated INTJ cannot conquer with ease and grace. As a result these people are elevated quickly in corporate circles and are looked to for exceptionsal leadership, which they deliver with aplomb. (We believe that this is the predominant type among Japan's corporate leaders. Their ability to take existing ideas and improve each aspect of them, from design to production to marketing, has been a key factor in that nation's growing domination of world markets in the late twntieth century. One INTJ businessman even managed to adapt and improve Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Japan now has the secon-largest population of Typewatchers in the world, after the United States).

Though a single word cannot possibly describe the type, the word indepndence gives thematic trust to the overall drive of the INTJ. Clearly this is the force that motivates them. If they could, the INTJ would wish independence upon everyone. This drive for independence can conflict with INTJ's need to control his or her immediate surroundings. So, colleagues and subordinates must recognize that while independence is the the ultimate goal, it is to be meted out as the INTJ deems appropriate.

This apparent inconsistency can lead to some mixed messages. Verbal instructions that indicate flexibility and freedom - "Take as much time as you need and do it in whatever manner you think is best" - can have an underlying message of "Do it fast and do it right". The verbal message reflects the INTJs Introverted-iNtuitive style, which is contemplative and open-ended. This can appear to conflict directly with their observable, thinking-Judging behaviour, which seeks accountability and punctuality. But this is not inconsistent to the INTJ, whose real message is "Every time you do it fast and right, you'll earn more felxibility and freedom".

As a natural conceptualizer the INTJ is the perfect "think-tank" specialist, intrigued by the future, stimulated with a rich imagination, and undergirded with good accountability. They are often looked to for solutions to complex problems. Consistent with their preferences, they provide direction and leadership with a creative flair. Someone once said that the most socially successful people are those who are independent (I), visionary (N), objective (T) and in control (J). Such individuals can be counted upon for anything; such a person is not always spraying you with his or her needs.

INTJ managers can be perpetual students. Always exploring and envisioning "what might be", their iNtuition is a reservoir of new techniques, programs, incentives, and directions for any system. Their propensity is to improve just about anything; even things that are working well; they'll fix it even if it ain't broke. It is an INTJ tendency to want to redesign IRS tas forms every April 15. This constant restlessness means that everything in the workplace is up for grabs. Constant evaluation and scrutiny - and perhaps revision - become driving forces on almost any project. Even if the mandate is to maintain the status quo, an INTJ won't be beyond trying to maintain the status quo with just a few improvements.

As with all Thinking types female INTJs face special challenges at work. Many of the traits described above - independence, objectivity, and control - fly in the face of traditional female models. Moreover the INTJs need to challenge tradition and improve everything can cause friction in the male-dominated workplace. This conflict can lead to rejection by both genders: Males simply don't understand or know how to cope with the female INTJ's independence; other women see INTJ as arrogant, caring for no one but herself. Indeed INTJ women often have little patience for women who display traditional female characteristics.

Even more frustrating to some people is the INTJ female's tendency to be somewhat aloof: At work she is very carefully defined and extremely professional, guarding every word and action; private life is limited to a few chosen words and is kept separate from the office. Their guarded professionalism at work coupled with their seemingly asocial personal life wins them few allies among colleagues. Especially for INTJ females, it's lonely at the top.

The Typewatching maxim that one's strength maximized becomes a liability is certainly true for INTJs, although they would likely argue to the contrary. The INTJ's rich inner imagination, when left unchecked, can set them up for every form of counterproductivity: suspicion, distrust, and even paranoia. While everyone, especially Introverts, is capable of carrying on internal conversations involving others - who says what to whom and what happens next - INTJs in particular can carry such conversation to an extreme. Their rich reflectiveness can trick them into thinking that an imagined conversation really took place and that subsequent actions were taken. When this occurs, an INTJ's behaviour can be marked with self-righteousness, arrogance, and a certain refusal to admit that he or she could be wrong or that the whole episode occurred only in his or her mind. Defensiveness, coupled with TJ self-confidence, can lead an INTJ to assume that others are not only untrustworthy but indeed are out to get them.

Such misplaced projection of the part of the INTJ can be very undermining to others and can leave staff or colleagues permanently wounded. Even then INTJs can be blind to their own destructiveness. Their tendency is to blame others for these circumstances. "If I'm good enough to get this far, then others, not I must be wrong in their perception or judgment", they'll likely conclude.

Another possible weakness of INTJs is their tendency to give only intellectual assent to various management concepts. Team building, goal setting, and time management are all marvelous concepts - for others. Generally they would much rather write about, think about, or even improve upon any of these ideas than engage in the actual processes.

Like other iNtuitives the INTJ can become stressed from being bombarded by too many details. Their Introverted-iNtuitiveness would much rather imagine and speculate than put things into action. Consequently, when confronted with demands, especially those related to people's needs and seemingly trivial project details, the INTJ can become edgy, scattered, and even quite depressed. It's good for them to take a few moments out of each workday to allow time for reflection and contemplation. That will help to feed their inner aspirations and allow them to enjoy, even momentarily, the fantasy of "what could be" rather than "what is".

Such potential problems notwithstanding, INTJs can make a rich contribution to corporate culture. Their natural bent for achievement and excellence makes them successful in a variety of careers. Most anything to which an INTJ turns his or her energies can turn to a success. They make excellent teachers, especially at high school and college levels, because they bestow upon their students the gift of independent thinking. They are frequently good writers, administrators, researchers, and lawyers, especially managing partners.


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