ENTJ: the Curmudgeon Leader?

For those of you who don’t know me, let me start with an admission.
I am an ENTJ. To some of you, that means little.To many of you, however, I suspect it means a great deal.

ENTJ, stands for Extroversion-Intuition-Thinking-Judging, and is a personality type in the very interesting Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI. This scale aims to pigeon-hole, and pretty accurately too, everyone’s personality. There are limitations; of course, no abstract model can ever fully define all people. But it’s good. For me, close to spot-on.

The ENTJ type is not the rarest, but quite rare; roughly 2-4% of the population may be so labelled. The type is often called the Executive, or the Field Marshall, and it is a corner of the business world occupied by hearty, frank, decisive leaders engaged in a wide range of activities. Natural leaders in the corporate world, you will often recognise them as they lead large functions and are driven to lead more, greater, larger, bigger, better.

ENTJs are usually very handy at anything that requires reasoning and intelligent talk. They are often great public speakers, and convincers of people. Sit them in a negotiation and watch them play their often formidable role.

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Interestingly, they are usually also well informed, but (nota bene!) also excellent bluffers, appearing through powerful personalities and charisma to be all-knowing. I have to confess to bluffing on occasion (okay, okay, a lot of the time) and it is remarkable just how many other types will back down when confronted by an ENTJ’s viewpoint, put out there always with confidence and, sometimes, with arrogance.

ENTJs dominate their space. They will lead. Strongly. Decisively. Acting quickly and with vigour on anything that makes strategic sense.

Until, of course, the ENTJ encounters another ENTJ. Now THAT makes for a fun workplace! Have you ever seen those nature documentaries featuring two ‘prowess’ animals fighting – like ENTJs, such animals often have great antlers! – butting heads until one is unconscious? That’s two ENTJs working near each other.

Sometimes, but not always, one will concede something, giving a small amount of ground, or choose not to fight to unconsciousness over this particular point. But the one who thinks they are most right – and ENTJs ALWAYS think they are right – will ultimately stand ground and, just maybe, not suffer concussion.

But ENTJs, sometimes laughed at for a modicum of ‘social awkwardness’, as they often need to step back a little to size up a social situation to gauge how brusque and direct they can be, are also often the curmudgeon of the office.

Curmudgeon

kəːˈmʌdʒ(ə)n/

noun

noun: curmudgeon; plural noun: curmudgeons

  1. a bad-tempered or surly person.
synonyms: bad-tempered person;

While a rare type, everyone knows one, whether they know the letters or not. Everyone has, often without knowing the MBTI profile of the protagonist, anecdotes about run-ins and incidents with the ENTJs in their lives. To many people, the ENTJ is the boss or colleague who once bulldozed them on a point of strategy, or didn’t pay enough attention to their feelings, or forgot to wish happy birthday even when the cake is on the table.

Yes, directness is the calling card of many an ENTJ. Offensiveness too. Not to mention brusqueness. But it is not on purpose. They just often don’t have the emotional intelligence, or a well-developed ‘feeling’ side in the MBTI scale. Don’t blame them. Best thing you can do is to try to help them, actually. As an ENTJ who has been chastened after staff gave feedback on curmudgeonly behaviour, I was able to adjust. Change, even.

It is possible to help an ENTJ to develop, or be more aware at least, of the feeling side of the shop. Why would you want to? Plainly stated, your life will be MUCH easier. If you are a good worker, the worst thing you can do is have an ENTJ on your back. Helping an ENTJ see how they are squashing you is a good way to get on their good side. Or you will get fired. But if the latter, they were a nasty, abnormal ENTJ and you didn’t want that job anyway.

I am often asked how best to work with me. Yes, some people have that much gall! Just kidding. As an ENTJ with an overdeveloped thinking side, I like that someone would have the guts to come and ask me for that particular piece of advice.

For those working with ENTJs, either above, below, or beside, you need to know a few things about how to get your way with an ENTJ. So here is my twenty cents worth on how to work better with people like me:

  • Discuss first the research base for an idea. ENTJs are easily fascinated, like a cat with a string and a catnip fish on the end, when new knowledge is in the offing. Get them excited about the research base for your idea, the possibilities for new information, and what that might mean for them.
  • Highlight the theoretical background. ENTJs love theories almost as much as they love new and powerful research, or playing Scrabble. Lay out the theory behind your idea, talk about contributors, thinkers, and philosophies, and you will quickly have their eyes as wide as dinner plates.
  • Demonstrate to them how what you want to tell them fits a strategy. ENTJs are very focused on implementing a strategy. For ENTJ and strategy, think pit bull and old shoe – or side of beef – and you are in the right area.
  • Show how your idea will increase competence. Nobody, and I mean nobody, loves improving competence more than the ENTJ. You can tell this, because if you show them a weakness in your competence or, god forbid, you actually act incompetently, they will not hesitate one bit to chew you out over it. ENTJs do not tolerate incompetence, fools, or making the same mistake twice. Show them how your idea will improve competency, and you will have a firm supporter in them.
  • Indicate the far and broad-reaching possibilities that arise from your idea. Got some big thoughts about major change? Hit them with it. Got a ‘star chart’ to lay out the new universe (the one showing the universe as it will exist once your idea is implemented)? Start unrolling it. Convince them there is a wide new world out there waiting to be conquered, and that we could be first, and they will have your back.
  • Show that it has intriguing and fascinating possibilities. As I mentioned, ENTJs are fascinated by the world not yet explored, or conquered. Fascinate them, bedazzle them, with fascinating new information, and they will yearn to learn more. Faster than you can say ‘Engage’, your project idea is up and running.
  • Be a credible source of information. While the ENTJ is an excellent bluffer, don’t forget they are (almost) always incredibly well-informed. Hungry for knowledge, ENTJs are hard to bluff. So know your stuff; they might rely on your info in front of the board and woe betide the inaccurate advisor.
  • Expect arguments. Arguments with ENTJs are absolutely unavoidable. Breathing conflict in preference to air, the ENTJ incites battles. That does not mean they want to defeat you. They, in fact, want you to defeat them! Yes, the ENTJ wants above all else to learn, and will challenge anyone, openly and directly, to show them another way, demonstrate new facts, convince them you are right. They respect a fight, as long as it takes them forward, helps achieve their strategy.

So, do these things and you will have an all-conquering ally or champion.

If I can be personal for a second, one funny thing about being an ENTJ is not knowing you are socially awkward. The ENTJ does not know, for example, they  intimidate people just by ‘being’. Many other personality types, especially the many with actual feelings, are cowed by the openly brash and sometimes abrasive confidence of the ENTJ. Brusqueness, rudeness, offensive directness, are all tell-tale signs of an ENTJ on a rather bad day, or one not in touch with their ‘feeling ‘side (and there are many such!).

As an ENTJ ( or the inadvertent victim of one), you might be vulgarly curious to know one of the most difficult times for an ENTJ. The 360 degree staff evaluation. Why? Because suddenly, the ENTJ is confronted by a lot of staffers and peers who confess to having had their feelings somewhat trampled by the rampaging leader. And ENTJ’s are not normally knowingly offensive. It just happens when empathy is lacking. So, go easy, but take the chance to remind an ENTJ how they made you feel. It might change things for the better in the workplace.

I hope by now, Dear Reader, that you realise ENTJs are a powerful force if they are on your side, or you are on theirs. If they are your leader, you are in really good hands. They will not only take you places you’ve never been before, or even imagined being, but they will personally lead any charge into uncharted territory. Let’s be honest, an ENTJ will lead you to the very mouth of hell if their deliverables are in that balmy neighbourhood.

If you need a project advanced, and it makes sense to the ENTJ, you have a natural battering ram to push it through the senior ranks and get it done. If you need someone to help translate the idea you had into corporate strategy, and then go see it brought to the Board, the ENTJ is your person.

Famous ENTJs who, when I name them, will automatically make you realise who the formidable type you are dealing with is, include: Margaret Thatcher, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Aung San Suu Kyi, Joseph Stalin, and Rahm Emanuel.

ENTJs, the loveable curmudgeon of the office, who can lead you to new worlds like nobody else can. Fear them! But enjoy them in equal measure.

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