Leadership Profile: ISFJ

Can you create a perfect environment without needing to be perfect yourself?


Learn how to apply your Myers-Briggs personality type to your everyday leadership and life. Steve Cockram, GiANT Worldwide, addresses the strengths and weaknesses of the ISFJ personality type.

So you are an ISFJ. How would you know? Well, ISFJs are the most self-sacrificial of all the types. They willingly lay their life down for others and often genuinely prefer others to do better than themselves, not everyone does that. They love to play their role, oiling the wheels of relationships inside organizations, helping some of the larger and more abrasive characters remain connected and aligned. They're incredibly conscientious, they're hard working, but they have strong perfectionist tendencies and often sleep is the only place where ISFJs feel truly able to rest, which is why they usually love it and do as much as they possibly can of it.

They notice disturbances in the emotional force first. It's incredible how they see a room and notice what's going on with other people. They kind of know who's struggling, who's having difficulty and they're often the first to offer that practical and emotional support. They build deep friendships that last a lifetime.

An ISFJ is the best I know at remembering people's birthdays and great at choosing appropriate gifts for the people they love. They often wonder whether they could've done more though and they are often their own harshest critics. ISFJs often feel guilty most of the day. They don't need to, but it's part of their default in that perfectionist tendency of saying, "How do I make sure that I am being the best that I can possibly be?"

Well, all character types have their weak spots. We call it "kryptonite." You'll have seen Superman flying with his cape, doing amazing adventures, but whenever the kryptonite is present his power and influence are diminished and all personality types have those. For the ISFJ, what happens is, under stress, as that increases and the kryptonite comes close, they often become overly controlling of their immediate world, as a means of trying to bring order. They clean. They decorate. They can empty their inbox. Trying to create this perfect environment around them for those closest to them hoping that if they can bring order here, it will allow them to regain their equilibrium in other areas of their life.

They prepare meals. They bake. They buy presents and cards often months in advance of when they are actually needed. All ISFJs struggle under pressure to really take time to care for themselves, and as that kryptonite builds, as the pace of activity and perfectionism increases, they often find themselves physically worn out and heading towards illness.

Under extreme stress, when the kryptonite is really present, the ISFJ begins to catastrophize the future. They are often very negative out loud. It's often irrational and if they happen to be with people who are thinkers, it can end up being incredibly unpleasant when somebody critiques their rational critique and that rarely goes well.

Everything that can go wrong, they assume will go wrong and in that moment of extreme pressure and stress, the ISFJ will often push away even those closest to them as they internalize their own sense of failure and disappointment. If you leave an ISFJ for too long with that kryptonite so close, you end up with this very negative spiral where they catastrophizes the future. Then they overly control their environment and they begin to question whether there's anything that they can actually do competently and well.

The good news is every character type can grow. For ISFJs, one of the most helpful things is learning how to establish daily, weekly, rhythmic patterns in their lives where they actually take care of themselves. They have to recharge their batteries in order to be able to care for all those people that they love.

They also need to recognize that they don't have to be responsible for everyone. ISFJs tend to see need, assume that others haven't seen it, and step in to take care of just about everyone around them. The trouble is that can often lead them to feeling overwhelmed. They simply have to learn that there are others out there who are willing and able to share the load. The fact they see it first doesn't mean they have to carry it forever.

Another thing for ISFJs is they often struggle to receive compliments and they don't usually see themselves as the competent, able professionals that others do. ISFJs make incredibly competent leaders that people love to work for. Usually the hardest person to convince that they can do that is themselves.

Lastly for an ISFJ, learn to enjoy being present in the moment, even if your surroundings are not perfect. Learn to enjoy the relationships with those you love most and not feel guilty that you're responsible for everything or that everything has to be perfect.

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