Project Manager Competencies and Personality Types

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Project Management is fundamental to modern organizations and businesses of all sizes where competent project managers are increasingly needed. Some literature and case studies argue that a project manager is a major factor related to the success or failure of projects. In addition, project managers are facing major challenges in planning, organizing and motivating efforts as a combination of personal characteristics and areas of competency is needed.

From a statistical point of view, a significant correlation between project success and a project manager's competencies have been identified. Some of those competencies are linked to a variety of personality types. Some studies put great effort in identifying types of people best suited for leading projects in organizations. They show that, indeed, many MBTI types are fitted better for being a project manager while others are not. The reason is, that many project managers have specific characteristics associated with their work environment which result in managing projects more successfully. However, successful project managers do not all share the same inherent characteristics of personalities and competencies, some project managers are also successful by having different characteristics of personality types and competency.

The purpose of this article is to focus on the characteristics of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality types and to compare them to general project manager competencies so as to examine the relationship between project manager competencies and personality types. Furthermore, the article will indicate project management competencies and personality types most relevant for project success.


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a psychometric questionnaire designed to enable classification of a persons' traits according to four dichotomous types: (1) Extrovert vs Introvert; (2) Sensing vs Intuitive; (3) Thinking vs Feeling; and (4) Judging vs Perceiving. The method was developed by Katharine C. Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs-Myers based on the personality theory of Carl Jung. In World War II, the MBTI method was used to assist in fitting a person to a job and vice versa. [1] With these different dichotomous types, any person can be classified into 16 personality types (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: 16 MBTI personality types [2]

The first three dichotomous types, also known as preference of the general attitude, were introduced by Jung where he argues that people develop a dominant and an auxiliary function for balance. Myers supplemented the theory by proposing a fourth dichotomous type to determine whether the judging or the perceiving function is dominant or extroverted. [2] The following description of the dichotomous types are based on the theory of Gardner & Martinko and Cohen et al. [3] [2]

Extroversion (E) vs Introversion (I)

The extroverted attitude is focused on the outside world and gets its motivation from interaction with other people and by doing things. These types of people are characterized by having a breadth of interest and like to get to know and communicate with people. Moreover, they have a highly sociable and outgoing personality.

People with an introverted attitude have a personality focused on the inner world and gets its energy and motivation from thoughts, information, ideas, and concepts. They are usually good at personal interaction, stay calm and focused and can concentrate intensely.

Sensing (S) vs Intuition (N)

The Sensing perception includes people who decide based on facts and rely on facts, figures and details. Decisions are made by an objective point of view without involving feelings. They focus on facts, data and details and tend to be practical, concrete and reality-based.

People with an intuitive perception decide based on intuition, relationships and speculations as well as focus on meanings, associations and speculations. They tend to be more theoretical, creative and future-oriented.

Thinking (T) vs Feeling (F)

A person with thinking as a judging function decides by logic and unbiased analysis of cause and effect. Decisions are made by an objective point of view without involving feelings as much as possible. They tend to be analytical, rational and they carefully weigh alternatives.

A person with feeling as a judging function decides with emphasis on the expected effect upon feelings of others and the self. The decision may be based on gut feeling, tries to harmonize and satisfy others. They are characterized being a warm, empathic and persuasive person and draw out feelings of others.

Judging (J) vs Perceiving (P)

People having a preference for judging easily take sides, decide and judge quickly and want to be part of the game. They are more organized than spontaneous and are in general decisive, conscientious and reliable.

People having a preference for perceiving try to be a spectator by leaving themselves all the options open as long as possible and are very slow to judge. They are characterized as being open-minded, spontaneous and tolerant.

Project Manager Competencies

Being a project manager entails many challenges and requires certain skills, capabilities, knowledge and competencies in general. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as "the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities and to meet project requirements". [4] Project management competency is a complex process requiring the acquisition of a variety of knowledge and skill sets that often cross areas of expertise, including instructional technology, management, information technology, engineering, and manufacturing. [5] Furthermore, Crawford defined project manager competence as a combination of knowledge (qualification), skills (ability to do a task), and core personality characteristics (motives traits self-concepts) that lead to superior results, where project success and competence of project manager are closely interdependent.[6]

The literature has identified some competencies relevant to project management and project manager. In the 20th century, the definition of good leadership is a combination of both managerial and emotional functions, moreover cognitive functions including guiding, directing and constraining choices and action, and cathectic functions including emotional and motivational aspects. [7] Turner identified the following seven traits of effective project managers: (1) Problem-solving ability; (2) Result orientation; (3) Energy and initiative; (4) Self-confidence; (5) Perspective; (6) Communication; and (7) Negotiating ability. [8] However, Dulewicz and Higgs argue that there are three types of competency which explain most managerial performance: Intellectual (IQ), Managerial Skill (MQ) and Emotional (EQ). In addition, they state that the importance of those competencies are distributed as follows: intellectual competence (IQ) accounts for 27% of leadership performance, managerial competence (MQ) accounts for 16% and emotional competence (EQ) accounts for 36%. [9] Furthermore, management competencies imply having a variety of expertise, e.g. communication expertise, problem-solving expertise, leadership expertise, analytical expertise, tools expertise and context knowledge. Most management competencies refer to general leadership competencies, which also includes certain communication, problem-solving and analytical skills. [10]

Dulewicz and Higgs (2003) suggested 15 leadership characteristics within the three leadership competencies - intellectual (IQ), managerial (MQ) and emotional (EQ). The intellectual competencies comprise critical analysis and judgment, vision and imagination as well as strategic perspective. The managerial competencies refer to managing resources, engaging communication, empowering, developing and achieving. Furthermore, the emotional competencies (EQ) consist of characteristics such as self-awareness, emotional resilience, motivation, sensitivity, influence, intuitiveness and conscientiousness. The following table illustrates the 15 leadership characteristics sorted by relevance to project management competencies based on a study of Geoghegan and Dulewicz (2008). [11]
When comparing the MBTI personality types to management competencies, this study will focus on those 15 leadership competencies of Geoghegan and Dulewicz.

Table 1: The 15 leadership competencies
Group Intellectual (IQ) Managerial (MQ) Emotional (EQ)
Competencies Critical analysis and judgement Managing resources Conscientiousness
Strategic perspective Empowering Sensitivity
Vision and Imagination Developing Self-awareness
Engaging communication Emotional resilience
Achieving Intuitiveness

Personality Types of Project Manager

Several studies discuss the overall distribution of MBTI types among the population. Widemann (2002) provide an MBTI grid which illustrates the percentage of different MBTI types, adjusted to the types in a project related context, in the population at large (see Figure 2). [12]

Figure 2: MBTI personality types distribution among general population

Characteristical MBTI Types of Project Manager

Widemann (2002) compared all 16 MBTI types with the characteristics of successful project managers whereby he identified 4 classes of MBTI types related to the ability to be a project manager.
(1) Project leader;
(2) Project leader and follower;
(3) Project follower;
(4) Unsuited/Questionable.
The project leader is characterized by the attribute TJ (Thinking and Judging), which means that the most suited project leaders are INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ and ESTJ. The category project leader and follower represent people with NTP (Intuitive, Thinking and Perceiving) and FJ (Feeling and Judging) characteristics, i.e. INTP, ENTP, ENFJ and ESFJ. Project follower has been identified by being either INFJ or ISFJ. As unsuited or questionable, people are characterized by the MBTI types of INFP, ISFP, ESFP, ENFP, ISTP and ESTP. [13]

In a project management context, Widemann (2002) extended the previously mentioned MBTI grid by adding four different leader profiles and combine them with the MBTI types, which have been evaluated in accordance with the characteristics of successful project manager. The four leader profiles identified are the Explorer, the Driver, the Coordinator and the Administrator (see Figure 3). [12]

Figure 3: Suited MBTI personality types for project manager

Cohen et al. (2013) argue that project managers have a unique personality-type distribution that distinguishes them from the general population. In that light, a field survey was conducted which implicate MBTI personality types of project manager with project success, for both men and women. The findings of that survey have been assessed with the MBTI distribution of the general population estimated by the Myer-Briggs Institute. It was found that the survey population has 10% more extroverts (EJ) and 9% fewer introverts (IJ) than the total population. Furthermore, the study reveals that there is a major difference in SF (Sensing and Feeling) and NT (Intuition and Thinking). The survey population has 36.6% fewer SF people than the general population and 32.7% more NT people than the general population. [2]

Personality Types and Project Success

There are many ways of measuring the project's success, however, management or leadership competencies are seldom mentioned in the literature. As project success factors, criteria regarding compliance with time, budget and specifications or stakeholder satisfaction and project effectiveness are commonly used. According to Cohen et al.(2013), the highest success rate of projects is the ISF combination, which is only 3% of the total project manager population but 22% of the general population. Although the NT population among project managers is more widely spread than the SF population, the SF types report the highest success rate. [2] However, other literature and studies would disagree on those findings and would promote the commonly know MBTI personality types as a major success factor. There might be several reasons for this contribution to project success and the project population, however, the project success results of Cohen et al.(2013) disprove that only certain MBTI types are more suitable for managing projects.

Matching Personality Types to Management Competencies

The following examination is primarily based on the fifteen management competencies suggested by Dulewicz and Higgs (see Table 1). Based on the findings of Geoghegan et al., the most relevant management competencies identified in the study are considered. In addition, the in figure 3 illustrated MBTI grid, developed by Wideman, was used to match important management competencies to MBTI personality types.

Intellectual Competencies (IQ)

It was found that the competency critical analysis and judgment is most suitable to the personality types of INTJ, INTP and ENTP. Especially the attribute T (Thinking) is crucial to fulfill this competency which characterizes that personality type as being more factual, organized, critical and analytical. The competency strategic perspective is primarily covered by the INTJ, ISTJ, ENTP and ENTJ types. It turns out that the dominant characteristic is the NT (Intuition and Thinking), which also aligns with other literature. Project manager with strong competencies in vision and imagination tend to have an NF (Intuition and Feeling) personality type, where the F component is the most pressing attribute.

Managerial Competencies (MQ)

The competencies managing resources and empowering tend to have the same personality types, i.e ESTJ, ESFJ, ENTJ and ENFJ, characterized by having EJ (Extroversion and Judging). Project managers with this personality type are decisive, results-oriented and pragmatic. As commonly known, the competency engaging communication is more suited for people having E (Extroversion) as a characteristic. However, this does not mean that introvert people are bad in engaging communication, but extroverts are generally more likely to fulfill that competency.

Emotional Competencies (EQ)

One of the most vital competencies for a comprehensive project manager is conscientiousness and sensitivity. The first competency is primarily covered by personality types such as ISTJ, ISFJ, ENFJ as well as INFJ and ESFJ, where the main characteristic is S/F and J (Sensing or Feeling and Judging). They are more organized and reliable and take bigger responsibilities. However, sensitivity is more characterized by the F (Feeling) attribute since those persons decide with emphasis and respect feelings of others. Furthermore, competencies such as self-awareness, emotional resilience, influencing and motivation require a variety of different personality characteristics.

Findings and Conclusion

General literature and researchers argue that the "classical" definition of a project manager is an Extraverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging (ESTJ) individual. Several studies also found that traditional managers are either ESTJ or ISTJ types, whereas some say that people with NT (Intuition and Thinking) have great leadership competencies and others say that project managers tend to be INT or IST types. [14]

The principal intention of this article was to identify vital management competencies and to link them to MBTI personality types preferable suited to project manager. The subject of matching management competencies to project manager personalities is important and useful, especially for getting an intention of which employees could be suited for project management positions. The findings contribute to a better characterization of project managers in general by, in addition, taking the MBTI personality type into account. However, the issue of identifying and assessing competencies to personality types requires more data collection and further research.
The conclusion is that, in general, project managers have a unique personality type distribution. The findings highlight a link between management competencies and project manger personality types. Moreover, matching the most important management competencies to MBTI personality types confirm the findings already stated in the literature. In this light, personality types such as INTJ, ENTJ, ISTJ and ESTJ are the preferred personality types for project managers, whereas the NT and EJ characteristics are also of major significance.
However, in the modern working environment, there is not such one type definition of a successful project manager. Moreover, the one personality type which is suited for handling all kinds of projects does not exist. Indeed, many analysis shows, that there are certain personality types which are better suited for being a project manger. But it always depends on the project and its environment itself whether someone is suited or not being project manager for a specific project.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Geoghegan, L., Dulewicz, V., (2008) Do Project Managers’ Leadership Competencies Contribute to Project Success?. Project Management Journal. DOI: 10.1002/pmj

Examination of the hypothesis: There is a significant relationship between a project's manager leadership competencies and project success.

  • Cohan, Y., Ornoy, H., Keren, B., (2013) MBTI Personality Types of Project Managers and Their Success: A Field Survey, Project Management Journal, DOI: 10.1002/pmj

A field study regarding MBTI personality types and project success and whether there is a unique personality type of project managers that distinguishes from the general population.

  • Widemann, M. (2002), Project Teamwork, Personality Profiles and the Population at Large: Do we have enough of the right kind of people?

Identification of characteristics most relevant to project managers and their success compared to the population at large.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Cohan, Y., Ornoy, H., Keren, B., (2013) MBTI Personality Types of Project Managers and Their Success: A Field Survey, Project Management Journal, DOI: 10.1002/pmj
  3. Gardner, L., Martinko, M., (1996) Using the Myers-Briggs Type lndica tor to Study Managers: A Literature Review and Research Agenda, Journal of Management 1996, Vol. 22, No. 1,45-83
  4. Project Management Institute, (2004), A guide to the project management body of knowledge (3rd ed.). Newtown Square, PA: Author
  5. Cleland, D. I. (1995), Leadership and the project management body of knowledge. Inter- national Journal of Project Management, 13(2), 83–88
  6. Crawford, L. W. (2007), Developing the project management competence of individuals. In J. R. Turner (Ed.), Gower handbook of project management (4th ed., p. 678–694). Aldershot, UK: Gower Publishing.
  7. Barnard, C. I. (1938). The functions of the executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  8. Turner, J. R., Keegan, A. E., & Crawford, L. H. (2003). Delivering improved project management maturity through experiential learning. In J. R. Turner (Ed.), People in project management. Aldershot, UK: Gower
  9. Dulewicz, V., & Higgs, M. J. (2000). Emotional intelli- gence: A review and evaluation study. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 15(4), 341–368.
  10. Brill, J. M., Kim, D., & Branch, R. M. (2000). Visual literacy defined: The results of a Delphi study: Can IVLA (operationally) define visual literacy? Paper presented at the Interna- tional Visual Literacy Association, Ames, IA.
  11. Geoghegan, L., Dulewicz, V., (2008) Do Project Managers’ Leadership Competencies Contribute to Project Success?. Project Management Journal. DOI: 10.1002/pmj
  12. 12.0 12.1 Widemann, M. (2002), Project Teamwork, Personality Profiles and the Population at Large: Do we have enough of the right kind of people?. Retrieved from
  13. Wideman, R.M. (2002). Dominant per- sonality traits suited to running projects successfully (and what type are you?). Paper presented at the 29th Annual Project Management Institute, Seminar/Symposium: Tides of Change. Long Beach, CA, October 1998
  14. Dolfi, J., Andrews, E.J., (2007). The subliminal characteristics of project managers: An exploratory study of optimism overcoming challenge in the project management work environment. International Journal of Project Management 25 (2007) 674–682
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