What Motivates ESTJs?

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(ESTJ = Te Si Ne Fi)

You know them. He is the quarterback on the high school football team. She is the sales manager where you work. He is the elder in your church. While their personality may not be the most common, neither is it the least. They are those who “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” They are the ESTJs.

ESTJs are the “Overseers” reflecting their unique combination of Interaction Style and Temperament. Their interaction style is one of Structure meaning that they are direct, initiating (extraverted), and preferring control. Their temperament is that of the Guardian in that they are focused on tradition, past experience, protection, and safety. From the standpoint of cognitive dynamics, they hold Extraverted Thinking (Te) Hero, Introverted Sensing (Si) Parent, Extraverted Intuition (Ne) Child, and Introverted Feeling (Fi) Inferior (Aspirant) as primary within their Ego.

Like all of us, ESTJs play a vital role in society. They contribute their own unique strengths, but need help overcoming and developing their weaknesses. And yes, despite the “pillar of the community” image they seek to portray, personal challenges lie just below the surface.

 Conviction 

Duty, honor, loyalty and commitment. Admirable qualities; ones we all seek to develop. ESTJs, however, hold them in the highest regard and attach a personal responsibility to them. They are committed to doing what is right and what they should in all aspects of life. They see it as their mission to protect these virtues in themselves and develop them in others, even at the risk of being overbearing, because it is that important to them.

 Impression 

Will Rogers and Oscar Wilde are both credited with first saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Regardless of who originated it, ESTJs exemplify it. They take outward appearances very seriously which justifies their criticism of others without regard to feeling.

Obviously, one’s clothing, hygiene, and manner all contribute to appearance and gives an “experience” to others that results in some form of judgement. However, ESTJs go further and judge the entirety of one’s character on appearance. If a man won’t make the effort to keep his shoes shined, or a woman won’t make the effort to iron her suit, the ESTJ sees little need to continue the relationship. In their view, not only is that man or woman found lacking in character, but to associate with them would degrade their own appearance and risk their standing with others. If family or other bonds obligate association with these “ne’er do wells,” ESTJs can become highly critical and cruel in their efforts to bring them to compliance.

 Respect 

ESTJs seek respect. They desire intelligence. They read more than most and actively seek the opinions of others in order to confirm the reasonableness of their own thoughts and ideas. At times they worry that their conclusions are inconsistent or inaccurate. As such, they seek validation from experience and credentialed sources: people, programs, institutions, etc. The more degrees, certifications, and recommendations, the more credible the source of the validation.

 Esteem 

Despite the calm, cool, and collected persona ESTJs display, they can be insecure in their sense of self-worth and struggle to find personal value within themselves. They compensate for this internal fear by equating their self-esteem with social status and the favorable perceptions of others. Similar to their reliance on others to validate their thoughts and conclusions, ESTJs need others to validate them as good people. In this regard, it is all about belief. If others think the ESTJ is good, then they believe they are good regardless of reality.

In some cases, ESTJs can go further and proactively try to manipulate others into an opinion favorable to themselves. In other words, they will wear the right clothes, drive the right car, send their children to the right schools, and even attend the right church in order to impress. If others are impressed, then they will think highly of the ESTJ—or so goes their thinking. Then the ESTJ is free to believe they are good because others think they are. Their self-esteem is only to be found in their status, but status-seeking begets shallowness and risks vanity and elitism.


 Serenity 

ESTJs seek serenity. They see the world as tumultuous and chaotic, and view their role in it as bringing about order and peace. Effectively, they are “fixers” relying on their skills in organizing, planning, and managing to accomplish the task at hand. Much like God created out of chaos the orderliness of the heavens and the earth in their predictable orbits and rotations, so too does the ESTJ seek to bring order out of chaos. Peace comes from structure, order, process, and procedure. Progress comes from having a plan and executing on that plan. Spontaneity only invites risk and unpredictability which, in turn, reduces the likelihood of success.

In their focus on order, however, they sow the seeds of chaos. Not everything in life can be managed or controlled. The more they regulate, the more they hinder the process. Bureaucracy develops into the chaos they seek to eliminate. Worse yet is when they find themselves in a chaotic environment without the authority to fix. Frustration sets in, motivation disappears, and disorder reigns. ESTJs are at their best when they can act and take control.

 Comfort 

We all have favorite restaurants and favorite meals at those restaurants. The ESTJ is no exception, but they go further to ensure their comfort level. They may insist on a specific table, waiter, or chef for example. They may obsess about the background music, the lighting, or the temperature. The point is that they are very aware of the experiences they are given. They will remember the good experiences and want to re-create them, but they will also remember the bad experiences and never forget them.

This is not to say that they reject everything outside of their comfort zone. In fact, they like to try new experiences but do so responsibly, incrementally, and in the company of friends and family. Still, the tried and true is more to their liking, rather than leaving dinner to chance.

 Giving 

Want something? ESTJs will help you get it, plain and simple. Tell them what you need. State your intentions. They will respond. They love being invited to help and appreciate the opportunity. Church service, volunteerism, and public advocacy are attractive to them particularly if they are given a planning or leadership role. These activities aid in their sense of self-worth and meaning.

Unfortunately, in their desire to give, they can be taken advantage of by less scrupulous individuals. ESTJs can incorrectly assume that others have levels of loyalty, trustworthiness, and conviction like their own. But in the absence of a clear sense of what they want for themselves, they are exposed to the manipulation of others. They can be swayed by someone who looks good and makes them feel good. They become permanent marks, and their regret or self-doubt upon learning the truth is significant.

 Emotion 

Generally, ESTJs prefer to minimize the role of emotion in everything. Plans must be developed and managed objectively. Effective debate and decision-making require fact not feeling. Emotions are all things antithetic to the ESTJ: spontaneous, chaotic, and unpredictable. Feelings threaten order and serenity.

ESTJs spend significant energy analyzing and controlling their own feelings to the point that they have nothing left to give to others. Thus, they are viewed as uncaring and insensitive. Ethics and social protocols mean little to them beyond the extent they can enhance social status. They give advice not to make others feel good, but to put them on a path, a plan, to move forward. They genuinely want to help but implementing a plan of action is far more valuable than indulging one’s emotions.

In the end, ESTJs are long suffering and willing to endure significant hardship. They are loyal and devoted. They remind us, collectively and individually, of the consequences of past actions to ensure we don’t repeat them. They seek to minimize risk in the future through planning, organizing, and follow-through. To the extent we aid them in these efforts, we earn their loyalty and commitment.

If you liked this post, please share it to your social media of choice.


For a more in-depth look at the ESTJ personality type, check out the Who are the ESTJs Post, or all of the ESTJ posts.

Are you an ESTJ and want some guidance on how to overcome your struggles? Or, do you know an ESTJ and want some more tips to deal with them?


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Throughout my nearly 30-year career in corporate finance and sales leadership, my goal – no, my purpose – has been to help people develop and find their best path forward. Our individual strengths are constrained by our weaknesses, and the advancement of society suffers as a result. Cultural enlightenment, therefore, relies on individual development. It’s a life-long journey and represents a commitment to others. My commitment is to you.

Stronger people. Joyful relationships. Contented lives.

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