By Dr. A.J. Drenth
ENTJs are born leaders. They are direct, assertive, and uninhibited. They can become frustrated and impatient when things don’t unfold according to their expected plan or time frame, evoking notions of the “Type-A” personality. In the presence of ENTJs, others may feel they are somehow being hurried or rushed, that the ENTJ wants them to “cut to the chase.”
Like the ESTJ, ENTJs are firm, direct, and outwardly opinionated. At times, they may be seen as harsh, blunt, or insensitive. Despite outer confidence and imposing presence, they are, on the whole, no more inwardly secure nor sure of themselves than other types. In fact, because their inner Judging function (Fi) is inferior, they may feel they have relatively little inner control. Finding inner control elusive, they naturally turn their focus outwardly, hoping that achieving outer order and control will bring them inner calm and security. Of course, controlling the outside world is rarely an easy task, contributing to ENTJs’ propensity for restlessness and hypervigilance.
Unlike the ENFJ, ENTJs don’t enjoy ready access to the interpersonal benefits conferred by Extraverted Feeling. Instead, they rely on their sense of humor, fueled by their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni), to ingratiate themselves to others. ENTJs can be great showmen and storytellers. Undeterred by conflict or controversy (they actually like being seen as edgy or provocative), they like to push the envelope, which at times can leave others feeling hurt or offended.
While ENTJs can be quite funny when the time is right, they are, on the whole, quite serious in their approach to life. Their dominant function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), confers a strong work orientation. As we will shortly explore in greater depth, Te seeks to impose order, rationality, and efficiency on the world and its operations. Therefore, like the INTJ, ENTJs are often drawn to science, or can at least appreciate the value of its standardized methods.
One of the hallmarks of Te is its need for everything to be clearly defined, measurable, and quantifiable. This, in combination with their love for strategy and competition, can make ENTJs formidable strategists and executives. ENTJs are commonly found among CEOs heading for-profit companies.
Wealth and social status can also be motivating factors for ENTJs. This can be seen as deriving, at least in part, from their tertiary function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). Despite their status as Intuitives, ENTJs love worldly things. They are not opposed to luxury housing or extravagant vacations, just as long as these things are written into the Te budget. So while ENTJs certainly like to work hard, they can also play hard.
ENTJ Personality Type Development & Functional Stack
ENTJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:
Dominant: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Auxiliary: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Tertiary: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Inferior: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
ENTJs’ type development can be broadly conceived according to three phases:
Phase I (Youth-Early 20s)
This phase is characterized by the emergence and differentiation of ENTJs’ dominant function, Extraverted Thinking (Te). Even early in life, ENTJs are goal-oriented. They are ambitious and seek success in whatever they put their mind to. Taking their goals and responsibilities seriously, they typically do well in school and aren’t afraid to assume leadership roles.
During this phase, ENTJs can seem particularly inflexible and opinionated. They are quick to make judgments and draw conclusions about the world. Since their Extraverted Thinking (Te) judgments are not yet being tempered by their auxiliary and tertiary Perceiving functions, they are especially prone to jump to conclusions.
Phase I ENTJs differ markedly from Phase I INTJs. Since INTJs dominant function (Ni) is a Perceiving function, they tend to be more passive and take life less seriously than ENTJs. In Phase I, INTJs are more concerned with ingesting and digesting the world (Ni), while ENTJs are already focused on shaping and manipulating it (Te).
Phase II (Late Teens-30s)
Once their dominant Te reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, ENTJs’ inferior function, Introverted Feeling (Fi), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because Fi is not next in line in their functional stack. Its undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with ENTJs’ dominant Extraverted Thinking (Te). Unfortunately, the influence of their Te peaks in Phase II of type development, which happens to be the same time they are making life-altering decisions about their careers and relationships. ENTJs’ Te-Fi tug-of-war will be elucidated later in this profile.
In addition to the increasing presence and influence of their Fi, Phase II ENTJs are also developing their auxiliary function, Introverted Intuition (Ni). As they encounter complex problems and situations that call for greater patience and reflection, they turn to their Ni for assistance. In doing so, they work to better see and incorporate the bigger picture (Ni) into their Te Judging process. As they develop their ability to assume different perspectives and to grasp the bigger picture, they become somewhat slower to judge and display more discernment and foresight in their decisions.
Phase II ENTJs may also begin to differentiate and incorporate their tertiary function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). For ENTJs, Se represents a further relaxing and opening of their judgments. It helps them loosen their grip on life, tempering their need for constant outer control (Fe).
Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)
If all goes well and they are fortunate enough to enter Phase III, ENTJs become increasingly aware of the insidious ways of their inferior Fi. As they become more aware of their inferior and learn to function more healthily as ENTJs, they experience greater balance between their Te and Fi, as well as an increasing sense of peace and wholeness.
ENTJs’ Dominant Function: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
Extraverted Thinking (Te) serves as ENTJs’ dominant and most preferred function. It undergirds their tendency to quickly express their judgments and opinions, to literally think (i.e., make judgments, conclusions, decisions, etc.) aloud. ENTJs speak before they listen, Judge before they Perceive. This can be both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it can make them strong and courageous leaders, while on the other, it can contribute to their being abrasive or controlling. It can also dispose ENTJs to advancing premature judgments and assertions. They may say things that, in retrospect, they would prefer to rescind, soften, or further qualify.
As mentioned earlier, Te strives to impose order and rationality on external world. It is quantitative in nature, pushing for objective standards and measurable goals. Rarely vague or ambiguous, it insists on clearly defined policies, plans, and procedure. Although their auxiliary Ni may contribute some degree of openness, ENTJs still expect things to be done according to their Te plans and guidelines. After all, if too much leeway is granted, they feel the system will not function at their desired level of rationality and efficiency.
Te also contributes to ENTJs’ work-orientation. As T-dominants, ENTJs are generally more serious and focused than they are relaxed or receptive. Even on days when they have no external obligations, they are quick to get to work on something. Like other types with a dominant Judging function, ENTJs are not good at relaxing and doing nothing.
ENTJs’ Auxiliary Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Like other Intuitives, ENTJs are future-oriented, always striving for something more. They are forward thinking and change-oriented, getting bored or restless when things seem too repetitive, straightforward, or mundane.
Instead of thinking of their Ni in terms of “intuition,” which can sometimes have a feminine connotation, ENTJs may use terms like “instincts” or “going with their gut.” Unlike Ne, which tends to generate more options than it does firm solutions, Ni confers a higher level of convergence and singularity. Hence, ENTJs, as well as other NJs, often feel confident that their Ni answers or insights are trustworthy and reliable.
Like INTJs, ENTJs are not only are they blessed with the ability to isolate and analyze specifics (Te), but can also maintain a clear vision of the whole system (Ni), including its hierarchical structure and the interrelations of its constituent parts. Their proficiency with seeing both the big picture (Ni) and its specifics (Te) makes ENTJs masters of strategy, analysis, and planning.
Not only does a well-developed Ni make ENTJs better visionaries, but it can also temper their propensity to jump to premature conclusions. ENTJs can use their Ni to explore alternative perspectives and avoid the tunnel vision that may result from exclusive use of Te. Using and developing their Ni represents an important part of their personal growth, helping to ensure that their Te judgments are rooted in a broader, more comprehensive understanding.
ENTJs’ Tertiary Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Extraverted Sensing (Se) is a sensual, instinctual, and appetitive function. Se types seek out novel sensations, physical thrills, and material comforts.
ENTJs can have a certain worldliness about them, enjoying novel sensations, experiences, and material acquisitions. They can be particular about the quality, appearance, and status of their homes and possessions. Like other NJs, they can be captivated by the finer things in life, including the allure and status of affluent lifestyles.
With that said, the fact remains that ENTJs are dominant Judgers, meaning that their Te work generally takes precedence over any Se concerns. So while ENTJs can enjoy Se goods and experiences, they may be slow to make time for them in their T-oriented schedule.
ENTJs’ Inferior Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
For those unfamiliar with the powerful influence of the inferior function on personality, as well as common strategies for dealing with it, I encourage you to explore my post, Understanding the Inferior Function.
As is true of other types, ENTJs can be blinded to the degree to which their inferior function impacts their decisions and behavior. Without adequate awareness of their inferior, they will continue to feel incomplete and be prone to unwise decision-making in their lifestyle, careers, and relationships. Consequently, ENTJs seeking self-knowledge and personal growth must work to understand the ways their inferior function, Introverted Feeling (Fi), manifests in their personality.
Fi involves an inner focus on personal feelings, tastes, and values. Of all types, IFPs are the most “self-focused” (in a neutral sense) with respect to their concern for exploring and managing their personal values and emotions. ENTJs, for whom Fi is inferior and largely unconscious, do not enjoy ready access to their personal feelings and values. As for other dominant Thinking types, emotions can be slippery and elusive for ENTJs. Therefore, in situations where a “socially appropriate” emotional response is warranted, ENTJs can feel quite uncomfortable, since their emotional experience is often relatively weak. They may then resort to using their Te to offer condolences, etc., which can sound a bit mechanical, terse, or otherwise inadequate in emotional situations. ENTJs may also develop strategies for repairing a bad situation, allowing them to escape the awkward task of emotionally supporting or connecting with others.
Fi is also concerned with the development of a system of personalized values and judgments, independent of societal conventions. This inner value system and personalized worldview grants IFPs a strong sense of inner confidence and control. ENTJs, by contrast, do not enjoy the same degree of inner confidence because of the inferior nature of their Fi. To compensate, they focus on managing and controlling the outside world. They instinctively sense that the best way of controlling themselves is through controlling their surroundings. This is precisely the opposite of the IFP approach. IFPs feel relatively powerless in their ability to control the outside world (Te) and respond by focusing on the one thing they can control—themselves (Fi).
With that being said, it would be wrong to assume that ENTJs’ Fi is powerless or lacking in influence. While they may feel they experience relatively little conscious control over their Fi, it can still exert its influence through less conscious means. As I have written elsewhere, the inferior function can play a prominent role in informing and orienting the dominant function, influencing its values and objectives.
More specifically, ENTJs’ Fi might compel them to work toward a cause that has personally affected them. For instance, an ENTJ whose parent died of a rare disease may decide to become a physician or medical researcher. Their Fi might also lead them to place greater importance on the role of children and family in their lives than one might expect from a dominant Thinking type. This is not to say, however, that it is a good thing for ENTJs to be ruled or overtaken by their Fi. To the contrary, ENTJs, not to mention society as a whole, are better served when they engage in work that capitalizes on their Te-Ni strengths.
It is also critical that ENTJs consider how they are using their Te. Like other dominant Judgers, ENTJs can be prone to a sense of urgency when it comes to making decisions or finishing tasks. This sense of urgency can lead to premature and erroneous judgments, lower quality work, and obsessive sorts of behavior. For instance, ENTJs may have in mind for what they want to accomplish on a given day, only to discover the project to be much larger than they originally conjectured. But since larger task poses a larger challenge, they may “take the bait” and see if they can still manage to finish it. One of the problems with doing so is it locks them into Judging mode, as any deviation into Perceiving would likely prevent them from achieving their goal in the specified time frame. It might also lead them to shut out other people, who are then viewed as intrusions or impediments to their objectives.
To function more healthily, ENTJs need to ensure they are spending adequate time Perceiving rather than racing to finish things. While acknowledging their desire to reach a point of closure, ENTJs can benefit from remaining open to alternatives, realizing that Perceiving infuses their life with texture and richness. It allows them to live more organically, rather than always clinging to a preset agenda. This is not to say that ENTJs should stop being ENTJs and transform into ENTPs, but involves finding the right balance between Judging and Perceiving.
For a more extensive look at each of the ENTJ’s personality preferences and functions, be sure to explore my latest eBook:
Note: This ENTJ profile may also resonate with Enneagram Eights (8w7, 8w9), Ones (1w9, 1w2), and Threes (3w2, 3w4).