Procurement’s Personality Revealed! And it’s a Clear Winner


In my previous post on “procurement’s personality” (see here and here), I discussed the importance of self-assessing your personality traits in order to gain self-awareness into your behaviors and how they might impact your job performance. And, since nobody had measured such a thing in procurement before, I teamed up with The Institute for Supply Management to survey this, and the results are in!

We had an overwhelming response, with nearly 1,800 participants. Before we reveal the top personality type in procurement, it’s worth a quick review of the Jungian personality type model that our survey most closely resembles (i.e., the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)). According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, the personality test is used to indicate the differences in people based on:

  • How they focus their attention or get their energy (Extraversion or Introversion)
  • How they perceive or take in information (Sensing or Intuition)
  • How they prefer to make decisions (Thinking or Feeling)
  • How they orient themselves to the external world (Judgment or Perception)

So, how did the 1,787 procurement professionals in our snap poll stack up on the 16 possible combinations of the 4 above “dichotomies”? Well, you might expect each to average about 6% of the total (although in reality there is variation), but the most frequent personality type actually represents a whopping 21% of the population.

And what is this personality type? Drum roll please…

ESTJ (Extroversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment)

One personality-typing firm calls this archetype “The Guardian,” while another calls it “The Executive.” I would call it a “law and order” business leader. The Myers Briggs website itself describes an ESTJ as, Practical, realistic, matter-of-fact. Decisive, quickly move to implement decisions. Organize projects and people to get things done, focus on getting results in the most efficient way possible. Take care of routine details. Have a clear set of logical standards, systematically follow them and want others to also. Forceful in implementing their plans.”

In the description of “The Guardian,” the ESTJ is describes as follows:

  • Your primary mode of living is focused externally, where you deal with things rationally and logically
  • ESTJs live in a world of facts and concrete needs. They honor traditions and laws and have a clear set of standards and beliefs. They value competence and efficiency, and like to see quick results for their efforts.
  • ESTJs are take-charge people. They have such a clear vision of the way that things should be, that they naturally step into leadership roles. They are self-confident and aggressive. They are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task.


  • They can sometimes be very demanding and critical because they have such strongly held beliefs and are likely to express themselves without reserve if they feel someone isn't meeting their standards. But at least their expressions can be taken at face value, because the ESTJ is extremely straight forward and honest.
  • They expect the same of others, and have no patience or understanding of individuals who do not value these systems.
  • The ESTJ needs to watch out for the tendency to be too rigid, and to become overly detail-oriented. Since they put a lot of weight in their own beliefs, it's important that they remember to value other people's input and opinions. If they neglect their Feeling side, they may have a problem with fulfilling other's needs.
  • When bogged down by stress, an ESTJ often feels isolated from others. They feel as if they are misunderstood and undervalued and that their efforts are taken for granted.

In the description of “The Executive”, the ESTJ has the following strengths and weaknesses…


  • Dedicated - Seeing things to completion borders on an ethical obligation
  • Strong-willed - Defend their ideas and principles relentlessly, and must be proven clearly and conclusively wrong for their stance to budge
  • Direct and Honest - Trust facts far more than abstract ideas or opinions
  • Loyal, Patient and Reliable - When ESTJs say they'll do something, they keep their word
  • Enjoy Creating Order - Strive to create order and security in their environments by establishing rules, structures and clear roles
  • Excellent Organizers - This commitment to truth and clear standards makes ESTJs capable and confident leaders.


  • Inflexible and Stubborn - ESTJs too often dismiss what might work better
  • Uncomfortable with Unconventional Situations - ESTJs are strong adherents to tradition
  • Judgmental - ESTJs have strong convictions about what is right, wrong and ignore the possibility that there are 2 right ways to get things done
  • Too Focused on Social Status - ESTJs take pride in the respect of their friends, colleagues and community
  • Difficult to Relax - This need for respect fosters a need to maintain their dignity
  • Difficulty Expressing Emotion - This is all evidence of ESTJs' greatest weakness: expressing emotions and feeling empathy

Bottom Line

We will get into more detailed analysis in subsequent posts, but the bottom line is that most procurement professionals are generally extroverts that are very fact-based (“trust but verify” is an apt term for their world view) thinkers who have a particular approach (e.g., an n-step sourcing methodology) that they like to follow. They may not be charismatic visionary leaders and are not overly consensus-focused leaders that have a responsive tune into stakeholder desires to get everyone on board, but they do seem to make excellent goal-oriented managers who know how to execute. And when it comes to finding and delivering costs savings, year after year, this is the right skill set to have in the short- to medium-term.

As a side note, of the nearly 100 CPOs in the study, the results didn’t vary much from the general population, but there were a few interesting tidbits that we’ll discuss later up at the EVP level within this group.

What’s also interesting is that ISTJ’s (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) came in third spot at 11% of the population (i.e., an introverted version of the ESTJ that is called the “Logistician” or “Duty Fulfiller”), but one that amazingly represents the majority of CIOs in large firms based on similar research. IT and procurement really do share many common problems, and perhaps some of it ties back to their common personalities that are trying to protect and serve the enterprise, with strong feelings that their expertise and approach is the right way to do things. Too bad they can’t always work together effectively!

Obviously, there is no single cookie-cutter approach that describes any personality and certainly any member of a large profession. Yet, the top 5 personality types accounted for 62% of our study population, so there are some elements of a procurement persona that we can learn from collectively. But more importantly, I’d encourage everyone to do a self-assessment individually as well, especially from the Myers & Briggs foundation (or one of their licensed partners) or other reputable firms.

Stay tuned for the rest of this series where we dive further into the minds of the procurement professionals to help them accentuate and manifest their good personality aspects, while improving the other aspects that might be holding them back.

Voices (9)

  1. Pierre Mitchell:

    Mark, thanks for posting! ENTP actually came in at #2, but it goes down in prevalence as you move up positions to c-level. Which is interesting and speaks to the wisdom of you gaining self awareness over the things that might hold you back in Procurement or any position. Stay tuned for the next write-up on the top 5 personality types. Until then, what was your experience with Firo-B? SII is more of a ‘what color is your parachute’ vocational guide of sorts, right? Was that useful too? I’m afraid of taking something like that and it telling me that my future lies in sanitation engineering. 🙂

  2. Mark Scatamacchia:

    I find this fascinating and very beneficial. I am a Boomer looking for the right job fit to extend my career and have taken advantage of a great career counselor/coach. We worked through the MBTI, Strong Interest Inventory and the FIRO-B. These assessments have reaffirmed and clarified my strengths and weaknesses so I can make an intelligent career choice.

    The years I spent in Procurement Management were some of my most enjoyable. and productive. I am an ENTP and was given the freedom to explore innovative ways to approach our business. I joined this Linked-In Group to get back in-touch.

  3. Sigi Osagie:

    ‘Great work, Pierre. Thanks for sharing this – it makes very interesting reading.

    I totally share your view on the importance of self-awareness / self-insight. Most people don’t realise how critical this is to job success, especially in Procurement where our work performance and success is significantly dependent on nurturing productively relationships.

    I hope efforts like yours to share such valuable information helps more Procurement folks find their mojo.

    Sigi Osagie
    Author, “Procurement Mojo – Strengthening the Function and Raising Its Profile”
    (Visit to learn more!)

  4. Pierre Mitchell:

    Agreed Dino, “Hire for Attitude… train for Aptitude”!

  5. Arthur "Dino" DeRostaing:

    After all is said & done it all boils down to the positive “ATTITUDE”.
    To partically quote Charle Swindell”: “The longer I live, the more I ralize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me, is more important than facts. it is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what people think or say or do…..The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the Attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our Attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you …. we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
    In my opinion he has a very wise perspective on life.and certainly how to approach the Procurement Profession.

  6. Pierre Mitchell:

    John, er, b&t, let me guess yours: cancer? 🙂
    and your Chinese zodiac: [scat flinging] monkey.
    and your personality style: ENTP (debater!).

    It’s fine – we wouldn’t have you any other way.

    I get your skepticism, but this whole thing is merely a way to typify people’s PREFERENCES in how they take in data, how they process it, and make decisions. If this methodology/technique can help people be more self aware about the potential downside of how these preferences impact their behavior, whether professional or personal, and if they get value from it, what’s your problem with it? Don’t be such a buzzkill.
    And given that the top four procurement personalities represent the majority of procurement professionals (based on n=1787), it merits investigation. And those styles are similar, so addressing the ‘weaknesses’ of them should hopefully provide some insights to those who willing to consider them and take action to improve themselves.

  7. bitter and twisted:

    But what star sign are they?

  8. Sheena Smith:

    How perfect is it that Henry Ford is an ESTJ?

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