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Unruly Bosses - SP Personality Type in Employee Management

Deidre has a Masters in applied linguistics and translation for her 20 years overseas. She's worked as a certified provider of the MBTI®.

The Unruly Boss is at great at dealing with a crisis but likes to be free from the constraints of organizational rules. You may be wondering how to deal with a boss good at managing sudden crises but is a bad boss, otherwise. They don't like procedures or anything else that meddles with their practical response to the moment. If this is the case, there is a good chance your boss is an "SP"—those who favor the Sensing and Perceiving preferences, as described by the Myers-Briggs® concepts of personality type. The reason I mention the "SP" desire to be free of constraints is because it is the "SP" bosses who will violate 'the rules':

  • policy
  • procedure
  • organizational hierarchy
  • a project plan though previously agreed upon.

It is the needs of the moment that trump any such constraints. Managerial jobs held by the “SP” personality types—a type which is one of four temperaments of the sixteen personality types—will be focused on the here and now. These bosses will exercise their power in two ways:

  1. solving problems
  2. acting on the concerns of the moment.

The "SP" type will do whatever it takes to troubleshoot—even if it means the breaking of any rules.

Immediate response to an emergency

By Highway Patrol Images

By Highway Patrol Images

The people who are first to respond

I call the "SPs" 'unruly' because of their drive to act on any new sensory data with, what may appear to onlookers, emergency protocols. Organizations find SPs are good troubleshooters with great skills for crisis management. They can readily ignore normal procedures. This frees them up to respond to the fire alarm, throw on their gear and boots, and jump on the fire engine with sirens blaring to get to the 911 emergency.

Any organization benefits from having these troubleshooter "SP" types. They will respond to a crisis and produce some result with immediate impact. They are the very ones to come up with innovative solutions; as their way of working does not fit the established corporate norms.

Motivated by crisis

By Highway Patrol Images

By Highway Patrol Images

Working for the "SP"

The "SP" boss is driven to produce results now, so anything that impedes the immediate goal of resolving a crisis will be ignored at best, or pushed aside, at worse—even people. They may race by you, mono-focused on getting the fire put out, not even realizing your smoke inhalation needs the attention of an oxygen mask. This is particularly true of the Thinking type of "SP"—the "STP." It may seem at those times like you are to find your own help, and then be ready to give them the oxygen mask when they make the risky rescue of a victim in real danger—the one still inside the burning car or building.

The "SP" types are risk-takers and very independent, expecting senior management to

  • provide them what is needed to perform the task,
  • not meddle with their efforts, nor
  • excessively press them to follow procedures.

They are easily bored and so want the freedom to flex and respond to the demands of the day. They may find there are not enough crises to manage to keep them motivated.

Emergency-response mode

By Guwashi999

By Guwashi999

Is there a problem?

"SP" managers can so easily respond with such complete focus on their targeted objective and a new fire to fight, that for the moment they are oblivious to the enormous problems of their team members—particularly those problems they themselves have caused.

They can be so distracted by their rescue-styled response to the situation with the most immediate problem, that interacting with people in an encouraging and thoughtful manner may be off their radar. They have the unerring habit of increasing staff turnover and lowering staff morale. They may need you to come along behind them, once the fire is out, to bandage the wounded the "SP" emergency responder left unattended to.

Zooms in on the cry for "Help!"

By NYCMarines

By NYCMarines

Working under "SP" independence

When you're working for the "SP," you understand what it is to live for the moment—always ready for any new challenges the day will bring. They expect you to naturally follow their lead of being flexible and ready to jump along with them into any situation they find themselves in. Planning ahead? When you press the SP for decisions on mid or long-range plans, they can seem quite disengaged. The only thing SPs can be sure of is the present moment. A long-range plan is a contradiction of terms and make no sense to them. Their passion is for action; "act now, pay later"!

"SPs" are hugely talented as troubleshooters and are particularly gifted in crisis management. The "SP" bosses' followers, however, tend to feel more like emergency personnel jumping from crisis to crisis, than part of an empowered team. "SPs" would personally like the work day to consist of fun short-range projects, so they wonder, what's with these worry-warts who are trying to decide how the future will pan-out, not thinking there are so many contingencies that cannot be foreseen?

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By the time senior management wises up to the disengagement of the “SP” from boring routine management, it's way too late. Senior leadership does best to call on the "SP" boss when a crisis needs to be dealt with. Charged with oversight of daily procedures only has the "SP" saying that, even though he or she is the boss, policies and procedures are for working around—not applicable to the real world. Their perspective is rules are best seen as an obstacle course.

Here are the special challenges of each of the Sensing-Perceiving types as bosses.


Friendly, adaptable and action-oriented, the ESTP bosses are "doers" who live fast-paced lifestyles. They want to solve the problem, rather than just discuss it. They have great people skills and are focused on selling you their ideas for the team to produce immediate results.

Living in the here-and-now, ready to take exciting risks, they have a quick-fix mentality. This and their tough-mindedness may put them at odds with others and make them appear insensitive. ESTPs are extremely loyal to their team, but when the 'laws and rules' get in the way of acting freely on their impulses to get things done, they will retaliate—maybe in anger—and break the rules!.

The ESTP leader is a smooth talker who is very resourceful. They focus on observing the immediate, physical world of their present surroundings. When they arrive at the emergency, they quickly take in the scene and maneuver the people and equipment resources to make sure whatever needs immediate attention, gets it fast.

Care for your own needs to manage stress


ESFP bosses are at their best when the emergency is about over or when the team is exhausted and depleted and in need of a pick-me-up. Interested in serving others and focused on the immediate needs of people, they are down to earth and practical—very able to take care of the basic needs. They are people-oriented and will liven things up, but tend to forget to tend to their own needs.

The ESFP boss does not handle conflict well at all. Any sort of criticism is taken personally, as against their character, and so may react with anger and harsh words that they will later regret. If they could try to take the criticism just a bit constructively, they could reduce some of the sting. Leading with their well-developed common sense and practical ability, they know exactly what supplies and equipment are needed, and have the First-Aid Kit ready. They are resistant, though to standard procedures and dislike theory and impersonal analysis, and so will resist rules and discussions about abstract ideas and analysis.

Living for the moment, the ESFP boss can be kept happy with new experiences, though they may punish those who obstruct their freedom. Likely to be the center of attention in social situations, they are fun-loving and make things more fun for others by their own enjoyment in most anything. After only a short time with an ESFP boss, however, while he or she is clearly interested in serving others, the question comes to mind, "Can you please stop socializing ... just for a moment?"

The Introverted SP

The two "SP" personality types that are introverted are quiet and reflective. They tend not to voice their inner values and principles, though that they are so often reflecting upon. Because of this others regard them as weak and indecisive.

The introverted "SPs" prefer to follow and will run into more hurdles when trying to be a successful leader, or boss, and there will, as a result, be far fewer of them in such positions.

Dealing with incompetency


Quiet and reserved, the ISTP is interested in how and why things work. They excel in mechanical aptitude and skills. As risk-takers who live for the moment, they are usually interested in and talented at extreme sports and 'extreme' firefighting, for example. They will take the lead in an emergency, but only until things are under control.

The ISTP is very loyal to the team and their peers and to their own internal principles they value. However, they are not all that concerned with respecting laws and rules—if they get in the way of getting something done with competent efficiency, then so be it. Detached and analytical, they excel at finding the solutions to practical problems and emergency at hand.

Helping your boss


Quiet, serious, sensitive and kind the ISFP does not like conflict, and is not likely to do things which may generate conflict. They are very loyal and faithful to the team. They will be the first to respond in kindness and gently assuage the tensions of the moment.

The ISFP has extremely well-developed senses, and therefore find joy in a greater aesthetic appreciation for beauty than other types. They are not at all interested in leading or controlling others, and only do so if they can clearly see a way to improve things. Their flexibility and open-mindedness lends to the likelihood of the ISFP being more original and creative.

"SP" bosses and managers are in the middle of the organization's activity of the moment. They can be beautiful to watch when with confidence and competence they are able to be the first responders of the team to the immediate situation at hand.

© 2011 Deidre Shelden


b. Malin on May 22, 2011:

I think if we've worked long enough we come across many different kinds of Bosses. At one time in my career, I was a "Head Hunter" filling Positions in the Corp. Law and Doctor Fields. Some of these "Clients" were impossible and help did not last long.

Ms. Dee, I so enjoyed your very Rich and Informative Hub. I look forward to following you.

Stu From VT on May 01, 2011:

Ms Dee,

Agree completely. These people best doing independent repetitive work, or solving problems and then offering advice to someone else for execution. But making/executing decisions is not their specialty.


Deidre Shelden (author) from Texas, USA on May 01, 2011:

Stu, you give a great description of where SPs fit best! I have a few of them even in my immediate family, plus another will be marrying in :)! They are great at rising to the challenge of a problem that needs immediate attention, aren't they. But expecting quick decisions from them otherwise, ha, forget it. You're so right. They are a VERY independent type and it is counter to expectation that the Thinking of these types, the STP, can be easily offended or hurt. They are not as able as other Thinking types in managing these emotions.

Stu From VT on May 01, 2011:

Ms Dee, thanks so much. I've known many SP's in my day, most them introverted. They tend to be somewhat thin skinned, and wedded to their "own way of doing things." They won't adjust unless you "prove" to them you're right. Good managers know there is no time for this. You have to build a team that can turn on a dime when necessary, at least at the middle and senior levels. There are of course some SP's who reach very high ranks, but they typically have very small departments. These are not "body shops" processing widgets, but specialized trouble shooting units headed by an extremely bright SP. Often, such people report directly to the president to resolve major crises.


Deidre Shelden (author) from Texas, USA on May 01, 2011:

Stu, these are excellent points and so true! You are very knowledgeable about personality types. Thanks for adding these points here. I agree, the strengths of SPs are utilized as troubleshooters and assistants in crises, rather than management.

Stu From VT on May 01, 2011:

Hi Ms Dee,

The SP's are the Darwin's of the world. They are copious data gatherers. Their problem is that they can't "see around corners," a critical skill for top managers. Also, they are non-judgmental, not a good trait for a manager at any level. They make good lower level technical staff, and with sufficient IQ, can be great trouble shooters, but as you say, they are not great managers.


Deidre Shelden (author) from Texas, USA on April 28, 2011:

Hi BR! Wow, your last job situation sounds really bad and I'm sure you are glad you are not in that anymore. One can only take that so long. Thanks so much for your confirmation on this about SP bosses!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 28, 2011:

Your analysis and tips on different personality types really is excellent. Voted up and useful!

BobbiRant from New York on April 28, 2011:

My last boss was such a nightmare. She made it seem like I had the job from hell. Good hub about this type of boss.

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