ESTJ Functions: Cognitive Functions of the Guardian Personality Type


The ESTJ, often referred to as the “guardian” personality, is one of 16 personalities identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a self-reporting questionnaire that details how an individual thinks and behaves.

The Cognitive Functions of an ESTJ

An ESTJ personality’s cognitive functions from dominant to inferior are Te, Si, Ne, and Fi, meaning extroverted thinking, introverted sensing, extroverted intuition, and introverted feeling, respectively. These functions reflect and ESTJs nature to be assertive leaders who are detail-oriented, ambitious, and enjoy clear structure in their life.

Read on to learn more about the ESTJ functions and the unique traits of this personality. We will briefly discuss what an ESTJ is like, how their functions affect their lives, and what work settings best suit such a personality.

What is an ESTJ?

The ESTJ is one of the more common personalities, accounting for about 8-12% of the U.S. population, and the second most common personality among men. Their personality title indicates that they are Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging individuals.

Often nicknamed as the “guardian,” this personality falls under the Sentinels category that also includes:

  • ISTJ (aka. The Duty Fulfiller)
  • ISFJ (aka. The Nurturer)
  • ESFJ (aka. The Caregiver)

An ESTJ is positively unmatched when it comes to managing people or situations. They are extremely organized individuals that thrive on order and clear standards rather than conducting themselves based on intuition.

This is partially due to ESTJs being extremely realistic individuals who make decisions based on clear, established facts or concrete rules or traditions.

In any given situation, it is typical for the ESTJ to be first to take charge as many of these individuals are natural-born leaders. Therefore, they typically find the most satisfaction in roles or careers where they are the ruling authority. They are more at ease when they are in charge and can ensure everything runs according to plan and accords with any rules or regulations in place.

ESTJ’s Are Assertive

A downside of this is that ESTJs can easily come off as overly aggressive, critical, and insensitive. Their desire to dictate things according to a specific guideline combined with their confident and assertive behavior can be a bit intimidating, causing others to perceive them as power-hungry dictators.

However, the true reason behind this behavior is that ESTJs have strong social beliefs that everyone should contribute equally to a situation and be constructive members of a group or society. Therefore, they absolutely do not tolerate laziness and will not hesitate to make this clear to those who aren’t pulling their weight.

Although this is done for the benefit of everyone, it occurs more often than most ESTJs prefer because they typically have very high expectations for themselves and others that they believe must be met.

ESTJ’s Are Also Empathetic

In spite of this, ESTJs can actually be quite empathetic due to their final cognitive function, introverted feeling. They enjoy bringing people together, and many will confide in them for guidance and advice due to their sensible judgment and stability.

Their advice or opinion might seem harsh or overly critical, but that is merely because ESTJs tend to be brutally honest with their opinion regardless of how delicate the situation. They are frank, straightforward people who prefer to handle an issue head-on rather than dance around it.

How Cognitive Function Fits In

Four major functions dictate how individuals think or behave and are typically split into two categories. Thinking and Feeling are considered Judging functions, while Sensing and Intuition are considered Perceiving functions.

When testing for their personality type, an individual will typically relate more to one function within each category over another (ex. Thinking versus Feeling).

These functions can be directed outwardly or inwardly, and so, each of the main functions is paired with the extraverted or introverted traits in order to create the eight cognitive functions listed below.

  • Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  • Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
  • Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  • Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  • Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  • Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  • Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  • Introverted Sensing (Si)

Each personality has its own unique combination of four out of the eight cognitive functions that reflect how they think or interact with the world.

The first function within a personality’s cognitive title (TeSiNeFi for ESTJs) is deemed the most dominant function that plays a primary role in the personality. The second function is typically referred to as the auxiliary function and is nearly as dominant as the first function and plays a significant supporting role in the personality.

The last two functions are typically much weaker and operate on a subconscious level, especially in the case of the final function. However, they do play a role in the personality and can be strengthened by the individual.

For a visual of the cognitive functions and their corresponding personalities, refer to the chart below:

Cognitive Function Meaning of Function Category of Basic Function Dominant in
Te Extroverted Thinking Judging ESTJ, ENTJ 
Fe Extroverted Feeling Judging ESFJ, ENFJ 
Ne Extroverted Intuition Perceiving ENTP, ENFP
Se Extroverted Sensing Perceiving ESTP, ESFP
Ti Introverted Thinking Judging ISTP, INTP
Fi Introverted Feeling Judging INFP, ISFP
Ni Introverted Intuition Perceiving INFJ, INTJ
Si Introverted Sensing Perceiving ISFJ, ISTJ

 Functional Stack of the ESTJ Personality

As every personality has its own unique combination of cognitive functions, no two personalities behave or think in the exact same way.

In the case of the ESTJ personality, their unique cognitive function combination is TeSiNeFi, meaning:

  • Te: External Thinking
  • Si: Introverted Sensing
  • Ne: Extroverted Intuition
  • Fi: Introverted Feeling

Since most personalities are labeled by their two most dominant cognitive functions, you will typically see the ESTJ personality paired with the TeSi cognitive functions. However, though their NeFi functions play a markedly lesser role in their everyday decisions, they can still manifest themselves in the personality in key ways.

Te: Extroverted Thinking

The dominant cognitive function of the ESTJ personality is their extroverted Thinking (Te). This function is the overarching reason why ESTJs are so focused on accomplishing tasks logically and efficiently.

The Te function represents an individual’s preference to state their mind and discuss their thoughts and emotions outwardly to others rather than opting for internal reflection.

This function is also why ESTJs prefer to make quick, rational decisions based on clearly established information or what has been presented to them, rather than pondering a solution and all of its potential outcomes before settling on a decision.

For this reason, many ESTJs are solid leaders because they can focus on what needs to be done and how to achieve it quickly and effectively, and then move on to the next task. They rarely linger on a decision longer than is absolutely necessary.

Although it can be a good quality to make fast, rational decisions, there are times that an ESTJ’s failure to contemplate other solutions and rush to conclusions comes back to haunt them. Regardless, they are decisive individuals who prefer to keep moving forward and opt for the most effective, proven solution over the most creative or innovative choice.

Of course, the most obvious trade-off of the ESTJ’s nature, meaning, in their pursuit of clear, rational choices is that they often lack creativity. They will choose what they know will work instead of adapting.

Another significant trade-off is that Te dominated personalities almost never incorporate emotions into their decision-making. An ESTJ with a Te dominant function is much more concerned with what works rather than what feels good to others or even themselves. Logic and facts will always take precedent, which is one reason many perceive the ESTJ as insensitive.

An affinity for facts and clear-cut concepts is another reason many ESTJs don’t particularly enjoy abstractions or philosophical debates. In their mind, there isn’t a point in contemplating what could be; they’d rather focus on reality.

Si: Introverted Sensing

The secondary or auxiliary cognitive function of an ESTJ is their introverted Sensing (Si). This is the second most dominant function of this personality and is responsible for an ESTJ’s organized internal world and general stability.

The logical and quick decisions of an ESTJ are supported by their ability to easily organize information into readily available categories within their mind for fast recall. This extensive organization means they can memorize details with ease and remember events or information vividly.

One result of this categorization is that ESTJs typically only hang on to information that they deem relevant or practical and relate to necessary systems, rules, or strategies they are likely to apply in future situations.

In addition to basing present or future events on past experiences, the Si function typically leads to ESTJs become significantly attached to a specific way of doing things. In their mind, if something works, there is no reason to fix it. Therefore, many individuals might perceive ESTJs as stubborn when new systems are presented.

Although ESTJs can certainly see shades of grey in situations, they find comfort in a more linear, black and white approach because this often leads to reliable routines and stability. As a result, most ESTJs have predictable lifestyles.

Ne: Extroverted Intuition

Although the Ne function is a more inferior cognitive function within the ESTJ personality, it is nonetheless vital to some behavioral traits and thought processes.

ESTJs aren’t particularly creative individuals compared to the other personality types, but they can attribute some level of creativity to the Ne function.

Because of the Ne function, ESTJs actively search for new experiences and explore their own creativity. This creativity does not typically present itself artistically but rather as an innovative “lightbulb” moment.

ESTJs are good at pulling elements of past experiences that worked effectively and incorporating them into a new, even more, effective system. They will also occasionally analyze multiple meanings or patterns within given information in order to categorize it effectively rather than accepting it blindly.

As extroverted individuals, this process typically occurs through conversation rather than inward reflections, and so, it is necessary for ESTJs to be in social settings to unlock their creative potential.

When conversing with an ESTJ using their Ne function, it might seem as if they are merely talking to themselves when in reality, they need to work through an idea verbally for maximum insight.

Although the Ne function causes the ESTJ to consider alternatives to a situation before drawing a conclusion, they are typically much more focused and decisive in this pursuit than those with a Ni function, who tend to be more distractible and random with their ponderings.

Fi: Introverted Feeling

The final and more subconscious ESTJ function is introverted Feeling (Fi), which is the closest an ESTJ becomes to being emotional with their decision making.

We’ve discussed how an ESTJ is typically very logical and rational with their decisions based on fact and proven systems. However, these individuals also have very strong morals and ideas about how society should function. These values and beliefs typically center on justice and fair treatment, and the Fi function allows the ESTJ to consider them before coming to a conclusion.

Without the Fi function, most ESTJ would be even colder and harsher than they already are with their nature and social interactions. In a way, the Fi function is the ESTJ’s saving grace because it helps them become more empathetic and compassionate individuals rather than cold robots that make decisions solely on fact.

In most ESTJs, the Fi function will manifest as a sort of “gut instinct” since it is a more subconscious element of their personality. In situations where logic is present but morality is lacking, the ESTJ will heed the warning signs they receive subconsciously from the Fi and refrain from making this decision, even if it is factually supported.

If the Fi function were stronger in ESTJs, they would be more aware of others’ emotions and values when it comes to making a decision. Unfortunately, since it is a weaker function for this personality, ESTJs will often make quick decisions without considering how it aligns with their own beliefs or will affect others emotionally. In some cases, this approach is best, while it can be extremely damaging to relationships in others.

Alternatively, when the Fi function is stronger in ESTJs, it will drive them to assist others in need. Of course, since they aren’t the most emotional individuals, they will often help people or animals in a logical manner (e.g. providing food, changing laws, removing threats) rather than in an emotional manner (e.g. consoling, therapy).

This does not mean that ESTJs are uncaring of others; they just prefer to help in a constructive manner with clear results, rather than on an emotional level.

Best Careers for an ESTJ

Many of you might already have an idea of where this category is going, but we figured it best to at least briefly discuss the careers that best suit our “executive” ESTJs.

In addition to being strong leaders, there is a myriad of settings and careers where ESTJs tend to thrive and find personal fulfillment. Many are founded on organizational skills within a highly structured setting built on a strong foundation of traditional beliefs or morals.

Here are the top ten best careers for an ESTJ:

  1. Judge 
  2. Project manager 
  3. Factory supervisor 
  4. Stockbroker 
  5. Credit analyst 
  6. CEO/Managing Director 
  7. Pharmacist 
  8. Athletic trainer 
  9. Dentist 
  10. Civil/Mechanical/Industrial Engineer 

List of Famous ESTJs

There are many individuals, particularly men, who can claim the ESTJ personality. Among them are several celebrities and highly famous or influential individuals.

It might come as no surprise that most of these individuals are found in leadership positions, such as government or company executives. Nevertheless, a few in more creative careers might shock you.

Here are our top 15 famous ESTJs:

  1. John D. Rockefeller: American business magnate and philanthropist. Founder of the Standard Oil Company
  2. Frank Sinatra: American singer
  3. Andrew Johnson: 17th President of the United States of America
  4. Uma Thurman: American actress
  5. Trisha Yearwood: American singer
  6. E.L. James: British author
  7. Megyn Kelly: American lawyer and journalist
  8. Steve Ballmer: American businessman, investor, and chief executive officer of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014
  9. Michelle Obama: American attor ney, author, and 44th First Lady of the United States of America.
  10. Henry Ford: American industrialist and business magnate. Founder of the Ford Motor Company, and chief developer of the assembly line.
  11. Paul of Tarsus: Early Christian epistolarian (also known as Paul the Apostle or Saint Paul)
  12. Judge Judith ‘Judy’ Sheindlin: American Prosecutor, Manhattan family court judge, and television personality
  13. Ivanka Trump: American businesswoman, the director of the Office of Economic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship during Trump presidency
  14. Bill O’ Reilly: American journalist, author, and television host
  15. Lyndon B. Johnson: 36th President of the United States of American and the 37th Vice President

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a strong leader who will undoubtedly get things done quickly and effectively, then you’ll want an ESTJ at the head of your team. These individuals have big personalities that can be difficult to handle since they are strongly attached to logic and routine through their Te and Si functions.

They can be a bit abrasive in a group setting, but ESTJs thrive on interacting with others and can form deep, long-lasting relationships built on loyalty and trust. This is particularly evident when they work on their Ne and Fi functions to help them better relate and empathize with those around them to mitigate their potentially intimidating persona.

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