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7 Habits of Highly Successful Project Managers

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There are a lot of project managers in the world. There are also a lot of accidental project managers out there. The truth of the matter is that most projects fail. According to the Gallup business review, The United States alone loses up to 150 billion dollars a year in failed IT projects. So what differentiates the winners from the losers? We decided to take a deeper psychological look into the minds of those who can be categorized as successful project managers to find out what they do differently from others and if their habits can be adapted.

Enter the ISTJ Personality

The Myers-Briggs personality test is a psychometric test that was designed to understand how people perceive the world and make decisions. It’s become a staple in the study of human psychology. One of the aspects that the test observes is the potential career paths of each personality type. Most successful project managers tend to fall into one particular personality type – the ISTJ. ISTJ stands for introversion, sensing, thinking, and judgment. These four elements are a part of the MBTI ( Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) as the key standout traits of successful project managers.

Here’s what ISTJs do to perform well as Project Managers:

Do everything to achieve a goal after committing to it.

This is probably the most admirable trait of the ISTJ. Their level of integrity is second to none. If they make a promise, they’re keeping it; if someone tells them a secret, it’s going to the grave; if they say that they’ll get something done, you get it done and not at the last minute, but perfectly paced out and to a room filled with sweeping applause.

Take full responsibility for results.

ISTJ’s don’t depend on others to pick up slack. Their level of commitment comes from the ability to not finger-point or make excuses. They are a no-bullshit kind of person. And frankly, we should all do the same.

Don’t make assumptions, but rather use facts and data to analyze and decide upon a situation.

One of the worst habits that people can have in a strategic role in a business environment is to make decisions based on assumptions. ISTJs avoid this like a plague. They know that there is detailed information and data that they can look up, read, analyze and then make an informed decision. That’s just how they roll, and how you should too.

Have zero tolerance for indecisiveness.

Not being able to make a decision on something is paralyzing. From the perspective of an ISTJ, it’s just plain annoying. Why? Because being unable to make a decision is a waste of the most valuable resource we have – time. The longer it takes to come to a decision, the more time and money is wasted, thus leading to inefficiencies.

Always pick up the slack.

So this is a weakness that  ISTJ types have. They will take on everyone else’s work because they a) think they can do everything themselves (because they obviously do it better) and b) have so much integrity in how they operate that people take advantage of them  However, this is precisely what makes them so fabulous. They’ll do anything to get it done, even if it means a little extra work for you.

Love Structure.

ISTJ’s are the most institutionalized people ever. They work in large structured organizations, and help keep our world running like clockwork – thank french fries. I always wondered what would happen if detail oriented and structured people didn’t exist at all. I’m pretty sure the world would fall apart.

Expect immediate action from your team.

So they’ve figured it out, and have the perfect vision and plan. They get their team into a huddle and tell them the plan and what they need to deliver. And break.  “Everyone rush back to your desks, drop everything you were doing and get this done STAT”.  That’s their expectation of their team always. And that’s pretty damn unrealistic but awesome at the same time, if the team doesn’t deliver, they’ll go do it themselves anyway.

Why is an ISTJ the best kind of Project Manager?

ISTJs are known to be the most reliable of all personality types. They care the most about meeting a deadline and can be trusted to get the job done at all costs. Once they commit to something, the chance of them not  achieving it is slim to none.

Of course, the MBTI is one measure of personality but we do have to take into account that people are highly complex given the fact that our brains have  86bn neurons.    It’s hard to place people into buckets because oftentimes we can relate across certain beliefs and values even if we don’t fit into a certain category.

If you’re a new project manager and are not an ISTJ, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to fail. Take this as a learning opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a project manager and adopt the ISTJ principles into your working life to become the best project manager ever.

With enough practice, you could potentially teach yourself these seven habits, minus the part where you end up doing everyone else work unless you really are the only one who can get the job done properly. Learning to rely upon only yourself is not just an essential skill in the workplace but also a skill for life. Relying on yourself, doing your homework, and sticking to strict schedules can amount to success in anything that you decide to undertake, whether it be working as a project manager to finishing that book you’ve been working on.

ISTJ’s You Know

One of my favorite ISTJ’s is Hermione from Harry Potter. Harry and Ron could never get through a single day without her. She is the type of character who is intelligent, quick-witted, a problem solver, and very particular about doing things right. Unfortunately, she often facilitates the boy’s laziness when it comes to helping them with the homework when they’ve let it for the last minute.


Some more famous ISTJ’s include George Washington, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Herbert Hoover, George H.W. Bush, Angela Merkel, Natalie Portman,  “Adrian Monk” from Monk, “Dana Scully” from X-Files.

Take the test at  and find out where you fit in! Let us know your results by commenting below and what habits you have that make you successful.

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