Personality theory is a study of similarities among people with shared traits and how these traits might be expressed through behaviors and attitudes. Traits are the most fundamental part of our framework and include characteristics like Introversion or Thinking. The next level contains personality types, in which four of the traits are combined and sorted to create 16 personality types. Roles, simply put, are the next level. At the Role level, the 16 types are divided into four groups.
Which personality types belong to each Role depends on two shared traits that they have in common. While all traits influence behaviors and attitudes, the two traits that determine a Role are shared by only four personality types and instill in them some unique, matching characteristics (see list below).
Analysts share the Intuitive and Thinking traits (_NT_), Diplomats share the Intuitive and Feeling traits (_NF_), Sentinels share the Observant and Judging traits (_S_J), and Explorers share the Observant and Prospecting traits (_S_P).
Those with the Intuitive trait (Analysts and Diplomats) are paired with the Thinking/Feeling traits because the Intuitive trait focuses on internal processes like thinking and feeling. While they may ultimately play out in the external world, they are primarily inward-looking.
In like manner, those with the Observant trait (Sentinels and Explorers) are paired with the Judging/Prospecting traits. Judging and Prospecting, while they have their internal aspects, are more likely to be played out in the external, concrete world of action and doing. Sentinels with their Judging trait are likely to bring order to their worlds, while Explorers with their Prospecting trait are likely to instill spontaneity into all the actions they perform.
The four Roles are primarily used when they are more likely to explain concepts in a clearer, less complicated way than involving all 16 personality types might. Using Roles this way is particularly warranted if the topic consists of a trait or traits that are a prominent part of the core traits of the various Roles – such as when Intuitive or Observant have a greater influence. But use is not limited to just that. They’re like shorthand when Role commonalities suffice in talking about a subject.
In summary, Roles are just another level of the same theory, with each of the four containing four personality types. Those within a Role share a combination of two prominent traits and, therefore, share some similar characteristics.
The following is a very abbreviated description of the four Roles – please follow the links for a complete picture of the Roles and personality types.
Shared Traits: Intuitive (N) and Thinking (T)
Shared Tendencies: Respect for rationality and knowledge paired with a preference for strategic and imaginative methods and solutions.
Shared Traits: Intuitive (N) and Feeling (F)
Shared Tendencies: Ideological, value empathy, and hold a preference for a humanistic perspective.
Shared Traits: Observant (S) and Judging (J)
Shared Tendencies: Prefer the stable and the predictable, are practical, and tend to be organized and responsible.
Shared Traits: Observant (S) and Prospecting (P)
Shared Tendencies: Practical, connect well with their surroundings, think on their feet, and are otherwise spontaneous.