Introvert or Extrovert: Who Makes the Better Leader?

Journey to the Middle

If you met me when I was in my 20’s, I have no doubt you would label me an extreme extrovert.  If I spent time with people, my energy level soared.  If I walked into a restaurant, I would meet the people all around me.  Now married to an introvert for over twenty years, I think I am still extroverted, but much less so.  My wife is also less of an introvert than she once was.  We become like the people we are most often around.

I’m often asked about the qualities of a leader and where extroversion and introversion fit in.

 

 

Extroversion and Leadership

The perception is that extroversion is a requirement for the corner office.

A USA Today poll indicated that 65% of executives indicated introversion was a barrier to rising through the corporate ranks.  This is often because introverts are perceived as shy, unable to articulate issues quickly, or unable to make quick decisions.

Are You and Introvert or Extrovert? Take our test below to find out!

Half of the population is introverted. But 60% of top executives are extroverted.

Extroverts are known for their public speaking and networking skills. They are often able to communicate under pressure and are known as natural sales leaders. They are often more forceful with ideas, able to motivate a team to action.

 

“An extrovert looks at a stack of books and sees a stack of papers, while an introvert looks at the same stack and sees a soothing source of escape.” –Eric Samuel Timm

 

The Return of the Introvert

Susan Cain became the introvert’s best friend and champion when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Immediately, introverts everywhere had research to indicate that they could also make great leaders.

 

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” –Susan Cain

 

I wasn’t surprised by her research because, as I said, I am married to an introvert.  She is a deep thinker, the world’s best listener, and extraordinarily creative.  Add my introverted daughter into the mix and it doubles down on the argument.  Both of them have the ability to lead regardless of how much they shun a neighborhood party.  The introvert often can take action, even unpopular, because she has less concern for what people think.  That can be a significant advantage and one I learned from my wife, enabling me to make unpopular-but-necessary decisions.

 

Poll: 65 percent of executives say introverts are less likely to advance at work.

 

Unfair Stereotypes

Unless you have taken a vow of solitude and have absolutely no interaction with the outside world, you need to learn to work with both extroverts and introverts. Unfairly ascribing attributes to someone creates an unnecessary gulf.

 

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How Introverts Can Be Great Leaders

Here’s an interesting guest post perspective on the strengths that introverts might not realize they have.  And, yes, I’m sure some of the extroverts in our audience might have some counterarguments to share. This post is written by Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe.

I’ll start by saying that I’m an introvert.

Often, I avoided getting into a sales or manager role simply because I thought there was no way that I could handle it. I was convinced that you needed to have that “used car salesman” attitude to be good, and I definitely didn’t have that.

What I’ve learned recently is that you don’t need to be an extrovert to be good in a leadership role. In fact, there are a lot of qualities about introverts that make them great leaders.

1. Introverts Plan Properly

One of the CEO’s that I respect the most is a close family member. One of the things I’ve always admired about him is that every company-wide speech he gives is always made up on the spot. I never understood how he was able to do that. I require much more planning and preparation.

An introverted leader will be good at documenting and preparing employees for whatever they need help with.

2. Introverts Are Attentive

I’ve noticed this about introverts, and it’s something I really respect. When someone is talking to us introverts, they have our full attention.

That’s really just common courtesy, but I find introverts are much better at this. They also usually pick up on social cues and body language much better. Also, the fact that introverts are naturally quiet makes them great listeners.

3. Introverts Push Themselves Harder

Introverts would make great leaders for this reason. It might be because of our insecurity, but we’re very hard on ourselves, and we’re never satisfied, so we always push ourselves to be better and better.

This striving for excellence is a great quality for any leader to have.

4. Introverts Are Less Risky

Take Our Introvert/Extrovert Quiz, Plus 5 Relationship Tips for Your Opposite

Image courtesy of istockphoto/jhorrocks

When I was much younger, I was what you would call an extreme extrovert.  Myers Briggs showed my “E” was almost as high as you could go.  If I went into a small restaurant, I almost felt uncomfortable unless I introduced myself to everyone else in the room.  I wanted to know everyone.  All of my energy came from other people—listening to their stories, learning what made them who they were.

I married someone who was the complete opposite.  My wife was an introvert.  We would go to a social event, and I would come home exhilarated while she would be exhausted.  It’s not that she didn’t love people.  It was just that she tired out around too many people.  She needed alone time.  She preferred one-on-one versus huge gatherings.

I’ve heard many successful relationships are built on differing qualities.  “Opposites attract” is the old saying.  If that’s true, the couples I’ve studied who have been together for many years generally start to inherit qualities from each other.