Introvert bosses, seek proactive teams

I’ve had a good mix of introvert (I) and extrovert (E) bosses, co-workers and friends, and although I’d never consciously classified them as I or E before, I tried to do so last night and found the exercise more challenging than I’d initially anticipated. What I discovered was:

  • It wasn’t always clear if a person was an I or an E
  • Being an I or an E, did not necessarily predict success as a leader
  • ‘I’s can be assertive and good conversationalists, ‘E’s can be good listeners, and that seemed to be a more important predictor of success

Extroverts – the natural leaders?

The natural leaders, at least among my social circle, are obviously extroverts: they talk more, seek out company (thus seem friendlier), are energized when interacting with people (thus appear more outgoing and dynamic) and often host the wildest parties. I think natural leaders emerge most clearly in social groups – since there are no formal titles or job descriptions, it’s all down to your personality and interaction with people, so extroverts have a natural advantage in social settings.

However, in work settings, working with extrovert bosses may pose certain challenges, especially to introverts. This may be a familiar experience if you have worked for an extrovert boss:

Nonetheless, research and conventional wisdom tell us that extroverts, or people who express extrovert traits, are likely to be better leaders. They have charisma, charm, chutzpah. You can’t help but enjoy listening to them, being with them, following them.

Despite this, I believe that both introverts and extroverts can be good leaders, and that one does not become a better leader by dint of being an I or an E. I have known both introverts and extroverts who were terrific bosses – what made them great was not how chatty or reserved they were, or whether they invited me to socialize outside of work (or neglected to do so). Rather, they were effective because they adjusted their leadership styles to the people with whom they were working.

Introverts can be better bosses

As this Harvard Business Review article pointed out, although extroverts are often perceived to have an edge when it comes to hiring, promotions and managing employees, they are actually most effective when managing teams that simply do what they are told.

However, if team members are more proactive, creative and often make suggestions or propose ideas, an introvert leader (or a leader who takes on an “introvert leadership style”) might actually be more effective, as they are more likely to listen carefully and be more open to suggestions. The article claims that extrovert bosses, if faced with the same vocal team, may feel threatened instead, and appear unreceptive to their followers’ ideas.

Therefore, my fellow introverts, take heart, and enjoy this video:


4 responses to “Introvert bosses, seek proactive teams

  1. Tks for sharing the articles, Kartini. Whew! There’s hope for me/ us introverts! I think it’s mostly situational. There are times the loud and excitable person commands a following. And there are times when we look to the soft-spoken but firm person to take the lead. But in both cases, the person would have to exude (or at least impress upon the followers) genuine care and confidence in resolving the problem or achieving the goal.
    Nice blog btw, nice job integrating your tweets. 🙂

  2. Hi Kartini,

    Great Post ! I also agreed that both introverts and extroverts can be great bosses/leaders and i think the environment play a great part in determining their successes too i.e. to succeed, they need to adapt their leadership style not only to people who reports to them as well as people who they report to.

    I used to have a boss that I think was a good leader but as he was an introvert, he could not adapt to his more extroverted bosses, which I felt that let to his eventual leaving, because perhaps he was not recognise as he could not “sell” himself.

  3. Pingback: … ki farak penda hai… « The Chaotic Soul·

  4. Pingback: When You Are Not The Leader « fuzzbytes·

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