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:
- Hidden advantages of a quiet boss (The Economic Times)
- Can you guess the introverted leader?
- Master Networking: Tips from Introverts (inc.com)
- Introverts – Better Than Extroverts? (mishie1.wordpress.com)