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Introverts vs. extroverts in leadership

The difference between an introverted and an extroverted character can be immense but in a lot of ways they both share a lot of commonalities, so it is vital to a business to have a mixture of people at both ends of the spectrum. In terms of leadership, it has always been thought that a leader would portray an extrovert character – outspoken, sociable and decisive – but that doesn’t mean that an introvert cannot lead. Sometimes an introvert just needs to use the traits of an extrovert in order to show their presence, some examples listed in this article Executive Presence for Introverts: Three Ways to Show Your Colors Without Changing Your Stripes are:

  • Prepare to speak up – plan in advance and bullet point key topics for discussion in meetings
  • Tell a story – connect with people emotionally
  • See eye to eye – make eye contact in order to connect with people

Women are often categorised as introverted leaders and face roadblocks, especially in organisational cultures that are very extrovert-centric. Some of these roadblocks, according to this article Quietly Leaning In: An Introvert’s Guide to Leadership, may be: lack of visibility, negative impressions, bias and avoiding conflict.  They offer these 5 steps to tap into your natural strengths to overcome these roadblocks:

  1. Take quiet time – think about your strategy to master challenges
  2. Make time for face time – engage in honest, open and direct communication outside of the boardroom
  3. Seek out other quiet influencers – observe how their words and actions land with impact
  4. Change how you are perceived – change small things that make a big impression
  5. Use networking smarts

In terms of the 5th step, networking can sometimes be a nightmare for the introvert. In order to make the most of networking opportunities and gain some valuable connections this article 7 Networking Tips for Introverts, Extroverts, and the Socially Awkward, offers some advice, including how to manage your own expectations of what you can achieve from networking. The overarching advice for any introvert is to practice, as they say “practice makes perfect” and you will improve the more you expose yourself to networking situations.

In a study by the Harvard Business School outlined in these two articles Introverts vs. extroverts: Who makes the better leader? And The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses; it is suggested that an extroverted character may not be suited to a leadership role in a dynamic, unpredictable environment where workers are proactive in offering their opinion for improvements – this can make an extroverted leader feel threatened. Introverted leaders will listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions.

However one of the articles argues that introversion and extroversion are preferences, not skills, and therefore not relevant when it comes to leadership. Studies have shown that most organisations favour logical and decisive behaviours in leadership, which are not correlated to extroversion or introversion.”

As a leader, or aspiring leader, you should be self-aware and be able to manage situations with corporate presence regardless of whether you are introverted or extroverted. Our Advanced Career Resiliency program is designed with this is mind and delves into leadership styles and how to apply your presence to any business situation.

What character traits do you think constitute a good leader? Head over to our LinkedIn Group page to have your say.

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