One might think that most good leaders are extroverts. After all they are up front, in the public eye and in constant communication with someone, whether staff, boards, constituencies or others. My experience, however is that many leaders actually introverts in a job that requires them to be public figures. My observation is that neither side of the continuum makes for a better leader and that whichever side one falls on one needs to make adjustments for ones wiring.

The upside to an extrovert in leadership is that they love to be with people and generally enjoy being in the center of things. Because they become energized by people, they can stay engaged for long periods of time.

There is often a downside, however to an extrovert in leadership. Because extroverts love being with people they often find it difficult to do the hard work of thinking, planning, reflection, those things that are usually done in private. Thus unless an extrovert intentionally modifies their natural bent in order to do the behind the scenes work of leadership they can often lead in a rather scattered fashion - which is a challenge to those they lead.

The upside of an introvert in leadership is that they have no problem taking the private time for thinking, planning and reflection. After all they recharge more in private than in public. 

Their downside, is that unless they compensate for their private nature, they can seem distant, remote and unattached to the very staff they lead. And, they can be read as disinterested in people. Introverts in leadership must therefore carefully compensate for their need to recharge in private while learning to be highly engaged in public. For them, the public role is more of a learned skill while for extroverts, the private role is more of a learned skill.

In one of these better than the other in leadership? I have no reason to believe so. There are upsides and downsides to both and either set of wiring requires the learning of new skills if one is going to be truly successful.

See this interesting article on the subject from the New York Times.
  • Apr 30, 2013
  • Category: News
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