Can you walk into a crowded room and confidently strike up a conversation with a total stranger? Or are you more likely to hang back and wait for others to introduce themselves? Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, your personality will impact the way you interact with others. Rather than wishing your instinctual social response operated differently around other people, think about how your personality can further develop and strengthen your leadership style.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into how being either an introvert or extrovert influences the way you lead others and how to be more successful as a leader, regardless of which traits define you.
Introvert vs. Extrovert: What’s the Difference?
The terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ are commonly thrown around as easy ways to describe personality types — but many people misunderstand their meanings or oversimplify them to a fault. Most people assume that an extrovert is outgoing and friendly while an introvert is shy and reserved. However, these two stereotypes are considerably distant from the true definitions of these personality descriptors.
Before you try to define yourself, or anyone else for that matter, realize that individuals aren’t just introverts or extroverts. Most people will share a combination of both traits with one usually being more dominant.
Being an introvert or extrovert isn’t necessarily about how you interact with people or how comfortable you are in crowds — instead, they define where you source your energy from.
Unlike common thought, introverts might enjoy hanging out with others or even with large crowds. They may tell jokes, command the room, and have a genuinely good time, looking more like the typical view of an extrovert. However, when they are tired, they tend to be ready to go home or be alone to recharge. The longer they are at a party or in a group, the less energy they have.
On the other hand, extroverts will feel like they have more energy after spending time with people. While they are at the same party as the introvert, unlike introverts, extroverts will start to feel energized instead of tired. They lose their energy by being stuck at home by themselves. Meeting and socializing with other people is the way extroverts recharge their energies.
How Introverts and Extroverts Tend to Lead
When it comes to the makings of a natural-born leader, people tend to pit the two personality types against each other, saying one is superior at certain tasks or in specific situations. Research published in the Harvard Business Review indicated that extroverts are seen to be the visionaries with the enthusiasm and energy to lead while introverts’ strengths are often lost because of the structure of the modern workplace.
A study by Adam Grant at Wharton indicated that 96 percent of people in a leadership position view themselves as extroverts, but that doesn’t mean introverts can’t enjoy the same levels of success as leaders. In the introvert vs. extrovert game, neither one is automatically a better leader. Each personality brings certain strengths to the table, which is critical to the overall success of the project, department, or organization.
If you think back to leaders you’ve known throughout your life, from your childhood Boy Scout troop leader to your first boss, you may have assumed they were either an extrovert if they were friendly and outgoing or an introvert if they were quiet and reserved. The truth is that both personality types can make great leaders if they use their strengths to their advantage.
When an introvert needs to process something or come up with a solution, they tend to be most creative when they are alone or with one or two close friends. On the other hand, an extrovert will be at their best when they brainstorm with others. They feed off ideas and energy from those around them. As leaders, these differences will impact how they handle crises, tackle projects, and make decisions for their companies.
Effective Leadership Is Not About Whether You Are an Introvert or an Extrovert
If you’re striving to become a successful leader — whether you’re an introvert or extrovert — you’ll need to recognize how your personality traits will influence the way you lead.
For example, if you’re like most reserved introverts, you might not like to speak in front of a large audience. Instead of trying to force your way through this discomfort, introverts can try breaking large audiences down into several smaller ones. This way, introverts can confidently convey their ideas without any of the anxiety large audiences tend to create. An introvert might perform even better if they write out their ideas ahead of time and practice before giving their speech since they benefit from taking some time to process things.
Extroverted leaders, on the other hand, play up their enthusiastic nature by leading talks to motivate employees. As a powerful verbal communicator, extroverts can convey their ideas to others and get them on board with their vision of the future. However, there is a chance that extroverted leaders might come across too strong, especially if they are working with several introverts. Extroverts should sometimes pull back on their excitement to allow their audience to digest their excitement.
Above all, introverts and extroverts must be willing to push the boundaries of their comfort zone. If you’re an introvert, that might mean taking a seat at a table with others in a meeting instead of hanging around the fringes of the group. Plan 20 or 30 minutes to be alone before you give a speech to be at your best when you speak. For extroverts, you might want to pause your comments to allow others time to speak. Limit yourself to presenting one idea instead of the numerous thoughts running through your mind.
As a leader, you’ll be dealing with both introverts and extroverts. Take the time to understand those who are different from you for a better relationship with your directors, co-workers, and subordinates.
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