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In this weekly series, Todd Dewett, PhD, shares the tips respected and motivated managers use to improve rapport, navigate tricky situations, build better relationships, and drive the business forward. Each week, we'll release two tips ranging from avoiding the dreaded micromanagement to managing a multigenerational workforce, cultivating better listening skills, and developing an understanding of your organization's politics. Check back every Wednesday for more Management Tips.
Thanks to the business press and their never-ending love affair with charismatic extroverts, everyone has come to believe that introverts don't make great leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's back up for a minute and clearly define each. Extroverts tend to be outgoing, talkative, and energetic. Introverts tend to be more reserved and enjoy solitude. The stereotypical artist, writer or engineer is an introvert. They live inside their head, and tend to derive less pleasure from large group interactions.
Research is quite clear. Extroverts and introverts can both be effective leaders. Depends on the situation. Specifically, it depends on the type of employees who are being led. It turns out that introverts actually make better leaders when their employees are naturally proactive. Think about it. An extrovert leader, with proactive extroverted employees, is less likely to listen carefully to their ideas, eroding trust in the group. Over time, we've identified several specific ways introverts have an advantage as leaders.
First, the introvert tends to think first and talk later. They consider others' comments carefully, and reflect before responding. They also use their calm demeanor to be heard, amid all the organizational noise. Think about how one thoughtful comment in a meeting can move a group forward by leaps and bounds. Next, they're better at having deep conversations. They often dig down into issues before moving on to new ones. They're drawn to meaningful conversations, not superficial chit-chat.
In addition, they're great at asking thoughtful probing questions, and they're great listeners. Another great trait for introverts, is they display calm and peace, which helps others experience calm too. They're low key, even in times of crisis. Many times preparation is a big part of it. Unlike extroverts, they tend to be more intentional, and thus they engage planning. In the face of normal ambiguity, let alone unexpected crises, they help others stay calm and focused.
Finally, it's also true that introverts cherish solitude. They become energized by spending time alone. While dealing with people effectively, they become exhausted and need to step away and recharge. These bouts of solitude are not times when they feel lonely. It's just the opposite. They use this time to refuel thinking and regain needed energy. So there are many benefits associated with being an introverted leader. However, I also have to point out there is one problem to be aware of.
Introverts are not great at self promotion. Thus, they have more trouble versus extroverts climbing the corporate ladder. So introverts, be sure you make the choice to be proactive and make your aspirations clear. For the organization, it will be worth it. The overall leadership team is well served to have a mix of different personality types. Extroverts are often fantastic. But to be truly effective, your organization needs a few calm, reassuring introverted leaders too.
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