Quietly does it, sometimes

Extraverts may have a natural advantage in leadership roles because they are dominant and outgoing.

They tend to be the centre of attention and take over discussions and are perceived as more effective by both supervisors and subordinates.

In the US only 50% of the population is extraverted, despite what you might believe about Americans, but 96% of managers and executives display extraverted personalities (the percentages showing high levels of extraversion increase from 30% of supervisors to 60% at executive level).

But people can learn extravert behaviours. In fact I remember some research which showed that when introverts were taught extraverted behaviour they could behave in more extravert ways than natural extraverts. And most managers have to learn to stand up and deliver presentations and run meetings.

However work by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Harvard Business School, and North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, shows that in some situations an introvert may be a better leader than an extravert without having to change their behaviours.

It seems that in a dynamic, unpredictable environment introverts are often more effective, particularly if they have proactive workers on the their teams who are prepared to put forward suggestions to improve the business.

This type of behaviour can make extraverted leaders feel threatened (I think especially so if the leaders are narcissistic). Whereas introverted leaders are more likely to listen carefully and show more receptivity thus making them effective leaders of more vocal teams.

Putting extraverted bosses in charge of talkative teams isn’t a good recipe. Extraverts seem to do better as  bosses of teams that perform best when they do as they are told!

To succeed as leaders  introverts have to overcome a strong cultural bias as in America at least two out of three senior executives viewed introversion as a barrier in a 2006 survey. And in politics highly extraverted Presidents are seen as more effective.

Source: HBR December 2010

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