Introvert and Extrovert Leadership: Why Neither Wins

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 18th August 2017

A lot has been written recently, particularly in the USA, suggesting that introverts might be more suited to leadership in the current climate, and even that introverts might make better leaders overall.

OK, then consider my alternative suggestions:

1. Dark-haired people make better leaders

2. Catholics make better leaders

3. People who like pasta make better leaders

4. People who drive an Audi make better leaders

5. People who wear brightly-coloured shirts make better leaders

Introvert and Extrovert Leadership: Why Neither Wins

Now I can put forward some plausible arguments to support each of these propositions. I can cite a number of examples of successful leaders from each of these subgroups. I might even convince a few of you.

That wouldn’t, of course, alter the fact that it’s complete nonsense. Hokum. Mumbo Jumbo.

Introverts and extroverts: which make better leaders?

Leadership is about behaviour and action. You have no more right to lead because you are introverted, extroverted, diverted, converted or even perverted. It’s largely irrelevant.

OK, it’s fair to say that an extrovert might find it easier (and less stressful) to stand up in front of the whole organisation and deliver a rousing address. But then an introvert might deliver the message at least as effectively in a very different way, through a video on the intranet, a newsletter, or simply by delivering the address their own way but with excellent and engaging slides or audio.

It is, however, being suggested in many places (Forbes, Inc. and HuffPost, to name a few) that an introvert will think more deeply and exude calm, that they will avoid being led by their ego, and that they will be a better listener.

Poppycock.

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Whether someone listens, thinks or behaves calmly is a choice they can make consciously.

Yes, natural personality will make someone more inclined to behave in a particular way, but the arguments I’ve seen seem to go further and suggest that a leader has no choice but to behave in the way that their personality dictates. Considering we master innumerable aspects of our behaviour every day, this is a simply nonsensical notion.

My point is perhaps best explained, as I find is increasingly the case, by something my grandad used to say to me: “handsome is as handsome does”… or in other words, it isn’t your personality that is the issue, but more your behaviour. Yes, one certainly influences the other, but the effective leader will make good choices. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s your job to make the best choices about what to do, why, when and how.

Which encourages me to finish on another of my grandad’s sayings: “when in doubt, do the right thing.”

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