Can Introverts Be Effective Leaders in the Workplace?

Lake Effects Blog

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Many self-help books and corporate coaches extol the virtues of the extroverted personality as a desirable quality for business leaders. Bold, outspoken, and charismatic, the extrovert is the stereotypical CEO or board chair. However, recent studies and literature show that this may not necessarily be the only personality type capable of leadership. In fact, some studies suggest that up to 40% of executives have what could be called introverted personalities. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates,  and Google’s Larry Page are prominent examples of introverted leaders who have experienced great success.

Some of the traits that define an introvert can be considered strengths in the workplace. Introverts tend to be self-starters who constantly look for ways to improve. This can be inspiring to employees, as can the introvert’s preference for showing examples rather than simply instructing staff on how to properly accomplish a task. In addition, introverts are less likely to be micromanagers. An introvert in a leadership position is much more likely to allow creative employees to pursue their own ideas and try out new approaches, rather than wanting to impose their own will on projects as a more extroverted personality might.

When it comes to leadership in a crisis, an introvert can be a valuable asset. Because they tend to present a calmer manner than extroverts, introverts are more likely not only to reassure staff, but to inspire a similar calmness in them as well. Introverts’ natural tendency to ruminate over important decisions and carefully weigh each variable can result in choices that are more measured and less impulsive. Introverts know how to focus on the big picture, an important requirement for any leader of a diverse workforce.

Introverts may not stand out in the traditional sense, but their strategic thinking and tendency to carefully prepare for challenges are traits that should be noticed and encouraged. In today’s highly competitive, global workplace, a diversity of leadership styles is needed; this is particularly true in the case of self-motivating intelligence workers used to collaborating in self-managing teams who may not respond well to an extroverted style of leadership. Every business that wants to make the most of its workforce should explore the leadership capabilities and qualifications of the introverts it employs.

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