Written by: Adam Lloyd
LOUD does not always mean effective. Sure, boisterous, rah-rah, in-your-face executives are attention grabbing, can rally the troops and are considered engaging. But all attention isn’t good attention. Fiery, outgoing personalities do not always guarantee success or genuine respect. Too often in the hiring decision process, extroverts make more energetic and assumed-passionate first impressions. What does that mean really? If you’re loud and outgoing in a first meeting it equates to endurance and enthusiasm? First-impressions are important and often times the only opportunity provided to make something happen, but there are leadership styles, great ones, that are often misunderstood and overlooked due to our own stereotypes of introversion and how leaders should appear. It’s not a completely accurate assessment and sadly, the big picture is being missed.
With all of today’s hyper-sensitivity around “engagement,” which is a great, we believe the only engaging people out there are the ones in your face, announcing their greatness and capturing our short-term attention. The extroverts. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being an engaging extrovert. Great leaders can speak up and speak out, the problem is that these are not the only great leaders out there and there is an over-calculation of their representation. One of the misguided assumptions is in the actual ratio of extroverts to introverts. A study by researchers at Dartmouth College concludes that there is a general overestimation and classification of extroverts, when in actuality, there are more introverts than what is represented in mainstream society. There is not only a misguided view around engagement style, but also a lost identified value of quiet leaders. Numerous studies indicate that introverted people are highly creative, rational decision makers and listeners with the ability to analyze problems. So why the correlation between extroversion and leadership capability?
It may be due to our inherited and prehistoric interpretation of machoism equating to the tribe leader. A shout loud and take charge mentality. Whatever the reason, introverted personalities are too often deemed as incapable, weak, timid and indecisive leaders. If there is something I can attest to having spent 15 years working with executives of organizations, it’s that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a good dose of quiet leadership habits would probably benefit the majority of us. Balanced leadership is just as important as real diversity in organizations, extroverts and introverts complement each other, but there are a number of introverted tendencies, which are often overlooked or unknown, that we can pay attention to and learn from.
INDULGE IN HUMBLE PIE
A refreshing characteristic of anyone, common amongst introverts, is modesty. Uncovering and discovering someone’s achievements and expertise is more powerful than them telling you. This is one way introverts build genuine followers and loyalty. It’s honest. Pushy salespeople are not at the top of our admiration list, which is similar with leaders. The more you have to announce and speak of your accolades and worth, the more the value and credibility is explored and tested, eventually leading to questioning and disbelief in one’s ability. If you’ve achieved a lot, you’ve done something right to get where are you are, no need to broadcast. To be more compelling, be humble.
Introverts tend to listen first, speak second. It’s a rational, informed mindset and approach to leading. Employees and consumers want to be heard, they want thoughtful responses and correspondence, not to be told what to think or buy. Introverted executives often assimilate well into new assignments and companies without a blueprint or mold of how they’ll run things. There’s not a lot of room for error in the digital age for CEO’s to react quickly without proper assessment. Timely responses are important, however, thoughtful assessment leads to more accurate responses.
EMBRACE CONTRARY OPINIONS
Conditioning yourself to listen more will indirectly result in opening yourself up to opposing viewpoints. Introverts end up challenging their own thinking by accepting and not dominating conversations. If brainstorming and creativity sessions were meant to be led or isolated to just individuals, there wouldn’t be much innovation taking place. This idea holds true in the daily interactions of introverts. Embracing the group mentality and welcoming a variety of suggestions leads to more options. The more ideas that are available the more they can be executed to real products and solutions. You don’t get here though without creating the platform for variety to exist. Introverts naturally do this well.
Emotions can get the best of anyone and extroverts can be quick to let them fly. A calming effect and rational approach to decision making is a strength that introverts bring to the table. Yes, extroverts do focus and make level headed decisions, however, they often have speak-first tendencies. The ability to assess first, propose second, is a display of rationale. Ever hear of quiet confidence? Calmness is a sign and social que of control. Leaders that demonstrate they have control of a situation and do not panic evoke confidence to employees, customers and stakeholders. Employees want to work under stable leaders and conditions.
There are strengths and balance found in extroverts and introverts, what’s important is that we identify both and have an accurate understanding of how all forms of engagement impact leadership.