Do introverts actually make better leaders?

Do introverts actually make better leaders?

Personality traits that lean towards extraversion, such as being outgoing and social, often work well in business – extraverts make better salespeople and are less daunted by the prospect of leadership.

But do they really make better leaders? Whilst they might be more charismatic or more forceful speakers, this shouldn’t rule out introverted individuals from taking the top spot.

In fact, whilst many studies have established that less introverts are leaders, in some cases, they can actually outperform extraverts when they make it to the top of an organisation. The Conversation reports that a study, published in The Leadership Quarterly, found that introverted characteristics are prevalent in effective leaders known as “servant leaders”. The research found that these leaders foster good performance by focusing on the growth and wellbeing of their teams.

However, a new study, published by the American Psychological Association, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has found that introverts often don’t think they will enjoy leadership roles and subsequently, are less likely to go for the top job. The study found that introverts would be less likely to emerge as leaders based on their belief that engaging in the necessary extraverted behaviour would be unenjoyable.

The term, “enacted extraversion” which was coined by the researchers, explains the tendency for introverts to overestimate the negative emotions they will experience when acting extraverted. The researchers believe that if introverts can be taught to be more confident or optimistic, it’s likely they can emerge as leaders as often as extraverts do.

The remedy is not encouraging introverts to act as extraverts, but to assist in their confidence to develop leadership qualities. Author of bestseller, ‘Quiet’ Susan Cain discusses multiple strengths of introverts, many of which should assist individuals in leadership positions, like listening and deep thinking. Furthermore, a recent report by tech company Your Trade Base found that introverted CEOs are becoming more and more prevalent in modern business; in part due to their need for solitude, their high creativity levels and their passion for detail.

Recently, Philip Tidd, Principal at Gensler spoke to Business Grapevine about why workplaces should accommodate all personality types.For example, extroverts tend to thrive in collaborative, open environments and are likely to be productive in informal open spaces (cafes, break-out/social spaces) where they don’t feel restrained and isolated. For them, a flexible working environment enables them to move around according to current projects and tasks.

Conversely, introverts can find these environments disruptive, counterproductive and stressful. Their productivity is affected without access to quiet areas in which to concentrate and work alone.

However, Tidd emphasises, “there are times when ‘extroverts’ need to be ‘introverted’ and vice versa.  After all, everyone needs some ‘alone time’ now and then. “We recommended that having a working environment that provides a variety of ‘work-settings’ for focus, collaboration, learning and socialising, is vital.  But providing these spaces alone isn’t enough. “As employers – and especially as leaders - we also need to empower our staff with the autonomy and choice to determine their own work space and hours according to the tasks being performed.”

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