Extrovert leaders might get the most attention because they’re vocal and outspoken, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are better leaders. Both introvert and extrovert leaders bring different strengths to running a business. Experts agree that a mix of both is the best strategy for long term success.
THE INTROVERT LEADER
You’ll know an introvert by their tendency to be “quieter, more reflective, less vocal and less reactionary,” says Kevin Gazzara, CEO and co-founder of Magna Leadership Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona.
Introverts may tend to go inward in times of conflict, chew over information and take their time getting to an answer, he says.
“Since they are reflective they continue to bring in other elements that may contribute to the success of an organization. They’re less impulsive,” Gazzara says.
It’s likely that the quality of their decisions is more important than the quantity or efficiency of a process, which is good for the long-term, though might be a challenge in the fast-paced and often swiftly-changing realm of startups.
Yolanda Jenkins, Deputy Director of the Baltimore, Maryland nonprofit, Art With a Heart, is a self-identified introvert. It took her years to realize she was an introvert, and it wasn’t until she began to explore what was making her grouchy with coworkers that she realized her personality style. “Time with people physically drains energy from me. In order to be my best version of myself, I need time to replenish that energy.”
For Jenkins this means scheduling breaks and downtime after extensive periods of what she calls “peopling.”
She also finds that the more concrete the direction, the better for her. “I get very anxious when there’s a lot of ambiguity, or a lot of change happening rapidly and I don’t have time to process it,” she says.
Additionally, it helps to have a strong support network, or at the very least, another introvert who can help you identify what’s going on. She has a friend she can call in stressful moments who will remind her of her personality style and encourage her to practice necessary self-care.
She encourages fellow introvert leaders to “know what you bring to the table, what your strengths are, how you process and that you need time to recharge.”
For extroverts who work with introverts, she recommends, “really get an understanding of what it means to be an introvert. We take longer to cycle through information, we need more processing time.”
Her executive director is an extrovert, and she says they get along really well “We’re yin and yang. She wants to make a decision and run in head first, while I see instances where it should take longer or troubleshoot.”
THE EXTROVERT LEADER
Extroverts are often the leaders whose names everyone knows. “They’re loud, gregarious, outgoing, even charismatic,” says Trevor Van Laar, Leadership Facilitator and Consultant for a program called Leadership Gilroy, in Gilroy, California. The program is a ten-month skills-building class that teaches individuals to become leaders in their communities by working on a local project together.
Extroverts comprise more than fifty percent of people in leadership positions, according to Gazzara. “Extroverted people have a tendency to make decisions faster and can be quite opinionated or have strong views.”
Extroverts often get the leadership gigs because of their forceful, persistent personalities, but he says they need to learn to hang back and make room for their introverts.
Van Laar, an extrovert, has learned the hard way how to make space for introverts. “I had to learn quickly in meetings I’d run that I had to shut up, stop and listen to what my staff were saying. If I didn’t, I missed out on a lot of information they were observing upon.”
However, extroverts are necessary; a company with only introverts (or only extroverts, for that matter) would not be particularly effective, because “nobody would challenge each other,” Van Laar says. “Extroverts help challenge the status quo, and push people out of their shells.”
THE AMBIVERT LEADER
The most successful leaders that Van Laar has seen, however, are the ambiverts, who fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. “They can pull from within themselves a short term performance to persuade others, but if they feel that the group needs time to settle down and think things through, they can do that and help everyone stop and brainstorm.”
In truth, more people may actually be ambiverts than true introverts or extroverts, but the most important key to being a good leader may have less to do with personality style at all, says Gazzara.
“All our research has shown us that the number one thing you can do as a leader is to become a better communicator and listener, more than anything else.”
Whatever your personality style, all experts agree that introverts and extroverts need each other to be successful.
“The best way to move people from judging to valuing each other is through getting opposites to work together and really listen to each other,” Gazzara says.