Are Extroverts or Introverts Better Leaders?

Discussion
Dec 29, 2010

By Santi Briglia

The thinking that leaders are extraverts — men and women
who are the most dominant and authoritative people in a group — is not necessarily
the case according to an article from The Wharton School. New research from
Wharton professor Adam Grant and colleagues shows that extraverted leadership
provides a clear authority structure and direction. But pairing extraverted
leaders with employees who are proactive may lead to conflict, while pairing
the same group of employees with an introverted leader can be very successful.

"If
you look at existing leadership research, extraversion stands out as the most
consistent and robust predictor of who becomes a leader and who is rated an
effective leader," Prof. Grant said. "But I thought this was incomplete.
It tells us little about the situations in which introverted leaders can be
more effective than extraverted leaders."

A survey of leaders and employees
of a national pizza delivery company found that when employees are proactive,
introverted managers lead them to earn higher profits. When employees are not
proactive, extraverted managers lead them to higher profits. Mismatched, the
personality conflicts can lead to a power struggle, pitting leaders against
employees and ending up in a situation known as "status
uncertainty," according to Prof. Grant.

Extraverted leaders may feel like
their "status is being threatened. They
might say, ‘I’m supposed to be in charge here. Let me reassert my authority.’
But the introverted leader … is likely to quietly process the ideas that
come up. That leader is worrying less about the ego or image implications of
employees taking charge and introducing ideas," according to Prof. Grant.

Interestingly,
neither the introverted leaders nor the extraverted leaders showed higher productivity
or profitability than the other. The difference, Prof. Grant and his researchers
found, was in the pairing of leaders and employees.

Discussion Questions: Do extroverted or introverted people make better
leaders at retail? Is it different for brand sales and marketing? In what
situations does each type of person excel? How does management overcome any "power
struggles" between
similar personalities?

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18 Comments on "Are Extroverts or Introverts Better Leaders?"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

There is no way to generalize on this issue, whether you are talking about retailing, marketing or other professions. I have seen both introverted and extroverted leaders experience great success during my career. The key seems to be the ability to recognize your own traits, and to complement your own management style with others whose personal style is totally different. It’s hard to lead any sort of organization without at least one extrovert as part of the leadership team, but it doesn’t have to be the person at the top.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Getting the culture right is a big issue for all businesses. Most telling was neither showed higher productivity or profitability than the other. I think it is less about introversion or extroversion but which of the four personality types you are. Leaders should be aware of this but it is not really something you can create. Most studies are looking at the culture after it has formed, not trying to put one together based on it; humans are much more complicated.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

This research speaks to the unmet need in many organizations for some baseline measurement and coaching to understand and maximize relationships between leaders and teams with different personality and operational traits.

I’ve been a part of (employee or servicing a client) many organizations where a lack of commitment to developing high performance teams is evident. The dynamics are not hard to uncover and not hard to fix. I’d love to see more effort and attention to this area. Introvert or extrovert matters less that the improved function and output of a team group with awareness and skill sets to really perform. Many fail to realize how critical this is to employee satisfaction as well.

Ian Percy
Guest
10 years 8 months ago
In his book “Blueprint to a Billion” David Thomson found that one characteristic of IPOs that hit the billion dollar mark was a combination of external and internal leadership. The implication is to have the more introvert leader manage the store and the extrovert be out drumming up business and getting attention. I think a deeper insight comes from Dr. Peter Robertson who found that the ‘type’ of leader who is most effective changes as the organization goes through the inevitable stages of the lifecycle. The leader who started the company is rarely the one to build or stabilize it. The leader who can stabilize a company is not the one who will lead it into transformation and into a new lifecycle. Chose your leader in relation to the lifecycle stage you’re going into, not the one you’re in! It is not a case of “better” or “worse” it’s a case of fit. The title of Robertson’s first book says it all: “Always Change a Winning Team.” Organizations usually hang on to an effective leader… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

There are two types of leaders alright — good ones and bad ones — and they come in both introverted and extroverted packages.

Being an effective leader has everything to do with building, shaping and nurturing effective corporate cultures in which both introverts and extroverts can flourish.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 8 months ago

Leaders come in different forms and flavors–tall, short, lean and portly — but their core elements rarely vary. The basic foundation is integrity, which is supported by talent, courage, vision, commitment, empathy, humility, confidence. The greater these attributes, the stronger the leadership whether in retailing, marketing or elsewhere.

Whether an extrovert or introvert, true leaders are motivated to sincerely show concern and affection for those under their responsibility. Those who would render loyalty to a leader want to know that they are appreciated, respected and involved. When they feel that, they will join the leader in taking risks in competitive arenas–including retailing and marketing–where success isn’t covered by warranty. When success does come, everyone feels the effervescence of victory and know have a worthwhile leader.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

I agree with Richard. As the article points out it was having the right mix of introverts and extroverts that lead to success. Once you know your type then it is a matter of finding those that will complement it. I believe the true measure of an introvert or extrovert is how they “recharge their battery.” Extroverts are likely to seek the company of others and introverts alone time. Many introverts may seem very social in a work environment but would rather read a book that go to a party when the day is done.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

In my opinion, it’s a healthy mix that wins out. I find that good leaders posses a healthy balance between extroversion and introversion. What drives success in leadership are an outstanding internal thought process, excellent external communication skills, and plenty of resourcefulness.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 8 months ago

Ultimately the leader of an organization creates and fosters the environment/culture of the company. The real challenge for any leader is to understand, attract, and retain associates who complement and reinforce that culture. The individual leader can be an extrovert or an introvert and there are plenty of examples of both types leading incredibly successful companies. They are arguably the most important element of the culture but only a part of it.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 8 months ago

Introverted leaders, thin sumo wrestlers, and honest politicians. Sure they must exist, it’s just that no one has actually ever seen one.

Personally I believe that, by definition, “leading” requires an extroverted disposition. You must inspire, influence, and lead by example. How can you possibly do that as an introvert?

Introverts make wonderful analysts, researchers and dependable colleagues. I just don’t think they make great leaders.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
10 years 8 months ago

It’s not whether you are an introvert or an extravert it’s how you execute the mission of the company. People whether (intro or extra) who have the ability to motive and build a passionate work force are going to be the winners. A leader recognizes that there is no I in team and there is a dependency on the team he/she assimilates within the company.

No matter whether the leader is an introvert or an extravert, if they are able to check their ego at the door and build a cohesive culture, they will win. Politics in a company is like a virus that gradually eats away to the core of the business. Great leaders understand this and work to avoid it.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Over the past 50 years, social psychologists have looked for a list of leadership “traits” with little success. What they have found, and what some are pointing out above, is that the environment and the “followers” define what is needed in a leader. Sometimes the company needs a Ronald Reagan extrovert, sometimes it needs a Jimmy Carter introvert (can’t believe I’m using this example, though). Some workers will respond to a Reagan rah-rah leader, others will respond to a Carter intellectual leader.

What makes a great leader is the ability to interact with workers in a way that makes the worker better/happier.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
10 years 8 months ago

Steven Montgomery, thank you for reminding us of the “true” definition of introverts and extroverts. It’s not how outgoing and social one is in the workplace–it’s how one gets their strength to make decisions and how they recharge their batteries.

I know we have all known successful, excellent bosses and leaders of both varieties. But, when the boss, rather than telling the bone-weary employees to go home early and enjoy some good food and music around the fireplace with their pets and kids, instead plans and funds a large, most elaborate company holiday party to “reward the troops”–you can bet these bosses are all extroverts!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

Opposites attract (mostly what they seem to attract is profits)…who’d have thunk??? Maybe the (often criticized) idea of diversity has some merit after all (and where are all of those fans of we-purge-nonconformists-Zappos we heard from last week?).

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 8 months ago

OK…So opposites attract. That has been the way of the world for centuries. It does not change with this; although, given my desire, I would prefer an extroverted leader as I am an extrovert myself. I have difficulty working with/for an introverted leader. All of this being said; what have we proven? Nothing!

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
10 years 8 months ago

I think in this day and age the extroverted, but fair leader is the best motivator. We live in challenging times, where not all individuals within an organization may have the same interests, desires, work ethic, etc. This takes a strong, visionary and outgoing individual to handle these challenges.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 8 months ago

The results are what count at retail.

I have seen that having a good pairing of skills and personalities at store level for store manager and assistant managers makes a big difference in store execution, sales and customer satisfaction.

Nien Liu
Guest
Nien Liu
10 years 8 months ago

I think introverted leaders can be effective. A lot of the conversation has been focused on the leader, but some attention should be paid to the workforce. There has been so much written about the Millennials and how they are more entrepreneurial, want more, have more impact on the company, want more decision making responsibilities, and so on. In reality, all they want is a boss that can set them up for success, which as someone pointed out earlier is easier for an introverted leader to do because they’re comfortable not being the one in front leading the charge.

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