04 Oct 2010  Research & Ideas

Introverts: The Best Leaders for Proactive Employees

Think effective leadership requires gregariousness and charisma? Think again. Introverts actually can be better leaders than extraverts, especially when their employees are naturally proactive, according to Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino. Key concepts include:

  • Extraverted leaders can be a liability if the followers are extroverts, tending not to be receptive to employees who make suggestions and take initiative.
  • Introverted leaders are more likely to listen to, process, and implement the ideas of an eager team.
  • Leaders need to adapt their style depending on the type of group they are leading. With proactive employees, leaders need to be receptive to the team's ideas; with a more passive team leaders need to act more demonstratively and set a clear direction.

 

We often expect corporate executives to conform to certain extroverted CEO stereotypes: C for charismatic, E for effusive, and O for outgoing. To wit: Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson, who very publicly flew around the world in a hot air balloon; former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a guest player on the sitcom 30 Rock; and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, the swashbuckling yachtsman.

But then there are the introverted CEOs—calm, eremitic, and observant—who prefer flying below the radar. You've never heard of them because they don't like the spotlight. Take Peter Rouse, who last week was named interim White House chief of staff, replacing the extraverted Rahm Emanuel.  Barely known outside of Washington circles, Rouse is a quiet politician who seems to eschew the public eye, preferring instead to hunker down and deal with problems.  Within the walls of the West Wing, he is reportedly known as a "fixer."

Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual, but with different groups of employees.

"Often the leaders end up doing a lot of the talking and not listening to any of the ideas that the followers are trying to provide"

A new study finds that extraverted leaders actually can be a liability for a company's performance, especially if the followers are extraverts, too. In short, new ideas can't blossom into profitable projects if everyone in the room is contributing ideas, and the leader is too busy being outgoing to listen to or act upon them.

An introverted leader, on the other hand, is more likely to listen to and process the ideas of an eager team. But if an introverted leader is managing a bunch of passive followers, then a staff meeting may start to resemble a Quaker meeting: lots of contemplation, but hardly any talk. To that end, a team of passive followers benefits from an extraverted leader.

"Often the leaders end up doing a lot of the talking, and not listening to any of the ideas that the followers are trying to provide," says HBS associate professor Francesca Gino, who conducted the study with professors Adam M. Grant of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and David A. Hofmann of UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Their article, "Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity," will appear in the Academy of Management Journal next year.

The three professors commenced their research with field data from a national pizza delivery chain, mailing out questionnaires and successfully surveying fifty-seven pizza store managers and 374 employees about their personality traits and their coworkers' behaviors. Using a five-point scale, the respondents rated themselves on adjectives such as "reserved," "introverted," "talkative," and "bold." The employees rated their teams' general work behaviors on items such as "Try to correct a faulty procedure or practice" and "Communicate opinions about work issues to others even if their opinions differ or others disagree."

The researchers then compared the survey results against each pizzeria's overall profitability over a seven-week period. Sure enough, they observed high profits in stores where the employees were relatively passive but the managers were extraverted. On the other hand, when employees were proactive, the stores led by introverted managers earned high profits. Meanwhile, profits were lower in stores where extraverted managers led proactive employees and introverted managers led passive employees.

"There are ways to influence the likelihood that leaders will act introverted or extraverted"

The research conducted by Grant, Gino and Hofmann shows that there's a definite need for introverted leaders. Here's the problem: research shows that introverts, not prone to self-promotion, typically have more trouble than their extraverted colleagues rising through the corporate ranks in order to take a leadership role. This is especially true if they are surrounded by extraverted coworkers, who are likelier to receive promotions because they actively draw attention to themselves—fitting the stereotypes of great leaders.

"Many people associate extraversion with action, assertiveness and dominance—characteristics that people believe to be necessary to be effective leaders," Gino says. "The features that define extraversion are commonly the features people associate with leadership."

Changing a leopard's spots

Unfortunately, companies that promote only extraverts are natural breeding grounds for the aforementioned ineffectual situations in which extraverts report to extraverts. Fortunately, the research also shows that it's possible not only to change prevailing attitudes about leadership, but to influence leadership behavior as well-that is, to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation.

"We showed that there are ways to influence the likelihood that leaders will act introverted or extraverted," Gino says.

For the second study in their paper, the researchers devised a scenario in which 163 college students participated in a T-shirt folding contest. The students were divided into fifty-six groups, all tasked with folding as many T-shirts as possible in ten minutes. (They were encouraged to try their hardest-the most productive groups would win iPods.) Each group consisted of one assigned leader and three followers, plus two research assistants—"confederates"—who pretended to be followers. Some of the confederates were told to approach their team leader, after a minute and a half into the folding session, and say, "I have a friend from Japan who has a faster way. It might take a minute or two to teach it, but do we want to try it?" (The Japanese method is featured on YouTube.) The goal was to see how introverted and extraverted leaders would react to the proactive suggestion.

In an effort to control whether the student leaders would manage their teams in an introverted or extraverted manner, the researchers asked them to read a brief statement before the T-shirt folding commenced. Half of the leaders received this statement, along with a list of supporting academic studies:

"By creating a work environment where people feel free to speak up and be proactive, the organization is creating the right place for introverted leaders to be successful"

"Scientific research now shows that behaving in an extraverted manner is the key to success as a leader. Like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jack Welch, great leaders are extraverted: their behavior is bold, talkative, energetic, active, assertive, and adventurous. This enables them to communicate a strong, dominant vision that inspires followers to deliver results."

The other half received this antithetical statement, also followed by a list of academic studies that supported it:

"Scientific research now shows that behaving in an introverted manner is the key to success as a leader. Like Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Socrates, great leaders are introverted: their behavior is quiet, shy, reserved, and unadventurous. This enables them to empower their people to deliver results."

"We had them think about their role as a leader and consider how the certain style would help them go about the task," Gino says.

Sure enough, the students' leadership style during the T-shirt folding exercise corresponded with the statement they had been asked to consider. Those who had read about the virtues of introverts were far more likely to signal that they were receptive to the novel Japanese folding method. And as with the pizzeria study, when the followers were proactive, the groups with introverted leaders were more productive than those with extraverted leaders.

"It worked," Gino says. (The research team believes that the results may have been more dramatic had the groups been given more time to fold; the sessions were only ten minutes long, and the whiz-bang Japanese folding method took some practice.)

Gino says her future research plans may involve the topic of authenticity, the degree to which introverts can genuinely adopt extraverted behavior before landing a leadership role. Ideally, though, she hopes to see more corporations adopt policies that reward good listeners as much as they reward good talkers.

"By fostering a work environment where people feel free to speak up and be proactive, the organization is creating the right place for introverted leaders to be successful."

About the author

Carmen Nobel is the senior editor of HBS Working Knowledge.

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Comments

    • Adam Okhai
    • pres., + ceo, TLC Group (Educational)

    Seemed counter intuitive when I first saw keywords.
    But after I had a better look at content -- yes, makes sense. EQ would give us a better measure of probability of success in leadership. No method lends itself to "measurement".

    Maņana there will be another theory ?

     
     
     
    • Melissa Caldwell
    • Leadership Development Consultant, MCaldwell Consulting

    This is well aligned with the advanced leadership skill of coaching (defined as asking thought proking questions and then truly listening to the response). Whether introverted or extraverted, a leader who has the discipline to listen to what others has to say will engaged a larger percentage of employees. Many introverts find it easier to listen than extraverts. But it certainly is a skill that can be taught, practiced and institutionalized.

     
     
     
    • yn leung
    • principle, Risk&Change

    As a successful introverted leader, I have spent years cultivating extroverted externalities so as to be perceived appropriately. This drains the personal resources and reduces the effectiveness of an introvert. This is useful research on the importance of differences in achieving success in any forum.

     
     
     
    • Rowland Freeman
    • retired

    37years in the Navy, retiring as a RADM Two years as a Federal Executive, and 7 years as an Industry VP. I have observed many kinds of leadership, and believe you need to be a practicing introvert and a practicing extrovert. There are times for quiet consultation and times when you need to be a very vocal team leader. A great deal depends on the situation the leader is facing, and the decide which approach makes the most sense. In selecting people for leadership positions, I look for both characteristics with the thoughtful/thinking candidate having a bit of priority, but not much

     
     
     
    • Russell Cullingworth
    • President, Centre of Excellence for Young Adults

    An excellent article that debunks the myth of the sterotypical leader (I am not big on stereotypes myself). and that both introverts and extroverts are equally capable of being effective in their use of strengths to lead others.

    In my opinion, the greatest leaders are those who are able to leverage the talents of the people around them and raise each person to function closer to or at their full potential. Other essential attributes to leadership - authenticity, self-awareness and emotional intelligence - also have nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.

    As an extrovert myself, I have no shortage of energy, enthusiasm and passion - but I really envy those introverts who have the ability to focus and contemplate. I try, but it doesn't come easily!

    The message for me from this article is that if you aspire to leadership it is more important to be your authentic self and focus on your own strengths rather than to aspire to some stereotypical idea of who and how you should be.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I'm sorry, but I have a hard time rationalizing what the authors refer to as introversion vs. extroversion, and Jungian predispositions captured in tests like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test, in the personal preferences of individuals that form by 18 years old and rarely change throughout life. So "faking it" after reading instructions would not change someone's predisposition or behavior. I also don't subscribe to the notion that introverts are passive or shy. They may appear passive to an extrovert. But in reality they wait to speak until they have fully formed thoughts on a matter; vs extroverts who interact verbally as part of the process of forming insights and reaching conclusions. Perhaps if the authors stuck to the traits "active" and "passive," and skipped the reference to extrovert and introvert, respectively, this analysis and the conclusions would make more sense.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Boards, like conversations, are often driven by the person who talks the most; those blabbering the obvious as if they're a genius.

    In the past I thought that my silence during board meetings demonstrated that I was dismissing the extravert's idiocy (assuming others would too). Unfortunately I learned that the CEOs were impressed by outspokenness regardless of the intellectual depth - or lack thereof. The company today is run by the same lout who "knows everything" and listens to no one.

    I believe my experience is the norm rather than the exception. Of course the CEOs and presidents won't recognize it because they're cut from the same cloth.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    If the introverty of a leader enables them to empower their people to deliver results, it is possible that the result of that is more inovated results?

     
     
     
    • Joyce Vogt
    • Business Dev Mgr, AVI-SPL

    To your point in the end, it would be great to see how authenticity plays a role here. It is all too common for extroverted leaders to be all ego, completely lacking in authenticity. The ego can play a significant role in their ability/ willingness to listen.

    So, is the success outlined herein an outcome of introverts as leaders...or is it indicative of a more authentic, self-actualized individual? Based on my personal and professional experience, it is far less common to find an authentic extrovert. When you do, snatch them up...they're one of the best leaders money can buy!

     
     
     
    • Musaddiq Akhtar
    • Student, ACCA

    My humble experience validates the study.

    Considering a virtuoso team, where everyone is the master of their own domains, a deadlock ensues. Reason: every idea seems feasible; result: stagnation.

    For a team to succeed, the short-comings of members should be insured with the flagships of others ( for greatest good of the body).

    Leaders have the added responsibility to bring such harmonization. Being mindful of the team-members intellectual coupled with emotional horizons is a must including oneself!

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    If I wanted to generalize the result of this research to say the leadership during the Global Financial Crisis where would I be?

     
     
     
    • David Kinsman
    • Leadership Principal, Totem Hill

    The truly effective leader is, as you point out, the one who can adapt to the situation at hand. Adaptive leadership is the quality that should be sought and rewarded by organizations ....content, not style!

     
     
     
    • Joanne Wakelin
    • Principal Consultant, Simpl

    Very interesting. Knowing this, it is easy enough to flex styles as required - and I would suggest that having the ability to do this can be learnt.

    Promotion issues aside, has there been any research around success at blending these styles for groups that contain both extroverts and introverts? My observation would be that many teams contain both and so both styles may be required.

     
     
     
    • Cecilia
    • Consultant, Empretec

    It seems like the "middle path" is still the best. Why only extrovert or introvert? I don't believe extrovert should not able to listen. Nor introvert should be more open to new ideas either... I would say it depends...

     
     
     
    • Joanne
    • Coach

    Interesting read although it seemed a little off balance. What about the influence of other personality dichotomies in leadership?

    I wrote a short entry on my blog. Hope you don't mind my sharing, http://mimosasolutions.com/extrovert-vs-introvert-is-this-all-that-matters

     
     
     
    • louis j ramirez
    • surgery materials coordinator, health care

    Back to the basics of leadership. There is no way to measure if a leader cannot navigate. leadeership will have to be both extrovert and introvert ?

     
     
     
    • Parshwadeep
    • Manager, HCL

    Really interesting insight. I wonder how many of the corporates/ people in general believe in this philosophy. Usually I have experienced so far as introvert being marked as a taboo in corporate. They need to fight and work harder than an extrovert who is very good in talking alone sometimes...

     
     
     
    • Udhay
    • GPM, HCL

    Nice article, however I differ with some of the points. I feel a Leader should be neither introvert nor extrovert. In simple words extrovert leaders talk more, bold enough and that gives room for everybody to take him for advantage, introvert team members will be reluctant to approach him on their ideas. On the other hand introvert leaders are always in the dark room and he also keeps everybody guessing of what he is all about, this will stop the extrovert team members to share their ideas as they will not see the feedback/fruit on their suggestion. My call is a Leader should strike a balance between these two. He should be introvert in some places and extrovert in some places based on the situation (situational leadership).

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    If organisations are fostering a work environment where people feel free to speak up and be proactive, where will introverted leaders come from? Do you think it might be useful to also foster a sense of to apply the apply extraverted or introverted leadership style depending on type of group one is dealing with? Yeah, and there might be yet another theory.

     
     
     
    • M Khairul Alam
    • National Professional Consultant,, ILO-TVET Reform project, Dhaka, Bangladesh

    It made snese to me . But we donot have many examples in front of us. As expected Extraverted leaders outshines and certainly is more media and communication focussed, which is why we the commners know much about them. And we possibly unconcsiously try to think of the xtaverted personality as a role model -- denying our own inner self , if we are really not an extraverted type.

     
     
     
    • Senthil Athiban
    • Director, Sparks Development Group, India

    Valuable idea on leadership development. Introverts observe, listen, analyze, think before acting more than an extrovert. These are very much needed in the modern work environment where most of the employees-followers need more freedom, want to be listened to, capable of taking charge but may be acting more on the spur of the moment without much thinking or analyzing situations. An introverted leader will bring in "balance" in this environment. Now I am involved with capability building initiatives for a leading tyre manufacturing company in India and I find most of the top level executives both at corporate and at the operational level are typical introverts. Of course in Indian cultural environment introversion is a common feature ! But it is changing with Gen Y workforce. Sometime, the achievements of an introverted leaders are not known outside a limited circle...their wisdom and insight are not made known to others as they play a very silent role. Mostly they fit into what Jim Collins call as "The Level 5 Leaders" Hence there is a strong need for Introverted leaders to develop Extroversion skills and the organizations to identify and promote introverted leaders and their approaches for a wider organizational learning and application. This may not be difficult as H J Eysenck (who has done lot of work on extroversion-Introversion) theory state that every introvert is an extrovert inside and every extrovert is an introvert inside'

     
     
     
    • Vijaya Ramam
    • consultant, Hospital management

    It indeed is a good outcome that Introvert leadership is more effective.As aptly pointed out in your reserach study , the proactive team feels comfortable if their ideas are given a patient hearing & implementedby the leader..In all probability , as introvert leaders do not crave for lime light, tend to pass on the credit to the team for any accomplishments.,such leaders do command respect by the team .

     
     
     
    • Henry Maigurira
    • Executive Secretary, Pachi Develpment Foundation

    I would add the notion of a 'personal brand' in leadership that attributes either intravert or extravert characteristics as individual brand personality defines success. Branding individual leadership style with a certain values that yield successful outcomes of Corporate goals and making of leadership subordinates believe in abilities of individual decision making and power to influence and make changes when problems arose are vital important issues that define a personal brand of personality. Acknowledging that extraverts may be a liability to a company, because they talk and talk without listening to input where as intraverts listen and process information and make decisions, the same holds true on scientific findings that behaving either as introvert or extravert is key to success. Personal brand adds the notion that individual CEO must have a strong sense of identity and values which makes them attractive and subordinates obedient to their direction because their personal brand is irresistible. I greatly applaud the leadership examples of the Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Peter Rouse the White House Chief of Staff, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Martin Luther King and to me these great individuals have a personal brand which does coincide in great respects with their type of behavior attributable and observable.

     
     
     
    • Evert Janse van Rensburg
    • CEO, Credenti Business Consulting, South Africa

    Very insightful.

    I have to conclude that an extrovert leader may be the first choice to fire up demotivated / passive followers. But then the extrovert needs to be replaced with an introvert to obtain that double and tripple digit growth.

     
     
     
    • Nancy Ancowitz
    • Business Communication Coach, Author, Self-Promotion for Introverts?

    Carmen,

    Thank you for helping shatter the stereotypes of introverts as leaders. Your article and the research you present underscore the importance of "leaders adapt[ing] their style depending on the type of group they are leading," as you say in your executive summary. Indeed, whether you're leading a team, presenting your ideas to an audience, or selling your services to clients, adapting your style to your stakeholders makes common sense--and now with this new research to substantiate it.

     
     
     
    • Neeraj Sharma
    • Assit. Divisional Mnager, Telcon

    Quite relevent & can be experienced in one surrounding. Beautiful insights to the leadership traits.

     
     
     
    • Ian Plowman
    • Director, Ian Plowman Pty Ltd

    The psych literature has another name for extraversion. It is 'surgency', having the same derivation as the word 'surge'. Think 'troop surge' or 'storm surge' to get the general idea.

    According to psychologist Hans Eysenck, extraverts are born with low cortical stimulation, and seek to compensate by generating neural activity (including talking). In contrast, intraverts are born with excessive cortical stimulation and hence seek to block out the noise of extraverts.

    So it would be interesting to know if the subordinates/followers were mainly intraverted or extraverted.

    It is axiomatic, that a 'leader' is someone who has followers. So it is the followers who determine who they choose to be led by.

    The article conflates the concept of 'manager' or 'CEO' with the concept of 'leader', where, in fact, these concepts are orthogonal. Some managers may be 'leaders', many would not. Employee compliance is considerably different from a follower's commitment.

    Research that I conducted into innovation within country towns found that towns that were dying report the highest number of leaders and a substantial proportion of passive citizenry. The most vibrant and progressive towns report the fewest leaders and the highest proportion of proactive citizens.

    So it would be interesting to know if your published research could separate out the contribution to profitability by source of ideas - employees alone or by managers alone. Where is the main effect? Is it the manager, the followers, or the interaction of the two?

    In the T-shirt example, the 'introvert' statement describes introverted leaders as 'unadventurous'. I suspect this description is quite inaccurate. In fact, the reverse is more likely to be the case. Frank Sulloway would suggest that introverts are likely to be more adventurous (as in risk-taking) than extraverts. Think explorers, world travellers and paradigm breakers in science. In contrast, the well-known and high profile 'leaders' are more often conservative.

    Like much good research, this article generates more questions than answers.

     
     
     
    • Abbey Mutumba
    • Franchise Development Executive, Abbedax Entertainment & Hospitality Ltd

    Nobel and Gimo's findings are practical. I have been in both(extrovert and introvert leadership)positions at my company- Abbedax. I had a management assistant between 2008-2009 who i had not realise that was so passive to be delegated any management responsibilities. By the time i suspended him, i was blaming myself for my hands-off management style at that time when i was concentrating on finishing my MBA and franchising studies.

    On the other hand, several franchising researchers have recommended that for the franchiser-franchisee business relationship to be successful there should be iopen-collaborative communication for their mutual competitiveness from the beginning and throughout the franchise contract. I do not think an introvert franchiser can enable the inexperienced independent operator-franchisees to successfully start and run their outlets in a way that leads to the franchiser expanding the chain using the franchisees' resources while these entrepreneurs also benefit from the time-tested management system of the franchiser. This relationship requires alot of extrovert charateristics for the franchisers to teach the franchisees on how to use the branded,proven-to-be-successful operating system. I wonder how an introvert franchiser will enable the mutual business success to the franchisees that comes from the partnership especially at the initial stages when alot of openness is needed.

    But also the over extrovert parent/franchiser can scare some introvert franchisees since some entrepreneurs in countries like Uganda fear franchising as a business strategy because of the system discipline that comes from the relationship of equals that is key for mutual competitiveness. What is your take in both cases?

     
     
     
    • Laurence Knell

    Very interesting research, though it perhaps seems slightly incomplete at this point.

    I am an extravert and through my career I have worked for managers of both types - Introvert and Extravert.

    I have experienced Introvert managers whose behavior matched that you describe and had great outcomes with their teams, but equally have had Introvert managers who tended to apply the "contemplative brakes" a little too quickly leading to frustration amongst the action-oriented Extraverts and a perception that we had fallen into the "paralysis by analysis" trap and were going nowhere fast.

    On the other hand, I have had Extravert managers who recognised the needs and preferences of the Extraverts within their teams and were happy to let them utilize the strengths characteristic of their type - this worked well. Yet other Extravert managers have at times been so focused on themselves that their own agenda and progression that they ended up displaying the negative aspects of Goleman/McLellan's Authoritative and Pacesetting management styles - naturally enough, with less than optimal performances and outcomes.

    I can consequently conclude only that irrespective of personality types, it comes down to three key factors - self-awareness, self-management and confidence.

    It would be interesting to see these factors brought into the scope of the research as well as some replication of the study amongst higher-level staff within an organization, i.e. managers of managers etc.

    Many thanks, Laurence Knell

     
     
     
    • Leonard Eng
    • Undergraduate, UCD

    The wise leader would be able to detect the situation and be agile enough to mold one's character to adapt to the situational needs, he/she would be able to be introverted at times to evaluate and extroverted at times to lead.

    This article is to highlight the mostly neglected aspect of leadership: Quiet Evaluation

     
     
     
    • Ajay Kumar Gupta
    • Doctoral Researcher & Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Science

    I agree that introverts are the best leaders for proactive employees and the key to success is showing behavior either in extrovert or introvert manner as per research. I also feel that there exists a value difference between extroverts and introverts. Extroverts are more likely to change their values as per situations. It means they derive their source of power externally. They try to align their values with external demand whereas, introverts usually do not change their values and beliefs. They do what they think is right. They believe in doing than claiming.So, introverts are action oriented people and also they do not expect appreciation and encouragement. They derive their source of power from within. But the fact is that, extroverts are smart enough to create first impression faster than introverts. Introverts usually take longer time or sometimes people do not understand and estimate their capabilities and potentials. But when they reveal their strengths, it exceeds the impression created by extroverts. So, the value created by introverts are usually sustainable, universally accepted and human in nature. When extroverts are leading introverts, then there is higher possibility of value clash. Extroverts are more change prone and introverts are resist prone. And extroverts sense the environment and accordingly shift the gear of values. This is the key to success for extroverts. Introverts on the other hand, believe that people should understand their beliefs and they try to create culture as per what they believe. I believe that challenges to deal with extroverts and introverts depend upon nature of jobs. Customer oriented jobs usually require extroverts and research related jobs require introverts.

     
     
     
    • Carmen Nobel
    • senior editor, HBS Working Knowledge

    Regarding the #6 comment: The researchers were careful to use the terms "proactive" and "passive" to describe the general nature of the employees, whereas "introverted" and "extraverted" described the leaders.

    Had they stuck exclusively to the terms "active" and "passive," then we would have missed the important point that introverts are not necessarily passive. Rather, they excel at welcoming and processing ideas from others. The problem, as you indicate, seems to be that too many organizations assume the introverts to be passive, and thus they don't have a chance to rise through the ranks.

     
     
     
    • Leslie

    If Ms. Gino is not an extravert, I'd be very surprised. I appreciate the effort of the study, but this contains so much of the stereotypical stuff often said about introverts. Look at the description in the statements created. Introverts are "unadventurous" and extroverts are "bold and assertive". Some of the biggest risk takers I've met in my life have been introverts...but their adventures did not occur within the constrains of corporate walls.

    Anyone with reasonable intelligence learns how to utilize both their introversion and extroversion. Some more than others. I test out totally on the introvert side, but had a successful career in the corporate world. I left, like many introverts, because, as post #7 points out, we introverts understand what it takes to function in either realm, while extraverts only understand their own realm. This grows increasingly tiresome as we see "style" frequently win over substance, as #12 points out.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I am neither introverted nor extroverted but can be either depending on the situation. With this personality I am able to receive my desire promotion, pay raise and most extroverts, those who often has all the answers are left wondering how it happened. When important views are needed I am invited to response.

     
     
     
    • Rajesh Krishnan
    • Owner, Simply Life

    A leader is one who has the ability to influence the thought and action of people. Using this definition as a context, a leaders behavior has to adopt and adapt to the context.

    According to Big Five and Palo Alto communication theories, an introverted behavior can be an indicator of strong listening (not necessarily to all idea, thoughts and opinions, there are other behavior polarities that has an impact on this), and ability to introspect. On the flip side it can also portray a person with a lower self image and confidence. It could also be an indicator of someone with lower energy level.

    On a concluding note, I opine that a successful leader should be able to juggle the introverted and extroverted behavior judiciously depending on the situation. Being labeled as a purely ' extroverted' or 'introverted' in every situation will hamper success for the individual, team and organization.

     
     
     
    • Bernie ALTHOFER
    • Managing Director, EGL I Assessments Pty Ltd

    It has been my observation that in some organisations, there has to be an ability to be adaptable to many variables, including the type of organisation, the people, the culture and the values. Given that command and control organisations have a variety of people from all walks of lifes, ages, genders, cultural and religious backgrounds, and given the propensity to conduct a range of assessments to determine the 'fit' of the future employment, it may be the case that some organisations have a tendency towards selecting 'extroverts' over 'introverts'. However, having worked with people who have been assessed as 'introverted'. It has been my observation that many of these are very adaptable, and use work to the situation at hand. Whilst some might equate an 'introvert' with being quiet and reserved with no place in a command and control situation, there are times when this type of person can have a calming influence. In truth, the re has to be room for both, and I suspect that what a leader should be doing is getting to know and understand both types of persons, potential points of conflict and develop strategies to get the best out both persons. Over the years, I have undertaken various assessments and as my knowledge and exposure to various experiences has changed, there has been continual movement from being on the 'introvert' scale to the 'extrovert' scale. As one person told me, the assessment is only an indicator as to how you prefer to operate.

     
     
     
    • Deepak Dange
    • AVP

    Thanks for publishing the views. It gives confidence to people like me who are not extrovert. Its been a belief that introverts dont make it to the top, leave aside leading. But your views contradict this opinion and offer a fresh perspective.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I fully agree with the findings in this research and being an introvert myself I have experienced some of this in my career. My progress up in the ladder could be said as 'normal' and I have seen some of the noise makers (extreme extroverts) moving up quickly and getting lot of focus and attention. It is true that most of my senior managers have lost the ability to listen as they are too busy talking and self marketing themselves. One my senior manager called me and told that I should do some self marketing etc.. I expect being my bosses these people should know what I am trying to do.. I am be wrong..

     
     
     
    • Kalpana Ramakrishna
    • Head-HR & Administration, MA India

    I am an ambivert - basically an introvert and can be an extravert when in a group and at work.

    This theory is interesting because it highlights the fact that there are intriverts who are successful, not mentioned before. An inrovert has to work very hard at being heard and open which develops over time. I grew to be an ambivert more becuase I had leaders and mentors who groomed me to talk more and develop relations at work. I found that over the years I change my behaviour when there are people around me especially at work while at home and at social events I may go back to being an introvert.

    Ultimately it is the inner desire in the person to achieve which gets him or her where he/she is. Thus the nPow, nAch and nAff come into play (McClelland's theory of needs).

     
     
     
    • Sakdirat Kaewunruen
    • Specialist, RailCorp

    This concept may not work in some of Asian countries where people think "silence is gold".

    Culture and tradition do restrain the theory.

     
     
     
    • Paul Nicholas
    • Adviser for Leadership Development, Herefordshire Council

    This is very interesting, but I feel its value is very culture and context dependent. Leaders do not exist in isolation, and their leadership is always within a relationship. Hence the effectiveness of a leader depends on the personalities of their followers too. Extrovert or introvert, authenticity counts for more, and the perceptions and emotional responses of followers ultimately determine the quality of leadership. I have worked for superb extroverts and superb intoverts, just as I have worked for abysmal extroverts and abysmal introverts - the determining factors always lay in other aspects of their behaviours.

    Can anyone point me to research on the interplay between the personalities of leaders and followers and how this affects the quality of leadership?

     
     
     
    • Fawaz Shalan
    • CEO, Medicare Jordan

    It is surprising that the article as well as alll the commentators did not refer to the Myers Briggs personality test and its usefulness when forming work teams.

    It has been long established that teams that include only extroverts would lead the organisation on a highly risky and precipetious path. Where as an all-introverted team would most likely lead... nowhere.

    My advice for anyone putting together a team is to take some time to ask participants to undergo the MB Test... I did it with my team and the results were truly insightful.

    Here are the four types needed for a successful team:

    Excerpted with permission from the MBTI(r) Manual: A Guide to the Development and Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(r)

    Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

    Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

    Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

    Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

     
     
     
    • Mathews Daniel Kapito
    • Director, Centre for Corporate Management and Finance

    many managers have a preconceived idea that introverts are not a good feature in management and such have formulated tools and processes for selecting extroverts over introverts. however, if you take a tour in Morden man you will notice that all of us have an introvert inside us. this is due to Culture, age, level of education, our life experiences e.t.c. and as such we can only create future managers and leaders by adapting tools and processes that consider all kinds of personality. for example my Accountant is a true and typical Introvert, in our work relationship i have learned that he has skills i dont have, he analyse each activity or event before accepting and as such i make him my companion in decision making. introverts can manage based on circumstance not logic or policy. their analytical skill is a best tool in management especially in this changing environment.

     
     
     
    • Dennis Wu
    • Director, People Builder Business Solutions (Hong Kong)

    I appreciate the author's research efforts to reveal the complementary nature of introvert and extrovert personalities. Many leaders tend to promote those with style and personality similar to theirs to take up key positions. It is a thought-provocative reminder for the leaders to be receptive to people of different propensities, particularly those very different from themselves.

    Yet the author tends to equate extrovert with proactivity and introvert with reactivity. Actually an introvert person can be very proactive (say, in finding a smart and subtle way to influence people) whilst an extrovert person can be very reactive (say, being hasty in concluding opinions). Introvert vs. extrovert and proactivity vs. reactivity are different dimensions. I hope the author will conduct research on the mix of these dimensions in leadership effectiveness and further shed lights on this subject. Thank you.

     
     
     
    • Anna Roshchyna
    • MBA Student, HULT IBS

    That is only confirms importance of balance.

    During regular business time leader gains more being an Introvert. " Team Works as a wheal turns. "

    When situation tightens, the team needs Extrovert to follow.

     
     
     
    • Jos? A. Espinoza
    • Professor, CENTRUM Catolica

    I suggest to define the term "extroversion" as it is done in the Five Big Factors model of personality. In that sense, extroversion is not a capability to be proactive or energetic; it is the capability to interact with people. "Introverts simply need less stimulation than extraverts and more time alone. They may be very active and energetic, simply not socially". Also it must be taken into account that this is not a on-off characteristics but it is a range (from 0 to 100).

     
     
     
    • Adjoa Acquaah-Harrison
    • Executive Consultant, Nonprofit Management/International Development

    Bestselling author, Jim Collins' books, Good to Great, and How the Might Fall ... come to mind as I read this article on introverts as the best leaders for proactive employees. While this new information is instructive for the evolution of leadership in general, I look forward to learning more on this subject, hoping that the researchers would balance the scales on both introverts and extroverts. Without swinging the pendulum all the way to the opposite side, the yin-yang balance will not be compromised. The timing of this research is exciting - this article came on the heels of another from HBS that I read only a couple of weeks ago on Mindful Leadership. I enjoyed professor William George's work to fuse Western understanding about leadership with Eastern wisdom about the mind to develop leaders who are self-aware and self-compassionate.

    Thank you for the wonderful enrichment that your articles offer on a regular basis.

     
     
     
    • Lois Melbourne
    • CEO, Aquire

    I believe one of the best studies of the success of the less then charismatic leaders is Good to Great. It address many of these scenarios.

     
     
     
    • ZERIHUN TEMESGEN
    • Manager, Methods & HRM, Comet Transport Sh.Co.

    The article evokes professional debate and promote understanding in the subject. In my opinion, the skills of both introvert and extrovert are essential in leading proactive employees. It requires to respond in line with the behavior of employees prevailing in a particular situation (contingency or situational type of leadership) applies here.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited

    With the fast speed at which things move nowadays and the imperative of end-result - very qualitative or not - it is the outgoing who excell. An introvert would fit better in research and development, innovation and places where coming into spotlight may rather be avoided. Coming to corporate situations we need winners as well as thinkers but the latter in isolation would not deliver appropriately. To the reverse, winner would ultimately survive despite a little dearth of deep thinking capability. The ideal is a fair mix of extraversion and introversion by properly understanding situations and attuning thereto as per demand.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I am an extreme introvert who is very extrovert in many management situations (one also hears of many public figures who are quite shy in private). Perhaps good leaders have the capacity to moderate their extrovert/introvert characteristics according to the situation. So with an introvert team they go extrovert and with an extrovert team they go introvert.

     
     
     
    • Wynette Harewood
    • HRM consultant, Business School University of the West Indies

    Interesting research indicating that leadership potential can be developed and manifested in many ways . I find the resonant leadership styles( Golemen , et al 2000) that combine E.I. with traditional leadership styles also of value.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I found the research article very interesting and inspiring one.From very long period of history, discussions and studies had been conducted on extroverts and introverts across different cultures and countries. Some had given more weight age to introverts and some to extroverts, but in maximum cases more of importance had been given to extroverts and that was due to their interaction and communication process with the external environment that comprises of people from different strata of society/within organization. Non Verbal communication plays a vital role in the process of leadership and introverts are more successful here. They look any problem from different sides and reach to final decision after analyzing the whole situation which sometimes involves a bit long span of time and whole process is not communicated to outer world while in case of extroverts it is communicated. Here, the difference starts and balance is required between both extraversion and introversion that are present in each individual except in case of extremism. In organizational studies, this was checked either by means of psychological test of MBTI, NERD etc. and conclusion were drafted but situations also play a vital role in leadership and there introverts had edge over extroverts as they give their response not reaction which occurs in case of extroverts(extremes). Outcome of any situation cannot be predicted completely but its effect can be managed to maximum extent by means of considering all variables and post result effects. Self motivation helps introverts there and that is less prominent in case of extroverts. Effect of referent power and persona is created in case of those introverts having a blend of slight extroversion as they choose different path/solution of situation than existing one and meanwhile they keep in mind the view of other person and external factors and results are mostly positive as they have balance in response and they are not skeptical with their views (except extreme introverts) and listen ideas and view of other person patiently but this does not means that they don't communicate their ideas, yes they do and in a strong manner. So a balance is required between the two depending on the situation and clarity is essential as communication process itself is not as simple as it looks.

     
     
     
    • Serdar Parahadov
    • MBA student, Drake University, Iowa

    It is really interesting research. I have noticed that almost all anonymous commenters in here are introverts and prefer to stay unknown. Moreover, I could not see any comments from Harvard University students, even the research was conducted by their professor. I think they are kinda introvert students too. In my opinion the effective and smart leadership would mix these two strenghts and find a balance between them according to the atmosphere and types of employees. And I strongly believe that it is easy for introverts to be extroverts at the same time, but difficult for extraverts to be introverts.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I see a leader in my organisation surrounding and promoting others with similar extravert tendancies. I don't think this will bring out the best in our people. There is a need for both types in an effective leadership team.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Interesting article, and the studies are logical easy to believe - you can picture the way these groups of people would work well together. I was disappointed to find there aren't any suggestions about how the lower-producing combinations (introvert leading a passive group, extrovert leading a proactive group) could work better as a team. Is it possible to really change a personality type, or necessary to replace people in the work group for best results?

     
     
     
    • John Mc Gill
    • CEO, Compu Management, ltd

    You have missed an important issue on how certain occupations draw specific personality types. These often cause extrovert/introvert conflicts because different professions that draw upon different personalities types - and the way they intereact are different.

    The more introverted professions are often mute in front of an extraverted leadership because their best ideas are too often "STOLLEN" by the extroverts who present those same ideas up the corporate ladder as their own. Gaining influence and prestige at the expense of the intoverts. However, this does not mean that the introverts are in any way passive, in fact the professions themselves might require a hight degree of proactive behavior for a successful completion of any project.

    The other issue about leadership has no bearing upon extavert/introvert, but upon the way our leadership evolved in corporations. The evolution came from manufacturing requirement of always being "active" and hands on - this has lead to management style that favors action over reflection. Most of all new skill requirements for knowledge management positions are reflective in nature. Management structures have not been adaptive enough to handle this transition.

    It seems to me that this study is a replay of the seminal study made about the US Navy during WWII published by HBR in 1956 - intersting, but totally misleading.

     
     
     
    • J. MacAuslan
    • CEO & CSO, STAR

    Reassuring (I am an introvert!), and very helpful to remind people. Pop culture does indeed believe otherwise. But not novel, it seems to me: "Built to Last" makes the same point, in several ways. My favorite: "Charisma Not Required" in the Clock Building chapter. For instance, Bill McKnight, a mild-mannered accounting clerk, created 3M (Bill Hewlett's most admired company!) as the innovation machine and intrapreneurship example we know today. A quintessential introvert producing the quintessential environment for proactive employees.

     
     
     
    • David Hosmer
    • Sr. Director, OD, Not necesssary

    Great article. Finally, someone steps up with the voice of quiet leaders. I applaud you.

    For all those who still think they need to be loud to be leads, keep quiet and listen. Observe that when introverts speak, people listen. I'm generalizing but their thoughts are well thought out with objective being to speak something worthwhile rather than just speaking out in a need to appear to be in control.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    One of the most successful executives in the automotive industry was Donald Petersen, President/CEO at Ford through the 1980's. (Market share increased 7 pts, shareholder return was > 1200%) He was in introvert and shared it. Having been at Ford in the 80's and having met Donald, he was a very effectinve leader.

    On the other hand, I have experienced extrovert led teams working comparable tasks with introvert led teams and seen significantly better results from the introvert led teams. The interesting paradox is the extroverts perception is they helped the situation and if they had not been there the team would have done worse.

     
     
     
    • Tariq Quadir
    • Manager, New Products and technology, Superior Technical Ceramics

    We only know successful introverted and extroverted leaders in history but no one knows how many people "statistically" have succeeded in each style. What is most important is whether success in each style is related to DNA or nurturing?

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    OMG--yes! As someome who is an introvert--this is so true and so unrecognized. I have been criticized by my extrovert bosses more than once for being too nice to my subordinates--for wasting time listening to them--and for THANKING them for doing their job.

     
     
     
    • Yvonne Chalmers
    • Director-Training & Coaching, Kazi Services Ltd.Tanzania

    Building on the comments made by Fawaz Shalan about MBTI. The usefulness of MBTI is in developing the ability to use our less-preferred dimensions. A leader, whether extravert or introvert, that develops the ability to recognise when to use his opposite dimension according to the needs of the situation will bring out the best in his followers and deliver results.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    interesting view on differences. This is one difference which really separates human beings from one another. Though as people grow up and develop, they do develop the non preferred attributes as well and the differences blur. My study with middle managers is that this one difference really determines the performance of people and their growth in the organizations if their profiles are similar.

     
     
     
    • Peter Lee
    • Lead Consultant, CultureLink International

    Though interesting, I'm surprised that the whole idea here about introverted leaders is based on a huge generalization about extroverts/introverts. It's not that simplistic in the real world. I'd say that success depends on specific competencies that fit the role, experience, and people skill rather than personality types.

     
     
     
    • Jill Malleck
    • Consultant, Epiphany at Work

    I'm glad this article was written now, as it gives another source of confidence to those leaders who are less vocal and who expect their teams to take up some of the leadership mantle. For all of the talk about empowered teams, many followers are still expecting the answers to come from "above" them. Some of the best leaders I have coached have been introverted (in the true MBTI sense - internal processors) but have been asked to be more visible or to take charge more often. Instead of trying to develop techniques or inauthentic behaviours, it is useful for an Introverted leader to capture more of their thinking process and to share it with others. This can be done in writing as well as with words. Learning how and when to take a firm stand, perhaps even without input from others, can also improve the power and influence of a more introverted leader.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Hmm... Nice topic indeed! Well in my perspective, both Extroverts and Introverts could possess fair amount of success and excellence in their respective career path. Each has specific his/her own qualities to apply in day-to-day corporate life.

    Neither is superior to each other. Emotional Intelligence in either of them, may have some differences. However, I feel that it all depends on the nature of the job, responsibilities and expertize to determine the 'dynamic' nature of both the type of personalities

     
     
     
    • Joey
    • Chief eremitic officer

    This is a good article.

     
     
     
    • mark sampson
    • VP Sales, MTC Recovery Consultants

    "A new study finds that extraverted leaders actually can be a liability for a company's performance, especially if the followers are extraverts, too. In short, new ideas can't blossom into profitable projects if everyone in the room is contributing ideas, and the leader is too busy being outgoing to listen to or act upon them." True Dat!!!

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    While somewhat alarming to see that the three introverted leaders chosen as examples for the folding exercise were all murdered, exploration of the reality that not all leaders are cut from the same cloth is refreshing. Hopefully the creators of countless leadership seminars will see this and start incorporating more content related to effective visioning and on-strategy execution, instead of the repetitive: get a dynamic coach and be like them, which, regardless of personality type teaches people to be less personally relevant and less aware of stakeholder expectations.

     
     
     
    • Neal Burgis, Ph.D.
    • Certified Executive Coach, Burgis Successful Solutions

    As an introvert who is an ambivert or considered as a social introvert, introverts in general have begun to get out of the shell/comfort zone more and more. There are between 10-15% of introverts who are motivational speakers and another 10-15% who are successful sales people earning on average $50,000 more than many extroverts.

    With the unique characteristics introverts possess, they can use 5-10% more of what they do currently and can see a significant difference in their career and personal lives. Today, a lot more introverted leaders have become know as "Quiet Leaders". These individuals stay in the background of their employees, get more accomplished than many other corporate leaders, and instead of giving specific instructions/directions to their employees, they give them their assignment and let their employees use their critical thinking skills to solve what they need done. The interesting thing about this is that 25% of corporate organizations have picked up on this and are using these skills and techniques because organizations with quiet leaders have been getting better results than those who do not. There is about a 15% increase in productivity with organizations using the quiet leader format.

     
     
     
    • Fernandel Salomon
    • ceo, Fernandel Salomon

    The Business world is vastly evolving, daily. Women CEOs are now well known. College students with little or no business experience are developing Cutting Edge businesses. The times are changing, and changing for the better! Leaders who were once shy about appearing before the public are making strides towards stardom.

    Introverts and Extroverts alike are working to improve on whatever could be perceived as their weakness.

    Herein lies the answer to the success of both intro/extroverts : The BIGGEST room in the world is ....

    fernandelsalomon.blogspot.com

     
     
     
    • Carl Nielson
    • Executive Coach, The Nielson Group

    The findings in the study point out a critical component to leadership. A "linchpin leader" knows how to "adapt" their behavioral style (more/less extroversion or more/less introversion) based on what their team needs to be most effective. Most leadership development programs aren't going far enough to develop those skills. Coaching an "introverted leader" recently, he was extremely pleased to hear me say "You don't need to become "your boss" in style." (highly extroverted/aggressive vs introverted/listener). Instead we worked on understanding the different personalities of his direct reports and what each one needed from him. Huge dividends. Results fit the study conclusions.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    The article is good. What is important is to balance between the two traits of leadership being extrovert or introvent. It depends on the situation on how to manage. To focus in balancing will result to better performance of the leader rather than depending on one side in every situation.

     
     
     
    • Wahib Farah
    • Group Executive Director, Cedarcom Group

    Impressive article... The effective leader should always listen to his team members and share with them his passion and vision... Extrovert or introvert leaders should look beyond their own objectives while promoting and nurturing other talented leaders in the company... In fact any leader should embrace both leadership styles depending on the situation as long as they create opportunities for talented employees...

     
     
     
    • Mark Jiang
    • Training Assistant, Technicolor

    What if, there are 10 staff in total in a group, divided into 3 layers.

    The basic employees are 6 introverted person. The 3 managers of the 6 employees are extroverted person. And the Leader of the Group is an introverted person.

    What will happen? I am curious truly.

     
     
     
    • Nandakumar
    • AGM Business Excellence, Hinduja Global Solutions

    Interesting study and observation. It is true that extrovert leaders find their way by talking and reaching out while introvert leaders contemplate much before saying anything. There is receptiveness with the introvert leaders while the extrovert leaders do not let others speak. While the introvert leaders wait for their turn, extrovert leaders would have taken the group to their stride. It requires a lot of hard work from introvert leaders to prove their mettle through performance.

    A good balance of these two styles, with each one trying to adapt their unnatural other when the situation demands will make a good well-rounded leader.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Are leaders that are considered extraverted actually missing the skills necessary that typically would make the introverted leader more open to extraverted employee ideas? For example, active listening skills would allow both types of managers to focus on more of what is being said and not so much on what they want to say.

    So I don't think that it matters whether the leader is extraverted or introverted, but whether the leader possesses the necessary skills to know how to adapt his or her own leadership style to the situation at hand.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    How likely is it that a team would be comprised of all proactive employees or all passive followers?

     
     
     
    • Ali A Soomro
    • BBA student, IBA jamshoro univsrsirty of sindh

    Its a impressive article and will give some confidence to introvert leaders or employees that they also can be effective as extroverts. I am disagree that introvert leaders can be effective, leaders have a many qualities and you have emphasized on listening while its a an most important quality of an effective leader, if a leader has not an ability to listen others he or she can be said an effective leader. Extroverts are more effective leaders from my point of view because they can communicate well objectives of the task as comparing to introverts.

     
     
     
    • Ped Egg
    • Manager, Ped Egg

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am wish the same best work from you in the future as well kind regards.

    http://pedeggreview.net

     
     
     
    • MCG
    • Operations Officer, US Air Force

    Before I begin, this HBS source is an inspiring outlet for new and challenging perspectives that keep this MSM grad's military mind fresh. This was an interesting look at data in a consumer-driven field at the customer-service level. I submit though, that regardless of the level of management, the argument shouldn't be of introversion since that is a personality preference, not a leadership style. Retired RADM Freeman (comment #4) was on target as he eludes to the reality of situational leadership being the key component in any organizations' dynamic equilibrium. The hardest part for any leader/manager is working with the resources they are issued, a common situation for those of us who don't have the luxury of hire-fire authority...and live with a "figure it out" directive from the crystal palace and rely on a desire to succeed above all else. Effective leaders figure out how to get the most from their people, and h ow to keep that motivation specific to the task at hand and the team dynamic. It should be hard to identify a good leader's preference, and impossible to pin victory on intro- or extraversion, rather his/her superior servant-leadership execution. Here's a leasson learned the hard way, play the cards you're dealt... and never let 'em see you sweat. I look forward to reading future studies on this scenario, thanks for the insight.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    People in IT are introverts by default. There max. time is spent on working softwares which are invisible to the world. The visible output is not even a fraction of effort. They talk better with brain than with mouth. It becomes habit. Anything they handle has all sides of (if,then,else,finally or whatever). There is no time for talking. This is considered being introvert in real marketing world where people say everyone is marketing man. (Marketing people should not be IT people but IT people should be marketing, finance and probably all kind of people). People in marketing basically are people who just know how to talk, talk and more talk till guy infront of him becomes more introvert.

    But then that talking is appreciated and IT people are called introverts and not fit for promotion. If people in IT just talk, I hope no software would be developed.

     
     
     
    • David Wallace
    • gamechange LLC

    Very interesting read and deep insights -- too bad many readers believe this is an 'either/or' situation. A combination of intro- and extrovert makes a big difference, with the situation often dictating boisterous leadership or thoughtful delegation.

     
     
     
    • Adam McHugh
    • Pastor, Presbyterian Church USA

    I really appreciate this article, and I fully agree that introverted leaders can be very effective. I don't work in business, but in the church, and I have found the expectations for extroverted leaders to be quite exhausting. I have written a book called Introverts in the Church in which I devote two chapters to introverts in church leadership. I wish that the church would catch up to what the corporate and non-profit worlds have learned about the potential effectiveness of introverted leaders. Too often we are captive to a cult of personality that unfortunately limits our view of leadership and excludes people with great leadership abilities.

     
     
     
    • Claire Schrader
    • Director, Making Moves

    This research is fascinating. The trouble with the labels of introvert and extravert is that they are a tendency you are born with and it doesn't reveal who you become, and there are an incredible wide range of introvert and extravert traits. Extraverts get annoyed that they are pigeon holed as not being able to think and reflect - I know lots of reserved extraverts that struggle in the corporate arena just as introverts do. As an introvert who was the ultimate wallflower as a young adult, I found a way through drama to debunk all the theories of what an introvert is, and I help people do the same. An introvert can perform just as well as an extravert in many situations - they can be mesmerising, they can inspire, they can communicate well, and they can promote themselves or their organisation with ease.

     
     
     
    • AV RADHA
    • Asst. Professor

    Sharp and Good Approach! According to me, what you have commented is absolutely correct and necessary too... because, in this modern & competitive business world, as openings are also unlimited, if any leader practise extrovert behaviour, he/she finds difficult to retain his/her talented and best employees.. Hence, he/she needs to practise introvert if it is not so far developed.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Enjoyed this piece very much and concluded that I'm an introvert inside the company yet an extrovert with my clients. You can be both and it's working for the company (Profit$) and my clients (returning customer$).

     
     
     
    • James Dean Foley
    • Owner/Consultant, Global Consulting Services Inc.

    Your case studies missed the opportunity to garner information from a more mature and educated industry. I consider myself an extrovert who has found a balance between extro and intro. I say this because one of the key characteristics of a good leader is having the ability to "listen".(I listen). I come from the EPC industry where it has been my experience that introverts are the farthest thing from affective leaders. The introverts that I've come into contact with don't have the ability to communicate effectively. And if you can't communicate affectively how can you inspire a shared vision for your team and empower them to perform.

     I think you need to expand your case studies to encompass other organizations.
    
     
     
     
    • Bill Boor
    • SVP, Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.

    This is a thought provoking article and provides context for many frustrating 'leadership' situations in corporate life. The article uses adjectives for the introvert such as 'passive' that perpetuate the perceptions it is attempting to debunk.

    I'd suggest that an introvert must be action oriented to raise to leadership positions in a world with stereotypes favoring the extrovert. However, the authors differentiate the 'proactive' extrovert from the 'passive' introvert.

    My observations indicate that often extroverts value quick decisions and action for the sake of action, while introverts think of second and third order effects and value longer-term, actual results. The extrovert is happy when the deal is complete. The introvert is happy when enough thought and patience is shown to make sure the deal is successful. It is this focus on true results (versus just action) that motivates the introvert to listen to good ideas.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Lamba
    • Manager, Lamba Timber Works Pvt. Ltd.

    Insightful article. Myself being an introvert, I feel more confident to be in a leadership position!

     
     
     
    • Nida Khan
    • Postgraduate Student, NDU

    This Article proves my idea. In my Leadership class I disagreed with the professor. He said that Extroverts make better leaders while I was of the opinion that Introverts are better because they observe everything, listen to what others have to say and the decisions they make are calculated. His Point was that it depends on networking while mine was on understanding your employees.

     
     
     
    • Paul Lepley
    • HBS MBA '71

    I thank the authors for bringing this subject back to the limelight.

    As I read this research, I immediately thought of the Myers-Briggs methodology, which was not referenced but which has been around for decades. In the 1970s I saw papers that advocated mixing types in work groups to achieve better decision-making. In addition to mixing types, it is important that every person be encouraged to contribute and not be dominated by the extraverts.

    The video "GroupThink," which I first saw in 1976, supplements the concept about the dangers of having too many people who "think similarly."

    Are the researchers familiar with these works?

    Thank you, Fawaz Shalan, for mentioning MBTI in Comment #42.

     
     
     
    • Rodrigo Gutierrez
    • Opportunity Consultant / Business Writer

    Manager is not a CEO. I agree on the management perspective, but let's not forget a CEO is the face and personality of a company, inside and outside. It needs to sell, and that does not come with an introverted personality with is not able to take risks.

    My humble perception.

     
     
     
    • Chandrashekar
    • Sr Consultant, WIPRO

    Yes, we need to introduce conter intutive theories like these break the percieved norms. I have seen in my own field of learning and development at Wipro, when an extravert leader checks out his decisions with an insider introvert and vice versa. The business impact of that decision is 1+1= 11.