Are you an introvert or an extrovert? It’s an important question for your leadership. Let me flesh this out a bit and make some recommendations that I trust will help you.
It is an oversimplification, but the world is divided between introverts and extroverts—and extroverts are winning! I’m just playing a bit when I say that, but the truth is there are far more extroverts in the world than introverts. In addition, most business and leadership structures are styled for extroverts.
Extroverts tend to be social animals who gain energy from other people, who like to be in teams, and who ever perceive themselves as part of a group. They tend to be a bit better communicators, they tend to have a bit better emotional intelligence, and they tend to understand group dynamics. I suppose it goes without saying that most leaders are extroverts.
Introverts, however, are oriented primarily to their inner life. They tend to need quiet, they lean toward their own thinking processes rather than group input, and they want to be part of a team, but they make their contributions to that team only after they have thought things through for themselves.
Here is a quick way to determine who is an introvert and who is an extrovert. It is a question of how they recharge. Extroverts tend to recharge with people, introverts tend to recharge alone. Extroverts have more energy after being with folks. Introverts have less energy after being with folks.
Now, obviously, there are degrees and exceptions. Let me take myself for example. I describe myself as an introvert who does well in public. I’m not complimenting myself. If you saw me speaking on stage, you would think I am an extrovert. I love people. I love speaking to them. I use a lot of humor. I tell rowdy stories. We all have fun and learn a lot, I trust. I seem like an extrovert. Actually, I am an introvert. I need a decent amount of time alone. That’s where I think and pray and write and craft my speeches and design strategies and ponder what’s best for my clients and determine my trajectory. Others would do all of these with other people. I get with other people after I’ve gone deep by myself. Then, I’m ready.
Now, both introverts and extroverts can be great leaders. You just have to manage yourself. Extroverts have to be careful about being a mile wide and an inch deep because they are so social they never ponder deeply or strategize meaningfully or take stock honestly or confront themselves fiercely. Extroverts also need to make sure they avoid “groupthink,” going with the opinions of the crowd rather risking the unpopular path.
Introverts need to manage themselves too. They need to safeguard the time alone they need while resisting the temptation to be a curmudgeon or distance the friendships and input they need. They need to learn skills for connecting with others and bridging the gap between their inner and outer worlds.
Both can lead well. Both have advantages and challenges. We need both in the world.
Three things. First, get with people to help you determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Second, if you are an introvert, read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in the World That Can’t Stop Talking. Finally, talk to leaders wired like you are to get their insights into accentuating the good and mastering the challenges of their introvert/extrovert natures.
Good days are coming for you. This is another tool in your toolbox. Go Forth and Conquer.