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Adrian Malpass

Business Developer (Emotionally Intelligent), The Experience Group

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Do introverts make better leaders?

Part of what I do is involved in developing emotionally intelligent businesses, leaders and teams.

Having recently seen Susan Cain's video on TED.com on 'The Power of Introverts' and listened to her in a recent radio interview here in the UK, I am increasingly finding my mind occupied by wondering about any link between being an introvert and being a successful leader.

My experience tells me that introverts quite possibly, or even probably, make better leaders than 'extroverts'.

What are your thoughts?

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    Apr 3 2012: Extrovert leaders I think tend to follow a simple, linear direction, following their own individual judgement of where that direction should go, and usually with great speed. This looks like strength and competence, particularly to those who themselves are ill at ease with the responsibility of leadership.

    Introvert leaders are collaborative and empathic. They are genuinely interested in the views of others, so the direction in which those others are led, is more likely to be democratic. But it is definitely a slower process, and thus incompatible with the way businesses are run.

    i think it depends on the end goal of the group being led. Each leadership style has value, depending on whether the end goal needs quantity or quality.
    • Apr 5 2012: Well said sir. I consider myself an introvert and I am a leader of people. You described me to a tee.
    • Apr 7 2012: You have described what I have always thought about myself, I am also a leader of people and always seek collaboration from my team. I feel that if I can get their point of view and make plans together they will by into the end result and we all become successful. I am someone who empathizes and takes seriously their concerns, I help them out whenever I can and I teach them how to do things. This type of leadership I believe is beneficial for the long term viability of an organization. Unfortunately we are in an age of needing results fast and when we can't see the forest for the trees the slower process isn't as valued. I am motivated by the growth and learning my staff achieve from my coaching it is very satisfying to believe in someone even though others don't, work with them and have them succeed. I believe that quality is always better than quantity because quality will eventually give you quantity. I have sacrificed my own success because I truly believe in the long term success of a team. I believe a good leader needs to listen to their staff, gain their trust and respect and work with them and not above them. You need to understand the challenges they face, celebrate their successes and support and help them when they are struggling. I don't believe there are a lot of leaders who are solely focused on the success of their people. My experience shows a lot of managers focused on themselves and their success and will most times not be honest about the obstacles their staff are experiencing just to make themselves look good. It is in everyone's best interest that we talk about those challenges because in today's environment of do more with less productivity is suffering hugely.
    • Apr 7 2012: Really well said, Allan. People tend to think that extrovert leaders are more powerful and competent than introvert leaders. But the former one can be shallow even though they may look like the people with charisma . We should not judge people by their mere personalities or behaviors. Introvert leaders can definitely be better than extroverts.
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      Apr 10 2012: I was in engineering management for many years and was always an introvert. I had to learn through experience and patience to work productively with peers, bosses, and engineers. It was not always working in the beginning so a lot of practice was required, which I got! I found that my introversion made others feel safe to express their ideas to me and this ended up producing superior solutions to the technically difficult problems we had to solve on a daily basis. I especially liked (after a while) working with peers who were extroverted, since we had an interesting back and forth, especially in group settings, that moved us both to the behavioral center (ambivert?). Working with an extroverted boss was much more difficult and often resulted in wasteful clashes over management style: "you need to TELL them what to do!" "I feel it may be better to work together to find the best solution"...

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