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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 12 2012: Adrain,

    After weighing in here regards Meyers-Briggs Typing, I began to think of my own as an introvert. When I Googled, up popped a piece on Barack Obama. He possibly shares same MBTI as I do: INTP.

    It makes interesting points about Obama and leadership styles:

    There is some debate whether he is an introvert or not. But I'd bet good chocolate he is. Actually I'd bet a lot more than, that’s how sure I am.

    This all reminded me of a Harvard Business Review piece on topic of "Command and Collaborate" leaders: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/02/is_command_and_collaborate_the.html#comment-432402627 It and my comments to it get at my points earlier here on your Q regards emotional intelligence. Which for peak performance requires higher-order thinking.

    I do think, given they are thinkers there is some evidence that introverts have meaningful abilities for this fairly rare pinnacle marked by the ability to integrate soft/hard and all in-between information and assets. How I tried to explain in HBR comment:

    “Demonstration of higher-order thinking skills synthesize what is most salient, taking in both hard data and hidden realities.”

    Introverts thinker skills, if balanced with extraverted in-put and out-put can help them challenge even expert and granular analysis—provided they pull noses out from behind spreadsheets long enough to engage. Thus, what separates the strongest leaders from those who can cite theory chapter and verse, but, can't meaningfully integrate it with their corporation's vision and market iterations, is higher-order thinking.

    An example:

    Steve Jobs, an introvert. He struggled when he turned too far inward. But his wins far outshined his moments of navel gazing because he was highly attenuated to the complex landscape of human psychology, including his own ego.

    • Apr 16 2012: I also am an INTP and write left-handed. No wonder I voted for him. I knew I liked something about him. But, honestly, I think he is more likely a ENTP because he can sling a speech as good as anyone. He may have great leadership abilities, but I understand that getting policy changes through Congress is next to impossible. So unfortunately his potential is somewhat limited. Plus most INTP's don't usually go into law, they are usually more creative and analytical. Plus I am not sure of his resolve and integrity. HIs actions display to me that he is more concerned about being re-elected than sticking to the principles he projected in his initial campaign. He has towed the status quo line more than not in most cases. True leaders do what's best for others, not themselves. Lastly, INTP's are really rare, less than 3% of the population, so the odds stand against the propability of Obama being an INTP.

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