Introverts in Leadership

“Western societies, in particular the U.S., have always favored the man of action over the man of contemplation”- Susan Cain

An introvert is defined as a person who gets their energy from being alone, in contrast to an extrovert who gets their energy from social situations. Scientific research has shown that introverts’ nervous system makes them more sensitive to sensory stimulation. The most recent research shows that introversion is much more common than most people believe–1/3 to 1/2 of society are introverts.

Most of the leaders we see and talk about in modern society are charismatic and tend to seem energized in crowds of people (picture President Obama). Typically, the characteristics that people name as important in an leader match more closely with the characteristics of extroverts than introverts. However, this may be a mistake.  In her TED Talk, Susan Cain says, “Introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, even though introverts tend to be very careful, much less likely to take outside risks.” These seem like very important characteristics for leaders.

The challenge is to design organizations that allow for and celebrate the strengths of introverts as leaders, in the same organizations that allow extroverts to work collaboratively and socially with colleagues. Both personality types are important to building successful organizations. Leaders who value small or individual meetings over large groups can help to build greater relationships and followership within their organization. Allowing for privacy and individual creativity does not detract from successful collaboration, but improves productivity for all members of an organization.

Cain, Susan. (2012, February).  The power of introverts. [Video file]. Retreived from http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts

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One Response to Introverts in Leadership

  1. damikrjo says:

    Thanks for this topic. I think that this is important. Sometimes it seems that charisma is one of the only characteristics that people look in leaders and that is a mistake as they are many different qualities that lead to a transformative leader.

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