Society often paints quite a humorous yet incorrect picture of introverts and extroverts. Introverts are stereotyped as shy, antisocial and perhaps even socially awkward. Extroverts are commonly thought of as extremely talkative, confident and bouncing off the walls with energy at social events. With these misconceptions in place, it is understandable why many believe extroverts would make better business leaders. However a recent inspirational Ted Talk by Susan Cain author of The Power of Quiet discusses the power of introversion. According to her research one-third to one-half of the population are introverts – and they make great leaders.
What is an Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?
Stereotypes of introversion or extroversion incorrectly tend to suggest they relate to how shy or talkative you are. The terms actually relate to how you recharge your energy and your reaction to environmental stimulation such as people, noise, lighting etc. Introverts recharge by spending time alone and get drained by being in stimulating environments. Extroverts recharge in stimulating environments and get drained when they are alone.
But what if you like stimulating environments and being alone? Well, you are not alone. In fact Carl Jung the psychologist who coined the terms is quoted to have said: “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Like most life theories, introversion and extroversion aren’t black and white. They run on a sliding scale. You can even be an equal mix of both – a term called an ambivert, a personality type that many identify with.
How do I Know Whether I am an Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?
There are a lot of quick tests you can complete to find out what personality type you are, but it’s quite simple really. If you need time to recharge after being in a stimulating environment, you are likely an introvert. If you don’t need time to recharge after being in a stimulating environment, you are likely an extrovert. If you like an even mix of both, you are an ambivert. If you don’t agree with any of these statements, you are likely somewhere on the sliding scale in between introversion and extroversion.
Why do we Process Stimuli Differently?
If you veer towards extroversion, you are more likely to process stimuli in the same area visual and auditory sensory processing take place. However if you are an introvert, you are likely to process stimuli through a long, complicated pathway in areas of the brain associated with remembering, planning, and solving problems.
The Advantages of Being an Introverted or Extroverted Leader
- Introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions making them more effective leaders of vocal teams.
- Introverted leaders usually prefer writing to talking which allows them to better leverage social networking tools.
- Introverts are more likely to let talented employees run with their ideas vs. the extroverts trying to own the idea themselves.
- Extroverts aren’t as likely to get drained by stimulating networking events, press meetings or award shows.
- Extroverts are more likely to enjoy being in the spotlight which may be a necessary part of leadership.
- Extroverted leaders are better able to take risks and adapt to change.
Wherever you lie on the introversion/extroversion scale, finding your personality type can help you know what fuels or drains you allowing you to be an authentic and powerful leader.