It’s no secret that extroverts hold the majority of leadership roles in the professional world. When you call to mind a high level executive, you probably picture someone with an outgoing personality and commanding presence, instead of a quiet, reflective individual. A USA Today study even found that 65 percent of senior level managers believe being an introvert stands in the way of career advancement.
The good news is that assumptions about introvert and extrovert roles are changing. One professor of an MBA degree program noted that his students are increasingly willing to identify themselves as introverts. Prominent introverts like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg are changing the public’s perception of what makes a strong leader.
Even though extroverts may hold most leadership positions, they aren’t necessarily better at leading. There are many different ways introverts can draw from their unique strengths to serve as exceptional leaders in any organization.
Working with Proactive Employees
It’s tempting to divide leaders into broad categories like “good” and “bad,” but you may find it more useful to think about which types of leaders can best serve professionals with various temperaments and work styles.
A group of professors decided to study how test groups with proactive workers responded under introverted leaders versus extroverted leaders. As the researchers suspected, groups with introverted leaders performed much better, earning 16 percent higher profits than average in one scenario and being 28 percent more productive in another scenario.
What makes introverts excel in situations with proactive workers? The professors think introverted leaders are more open to receiving input from group members. Extroverts, on the other hand, may feel threatened by advice from their subordinates, causing them to disregard even the most promising ideas.
An introvert’s willingness to accept and carefully consider outside input not only drives better results, but it inspires team members to be more invested in the group’s success.
Many professionals are wowed by leaders who can make brilliant off-the-cuff decisions and deliver inspiring impromptu speeches. However, most day-to-day leadership decisions and initiatives are strengthened by better preparation.
Introverted leaders tend to value preparation, whether it involves gathering advice for an important decision, researching a new initiative or rehearsing an upcoming speech.
Leaders who are well prepared often bring order and efficiency to meetings and give employees more focused direction. They can also deliver visionary leadership by anticipating upcoming challenges and trends.
Placing more value on preparation not only benefits an organization, but it also inspires a leader’s team members to follow suit, creating a culture of preparedness.
Staying Calm Under Pressure
A top leadership position may come with a corner office and a good salary, but it can also mean regularly tackling high-stakes, stressful challenges. Introverts are more likely to bring a calm, cool demeanor to otherwise pressure-filled conditions.
This attitude can go a long way toward diffusing tense situations and building trust among customers, clients and partners.
A leader’s even-keeled demeanor can also set a positive tone for employees. A composed attitude contributes to a pleasant day-to-day work environment, helps everyone stay focused during stressful periods, and encourages a calmer attitude among all employees.
Extroverts still hold on to the majority of professional leadership positions, and they probably will for a while. But popular resources like Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“ are shifting the way people think about introverts and their strengths. Whether you’re an introvert yourself or you’re hiring for a new role, expand your picture of an ideal leader to include more reserved professionals.