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Introverts vs. Extroverts: How to Identify and Develop Diverging Personality Types

 -  3/9/12

Convention says one is better at listening, while the other is more attuned to courting strong business relationships. How can CLOs recognize and develop the two?

A quick look at the mainstream business press these days will yield plenty of evidence of what’s become a popular debate: which personality type makes for better leaders — introverts or extroverts?

Some would suggest that the answer is easy. Because of the front-facing culture of global business, which demands that leaders pair their intellect and expertise with the ability to deliver a visible and lively external brand, it appears as if the extrovert has a clear advantage.

As convention has it, people who are more extroverted have more outgoing personalities, are able to cultivate and manage strong external business relationships and revel in hyper-communication and media attention. They feed off other people, and these days, people are everywhere.

But lately some are arguing otherwise — that the introvert, in actuality, is the better leader for today’s business climate. A recent article in Time magazine by Bryan Walsh, “The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts Are Overrated),” spoke more broadly on the topic, save for a small passage suggesting “introverts are better at listening ... and that in turn can make them better business leaders, especially if their employees feel empowered to act on their own initiative.”

Meanwhile, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, a book by former Wall Street attorney Susan Cain published in January, says that U.S. culture is unfairly dominated by the “extrovert ideal” and that introversion shouldn’t be shunned but encouraged by parents, teachers and employers.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, recently made the case for introverts in an article in Psychology Today. To her, introverts make for better leaders for a simple reason: “They’re more likely to listen and pay attention to what other people are saying.”

In an era of great noise, it’s these quiet leaders who are more open to the ideas of others who will thrive. “They tend to be a little more attuned to the inner life,” Whitbourne said. Introverted leaders are also more reflective, a trait that enables some to be able to better evaluate business situations and think more critically and clearly.

Article Keywords:   leadership development   mentoring   experience   leadership  


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