A blend of extroverts and introverts is good recipe for leadership

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A blend of extroverts and introverts is good recipe for leadership


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Summary

  • Each of the opposing personality types has its own strengths and weaknesses, yet it seems there is constant debate about which it is better to be.
  • Some say that the internet has a “love affair” with introverts, and that being an introvert is, at long last cool, particularly during this pandemic.
  • That is likely a reaction to a culture that has long seemed to celebrate and reward extroverts, particularly in the workforce, where they are able to use their natural people skills.

“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”- Carl Jung.Given that leaders bolster organisational effectiveness and performance, there has been a long-standing interest in the personality traits of successful leaders. Blending both extrovert and introvert personality types can make you an indispensable leader. Those who successfully blend both personality types are known as ambiverts.

Each of the opposing personality types has its own strengths and weaknesses, yet it seems there is constant debate about which it is better to be. Some say that the internet has a “love affair” with introverts, and that being an introvert is, at long last cool, particularly during this pandemic. That is likely a reaction to a culture that has long seemed to celebrate and reward extroverts, particularly in the workforce, where they are able to use their natural people skills.

Complicating things further, some research has shown that introverts can outshine extroverts as leaders, despite the fact that the confident demeanour of an extrovert fits many people’s image of a typical leader.

A plethora of studies shows that ambiverts tend to be more effective leaders in comparison with extroverts and introverts. Extroverts are highly sociable, outgoing, impulsive, and boisterous, whereas introverts tend to be quiet, reflective, reserved, and less impulsive. In the middle of the personality continuum, we have the ambiverts who occupy the space between the polar extremes of extroversion and introversion, embracing the fundamental attributes of both.

Extroverts tend to gain energy externally and become bored when they are alone. Conversely, introverts tend to gain energy internally and prefer to spend time alone as they feel drained by a lot of social interaction. Ambiverts, on the other hand, get energy, both internally and externally.

According to Eysenck’s theory of personality, the varying behaviour of extroverts, ambiverts and introverts is due to differences in cortical arousal. Extroverts have low cortical arousal, which in turn increases their need for more external stimulation, while introverts have high cortical arousal that decreases their need for external stimulation. In contrast, ambiverts tend to have an optimal level of cortical arousal and therefore require moderate external stimulation.

Ambiverts are socially bilingual, highly flexible, less volatile, adaptive, communicative, and emotionally intelligent people. As “quasi-chameleons”, ambiverts can easily act like extroverts in social situations and introverts when alone, indicating the fact that they are highly adaptive and comfortable in a wide range of environments. Furthermore, ambivert leaders augment the organisation’s success by combining the extrovert’s assertiveness with the introvert’s quiet confidence. Ambiverts strike a fine balance between talking and listening, proving to be excellent leaders. They can pitch to investors, generate ideas, communicate the vision, and bring out the best from any introverted employees and partners. Extroverts with exceedingly “chirpy behaviour” or introverts with their anti-social and seclusive approach may put off introverted and extroverted clients respectively.

Adam Grant, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, coined the term “the ambivert advantage” in 2013 study that challenged the notion of extroverts being more successful and productive in a sales environment. After studying 340 call-centre employees, Grant found that workers who made the most revenue were those that fell in the middle of the extroversion scale.

“Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale,” Grant writes in the study. But ambiverts are also “more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and are less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.”

Although the traditionally accepted belief that extroverts and hands on leaders are the most effective, research shows that extroversion is not related to performance. An illuminating study by a team of researchers from Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago investigated more than 70,000 conference calls involving 4,591 CEOs and found a negative association between extroversion and contemporary, as well as future return on assets and cashflow.

In one of the studies conducted by Harvard in 2006, 65 percent of senior executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership.

In order for extroverts to become more ambiverted, they need to ensure that they have more “me time”, for example instead of spending the entire weekend socialising, they can try and reserve Saturday or Sunday for staying alone, enjoying a period of solitude, self-reflecting and introspecting. They should also reduce verbosity in meetings and be more receptive of other people’s ideas, while taking brief pauses to ask questions. In addition, they should monitor the all important non-verbal communication of their body language to avoid putting off their introverted peers.

Introverts also need strategies to become more ambiverted or move nearer the middle of the scale. They should reduce the “me time” by intermittently engaging in social activities to hone their social skills. Adequate practice and prior preparation may help introverts to put forth their ideas in business meetings. It is a good idea to request an agenda well in advance and to seek technological assistance which will help in presentation of novel and brilliant ideas. Volunteering for team-based assignments helps the introvert gain confidence and acceptance.

There is compelling evidence to suggest that organisations stand to benefit from training highly introverted or extroverted leaders to model the balanced approach of the ambivert leaders. Rather than limiting top management pool to only extroverts or introverts, organisations can promote ambivert leaders as they play a pivotal role in enhancing performance and development. By so doing, they will avoid losing out on those balanced and high performing leaders who bring novelty and incremental success to management table.

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