A question we hear often is, “Who makes the best leader?” or “Is there a personality type that predicts the best chances for success in leadership?
The short answer is…(insert drumroll here!)…NO!
There are many ‘personality assessments’ on the market that assess our strengths, weaknesses, quirks, communication styles and level of extroversion or introversion. Many of these tools are founded in the Jungian tradition, such as the Myers-Briggs.
While they are great ways to develop some self-awareness, we work with many leaders who take them way too seriously and use them to label both themselves and others. Essentially putting themselves and others in a static box…a box with very high sides out of which they cannot escape!
Tools that give us more information about ourselves are just that…bits of information that can inform us if we have some blind spots and can normalize why we are naturally good at some things and not naturally good at others.
Unfortunately, the good information is often used to label and constrict as opposed to inform and open up possibilities. This especially seems to hold true when people are assigned the labels of extrovert and introvert.
There is no bad style
A common misconception, especially with something like the Meyers-Briggs test, is the extent to which being extroverted or introverted affects a person’s leadership potential.
Extroverts are often praised for their boisterous, passionate style. They tend to naturally attract a following of people that get excited about the same things they are excited about. They tend to inspire people with their vision, assertiveness, and high energy level. People want to be around them; they want to be in their inner circle.
Introverts are often contemplative and quieter. They tend to speak less, be perceived as being shy, and get overwhelmed during intense social interactions. They are generally great listeners and are good at making order out of chaos due to their calm, collected nature. When they do speak up it is purposeful and relevant.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, young leaders who are labelled as introverts often take it to mean that they are doomed to be quiet and overlooked. They may even believe they will not make great leaders. And worse yet, other senior managers, who make hiring and promotion decisions, may have an unconscious bias towards extroverts and incorrectly believe that introverts do not make great leaders.
Introverts make great leaders
In fact, many very successful leaders are introverts. They simply bring their own valuable leadership skills which look different from extroverted leaders.
Introverts tend to have a leadership style that's sometimes referred to as "servant leadership," which according to The Journal of Management is "demonstrated by empowering and developing people; by expressing humility, authenticity, interpersonal acceptance, and stewardship; and by providing direction."
In HBR’s article on What Sets Successful CEO’s Apart, they share the power of introverts to lead. “Our findings challenged many widely held assumptions. For example, our analysis revealed that while boards often gravitate toward charismatic extroverts, introverts are slightly more likely to surpass the expectations of their boards and investors.”
In another example, Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts reveals how introverts have been undervalued and highlights the value they bring to organizations and the world.
Visit quietrev.com to learn more about the Quiet Revolution.
The best leaders we know, know themselves
What the extraversion/introversion scale actually reveals is what energizes people.
Extroverts get energized by people and social situations. They appear more assertive because their assertions tend to be loud and passionately orated.
Introverts get energized by ideas, long term planning and 1:1 connection. Their assertions tend to be quieter and more behind the scenes.
What we have found makes the most successful leaders are those who know themselves, are really connected with how their strengths contribute to a team and what weaknesses might detract from the team.
These successful leaders are transparent and vulnerable with their teams about ‘who they are’ and openly invite others to shore up their weaknesses with others strengths.
Both Extroverts and Introverts experience success when focused on relationships
In our research used to create the Relationship Intelligence™ Tool (RQ) we focused on qualities that weren’t tied to personality type. We found that whether you are extroverted or introverted in your delivery…it is the relationship skills you possess that can drive your success as a leader.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge had this to say, "When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive. Through that relationship, leaders turn their constituents into leaders themselves.”
Here are the 5 relationship skills we focused on in the RQ tool:
Conversation: What kind of conversations are you having? Are you asking good question and actively listening? What’s your intention in having the conversation? Is it to build the person up, or tear them down? Are you having influence and positive impact through your conversations?
Safe Haven: How safe an environment have you created for people to bring their true selves to work. Are you demonstrating that it is safe to express a different viewpoint than yours? Do people trust it is ok to challenge the status quo, operate differently toward the mutual goal, think outside the box, table crazy ideas?
Generosity: How generous are you with your time, feedback and investment in people? How often do you promote someone else’s talents or ideas? How often do you give of your talent to someone or another team without expecting anything in return?
Candor: How candid are you with your feedback and opinions? Do you let people know that you are invested in their success by your candor? Do you challenge the status quo in service of the person or organization? Are you courageous enough to tell someone when their performance is jeopardizing their job or their chances for promotion? Are bold enough to bring clarity back to a central issue when the rest of the team gets off track or are too much ‘into the weeds’?
Transparency: How transparent are you in your intentions and with information that could serve to help another person or team be successful? How often do you admit your own mistakes in front of others and ask for help when you need it? How safe is it for others to talk about their mistakes in front of you? Does the conversation that follows that admission serve as an opportunity for everyone to learn and grow?
It’s not about the personality...it’s about the Relationship!
We have had the great fortune of knowing and working with hundreds of great leaders! Some are extroverts, some are introverts, some are loud, some are quiet, some are visionary, some are methodical and process driven, some are great with large groups of people, some are great with 1:1 connects.
What they all have in common is that they know themselves, they know what success looks like in their role and in their organization, and they are great at honest, intentional relationships!
What have you seen or experienced that you think is integral for great leadership?
Our Relationship Intelligence™ Model helps you build great relationships and collaboration skills, work faster and create space for innovative ideas.