It's time for introverts to take charge

The unspoken leaders: Why it’s time for introverts to take charge

Nicole Wray|

Imagine being placed in a group of proactive staff members asked to brainstorm and share profitable ideas for the coming year. If you are introverted like me, you’re probably clamming up just thinking about it.

Now imagine if that group were led by an A-type personality; someone outgoing, outspoken and extroverted (as it turns out that 96% of managers and executives are) and you might be ready to call in sick that day.  For many introverted people, to be noticed by a loud leader feels nearly impossible.

Fortunately, recent research is beginning to identify the profitable power of having introverts in leadership positions. There is evidence surfacing that if you want a more productive team, you should put an introvert in charge.

In a study published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2011, “Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity,” it was discovered that extroverted group leadership can be ineffective in certain situations.

For example, in their study of 57 national pizza delivery chain stores, it was found that when highly proactive employees were managed by an introverted leadership personality, profits were 14% higher than in stores that were staffed by proactive employees managed by an extroverted leader.

In a second example measuring the productivity of proactive college students managed by an introverted leadership style, it was found that students were 28% more productive than when they were managed by an extroverted leader.

In both cases, the researchers concluded that, “when employees were proactive…extraverted leadership was associated with lower group performance.”

More apt to be receptive to employees’ efforts to voice their ideas, the study discovered that “less extraverted leaders can develop more efficient and effective practices that enhance group effectiveness.”

That is to say that more innovations and creative idea sharing can be produced when leaders are willing to listen to others rather than simply doing all of the talking themselves. In an economy where creative thinking and innovation are increasingly important to survival and success for businesses, having a leader who cultivates these can be vital. Introverts, it’s time to lead.

Have you worked with an introverted leader? How did it change the group dynamics? Please share your thoughts with us.

Nicole Wray


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