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Why this might be the time to thrive on introvert leadership skills

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” C.G. Jung

It’s still a widely held assumption, that extrovert personalities make for better leaders. Being communicative, outgoing and holding strong points of view are abilities widely regarded as favorable for hiring leaders, and for promotion. Throughout my corporate and agency career I have experienced it myself — our systems tend to be biased towards those who are good at getting into the spotlight.

At times this can lead to moth-like behavior. Swarms of aspiring leaders and career climbers fluttering around their superiors. Blinded by those who are most visible within their span of awareness, leaders can often go for the obvious choice. It becomes a system that replicates itself, leading to a lack of diversity in leadership teams. A lack of diversity of thought, personality and approach. In times of crisis, times like these, this can be detrimental.

Whilst there is research to support the belief in the extrovert leader, newer research and current thinking around creative leadership suggest a more differentiated view. For example, in a 2010 HBR article, Wharton Professor and modern leadership expert Adam Grant and behavioral scientists Francesca Gino and David A. Hofmann, offer a different perspective based on their scientific research. They suggest that, especially in times of uncertainty and dynamic, unpredictable circumstances, the introverts are often the more effective leaders.

In calmer times, when there is less complexity to handle, and when the course of action is clear, a leader’s objective might be more focused on directing the workforce for maximum efficiency. That’s the environment that plays to extrovert strengths and is more forgiving when this results in taking over discussions, commanding the centre of attention or becoming victims of one own’s confirmation and status-quo bias.

But what if the context changes like currently through Covid19?

Hardly anyone can assume that doing business as usual will continue to be successful. No leader has been here before, no one can absolutely know what the right thing to do is. However, in the absence of a clear plan, many are jumping to conclusions about what the post Corona future will be. LinkedIn and other platforms have become even noisier with countless opinions of what any possible industry or business relationship will be like. A world of extroverts shouting to get their attention share and still trying to lead the discussion?

So what about the ones we don’t hear?