The potential of the Introvert

When you think of the introvert we picture the quiet individual in the corner not wanting to be bothered by people or that person who works better on their own, talks occasionally but whom less is known.

Yet, the introvert can be a quiet person and still be a leader.

Mark Zuckerberg the founder of THE social network is an infamous extrovert. Many regard him as cold or having a less than charismatic personality.

Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft and the world’s richest man is known as an introvert yet fiercely passionate when it comes to business.

Barack Obama the President of The United States is constantly speaking and having to be around people of all kinds is also an introvert, he has even been criticised for having an aloof personality.

These men besides being introverts have in common that they are all leaders. They may be in different avenues but they’re still in charge of mass groups of people and in the case of Zuckerberg and Gates they have changed both social and business behaviours, built brands and companies that will last for many years. The quiet people can be formal speakers, intelligent individuals, and can accomplish their goals and more just like the extrovert. Introverts are more thoughtful individuals who listen and take in opinions. We laud and praise the extrovert leader but introverts can conquer anything they put their minds to.

The article ‘7 Persistent Myths Introverts and Extroverts’ by Margarita Tartavoksy explains away some of the negative images we have of introverts; such as introverts are shy, not good speakers and are unhappy. In the article she mentions psychologist Laurie Helgoe, who says in her book, “Brain imaging studies have shown that when introverts and extroverts respond to external stimulation, introverts have more activity in the regions of the brain that process information, make meaning and problem solve”. Tartavoksy says, “This may explain why introverts need solitude and time to self-reflect in order to analyze ideas and think things through.”

Another article tells of tests done with groups of people to show the pros and cons of being an introvert or extrovert. The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses by Adam Grant, Francesca Gino, David A. Hoffman set up various tests to prove the dominant, outgoing people aka extroverts do not always make the best bosses. One test that was conducted with 163 college students who were split into work groups to see how many T-shirts they could fold in 10 minutes. Here is how the test turned out: Each group had a leader and four followers, two of whom were research assistants posing as followers. To manipulate the behaviour of the leaders, they had each read a statement before the activity began: Some read a statement celebrating extroverted leaders such as JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. While others read a statement glorifying reserved leaders like Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln. They also predisposed some followers toward proactive behaviour. For instance, some of the researchers-followers stopped their groups after 90 seconds and suggested a better way to perform the task. The groups with proactive followers performed better under an introverted leader– folding, on average, 28% more T-shirts. The extroverted leaders appeared threatened by and unreceptive to proactive employees. The introverted leaders listened carefully and made employees feel valued, motivating them to work hard.

When viewing your talent, whether hiring, managing, or reviewing, consider the introvert within the context of the role, your teams and the overall company culture. Jobshape provides this lens in all these contexts however, you all talent managers would benefit from some better understanding of what makes the Introvert ‘tick’

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