October 22, 2009

Introverted and Extroverted Leaders: Gifts and Cautions by Mary Jo Asmus

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:01 am by ctennert

Gifts of the introverted leader:

  • Provides well thought out strategies and decisions
  • Exhibits calm in the midst of calamity
  • Focuses on what matters to them with great determination
  • Enjoys listening to others

You can see that these strengths can be of great value in our organizations and communities. However, the introverts themselves often feel as if they don’t fit in; with some justification, since our organizations and communities tend to be largely extraverted by nature.

There may be some traits in introverted leaders that bear caution. If you identify with being an introverted leader, you might want to take notice of some of the cautions below, as they are the traits that can possibly cause trouble for you. I’ve included ways to mitigate the behaviors as well.

Introverted leaders:

Can be underestimated when they don’t allow their voice to be heard: Your opinions and thoughts are important to the conversation. If you are unable to give them the proper thought in the moment, request permission to offer your opinions later, after you’ve had time to deliberate and think them through.

May not recognize the importance of connections and relationships in the workplace: Recognize that leadership is fundamentally relational,  and if you aren’t out being seen and heard, your followers will make up their own theories and stories about you and what you are thinking. Schedule the time to get out and be seen, and build the relationships you need to grow a network of support.

Might not provide the detail behind their decisions: Because introverts do so much of their thinking by reflecting rather than speaking, there can be a perception that the decisions they make aren’t as well thought out as they really are. Your followers need to know what goes into your thought process. You might consider journaling the detail of your thoughts and practice saying them so that the people who need to hear them can understand the entire picture.

Can become stressed when they don’t pay attention to their need for time alone: Pay attention to the physical symptoms that indicate that you are draining your energy and not recharging your batteries.  Finding strategies that help you to maintain this balance are important to avoid stress-induced illness. For many introverts, actually scheduling solitary activities or hobbies into their calendar may be helpful.

Introverted leaders, I wish you the joy of knowing the strengths you bring to your organization and community as well as the full understanding of the cautions that may be barriers to fully using them.

Gifts of the extraverted leader:

  • Quick in decisions and movement to action
  • Comfortable in interactions with people
  • Easily expresses thoughts, feelings
  • Enjoys initiating and participating

You might notice that the characteristics described can be great strengths for an extraverted leader. Eager participation, quick action, and comfort in interactions are a natural for an extraverted leader. I’ve always thought that many organizations are extraverted by nature, making an easy fit for leaders with this preference.

However, I’ve noticed some traits in extraverted leaders that bear caution. If the characteristics of an extraverted leader ring true for you, you might want to take notice (and ask for feedback) on whether you are exhibiting some of the following behaviors. Ways to mitigate these behaviors are included below.

Extraverted leaders:

May not consider all sides of an issue before taking action on it. The solution may be to stop, reflect, and ask others what they think. Involve others in your decisions and consider all sides. People love to be included, and your decisions will often be better with diverse input.

May not listen well. Listening better has great advantages. Your employees will think you are brilliant, and you will learn a lot. So simply: just shut up and listen. It’s a huge boost to your relationships.

Might think out loud. Sometimes people don’t understand that you are not making a decision or directing something to be done when your thoughts come directly out of your mouth. Yet an extravert often thinks through things by talking about them. Find a way to “think out loud” with a mentor, coach or peer whom you trust. Alternatively, remember to let people know when you are simply thinking by talking.

May overwhelm, dominate, and sometimes intimidate others. Others may feel overwhelmed by an extraverted leader’s pace and large presence. Slow down when you can, listen to others and allow them the time they need for doing their best thinking; it will pay off for you and your organization.

Best wishes, extraverted leader, in using your gifts; they are plentiful. Become aware of the things that might get in your way of fully using them; and best wishes in developing new behaviors that will make you an even more “gifted” leader.

 

 

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