Are you an introvert or extrovert leader – and do you adjust your leadership style to manage the introverts and extroverts in your team? It may be surprising to learn that small changes to the way you approach management, and how you manage each person, could make a huge difference to productivity, motivation and development – for everyone. In this post, we’ll look at how people manage differently when they are one or the other, and how to get the best out of employees who are introverts or extroverts too.
Are you an introvert or extrovert leader?
I remember a coach once saying to me, “If you climbed to the top of a mountain, would you want time to enjoy the achievement in quiet solitude – or would you want to rush up to the first person you could find to talk about it? That’s the difference between an introvert and an extrovert.”
There is a little more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea. Extroverts love company; they get their energy from being around others and sharing experiences, even if it’s with a total stranger. They make decisions swiftly, and are happier to take risks and to multi-task. Introverts, on the other hand, are more measured. They take their energy from being alone, and favour one-to-one interactions over big groups. They prefer to work on a single task at once and get it done before moving onto the next, and they like to have the time to think over a question before responding.
The world we live in naturally favours those who have extrovert tendencies, especially in business: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – “put yourself out there” – “you’ve got to be visible” – we’re told that all of these things are critical to success, and they come much more easily to an extrovert than an introvert. However, success isn’t guaranteed if you’re an extrovert, just as it’s not out of reach if you’re an introvert; some of the most powerful leaders in the world aren’t those larger than life, outgoing personalities that we often associate with a good leader. Bill Gates and Barack Obama are often described as “softly spoken” and “unassuming” – and you can’t get much more successful than them in their fields.
But introverted leaders do face challenges. They get their energy from alone time, and they can find that networking, presenting and meetings can be tiring at best, and terrifying at worst. Being a successful leader requires a lot of relationship-building, and high visibility at various levels in an organisation: and if you find that to be energy-sapping, you need a careful strategy for accomplishing it.
Successful introvert leaders understand this, they are open about it with others, and they act upon it when they need to. They don’t shy away from those public speaking opportunities, because a chance to present is so important for showing what you can offer, and who you are – but a successful introvert will put in some serious preparation to reduce the toll it will take on them, and build in time to recharge afterwards. The more they push themselves into those networking events, big meetings and presentations – and most importantly, set aside the time they need to prepare and then regroup – the easier it will become. Knowing what motivates and energises you is just as important as knowing what you find difficult, because you can balance one with the other.
Managing your introvert and extrovert team members
The most successful leaders out there understand their teams, and how to get the best from them. They know which ones are the extroverts and introverts, and they manage them accordingly, giving them what they need to thrive – but most importantly, they are aware of their own natural introvert or extrovert tendency, and how this will affect their management style.
If you’re a naturally introverted leader, you probably find you would prefer to manage your employees via email from the solitude of your office – and while that may work well for your introvert team members, your extroverts will not be getting the personal contact that helps them to thrive. They will feel like it’s always up to them to disturb you and ask questions, which could lead to stifling their creativity and team input, and even cause resentment longer term. Help them out by scheduling regular in-person times with them, when they know they will be getting that attention and time to talk that’s mutually convenient.
Another way that your extrovert team members flourish is having time to be creative in a group environment, so offer plenty of opportunities for collaboration between team members: let them come up with the plans together, and can get started quickly on them when they’re ready.
If you’re an extroverted leader, the opposite is true and you’ll need to adjust your approach for your introverts. You’ll be the one looking for those in-person interactions, and you probably find yourself seeking out your team for impromptu chats and question times. This is great for your energy and your extroverts will love it, but it can be quite draining and even stressful for your introverts.
If you ask your team questions, give everyone some time to have a think about what you’ve said, and come back later with an answer. Be aware that your introverts may need a bit of time to recharge, too – if they’ve been in and out of meetings all morning, you won’t be getting them at their best if you schedule a team huddle straight after. They also work much better on a one to one basis than in a big team meeting, so make sure you’ve got a variety of opportunities to speak.
Nobody is solely one extreme or the other, but everyone is likely to favour one personality type more than another. Being aware of and in tune with your own tendency and those of your team members will allow you (and them) to play to the team’s strengths as individuals; which will in turn make you all stronger, more motivated and more successful as a whole.
If you’d like to learn more about managing and leading a successful team, I’ve got regular tips and tricks especially for new managers in my emails, and on my YouTube channel, which you can find here: Kasia Murphy on YouTube
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