It is observed that leaders who are extroverts often take centre stage. Their extrovert nature makes them gregarious, and capable of asserting themselves. They possess the ability to command a room. However, in the bustling world of teamwork and collaboration, a quiet revolution is underway, challenging the notion that introverts cannot be effective team leaders. Introverts, with their introspective nature, exceptional listening skills and thoughtful decision-making, possess a unique set of qualities that can foster a harmonious and high-performing team. This article aims to shed light on the remarkable traits of introverted leaders, dispel the myth that leadership and introversion are mutually exclusive, and explore how introverts can successfully navigate the complex dynamics of leading a team.
“Leadership effectiveness is not solely determined by whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert. Both types of individuals have the potential to excel or struggle as leaders because effective leadership necessitates distinct skill sets related to managing people,” points out Manish Majumdar, head-HR, EMS, Centum Electronics.
Extremely extroverted people typically do not require much time or personal space, as they derive energy from being around people. They naturally enjoy the company of others and find energy in social interactions. On the other hand, introverted leaders can excel as team players and are adept at motivating and organising groups when it comes to achieving objectives.
The difference lies in the approach to managing people as each may have a unique management style influenced by their personality traits.
“Leadership effectiveness is not solely determined by whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert. Both types of individuals have the potential to excel or struggle as leaders because effective leadership necessitates distinct skill sets related to managing people.”
Manish Majumdar, head-HR, EMS, Centum Electronics
Agreeing to the same, Udbhav Ganjoo, head-HR, global operations, Viatris, opines, “All individuals possess their own unique personality and traits, which influence their approach to leadership. When discussing effective team leadership, it is essential to recognise that different leaders have their own distinct leadership styles shaped by their respective individual personalities.”
Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, NewGen Technologies, observes, “There are three key elements that contribute to being an influential leader — character, competency and ability to inspire. However, when it comes to picking the better leader, introversion or extroversion does not have an impact. What truly matters is the leaders’ core values and how their words align with their actions. Competence as a manager is not determined solely by a person’s introvert or extrovert personality.”
Both introverts and extroverts can be equally competent, with introverts often displaying more depth in their expertise. While they may not naturally engage in extensive social interactions, they draw energy from within and can exhibit tremendous passion for a cause, effectively rallying people towards a common objective. The difference between introverts and extroverts lies in the source of their energy, but both can demonstrate great passion and energy in their leadership roles.
All leaders believe that introverted employees can be great team leaders. In fact, in certain situations, they may turn out to be even better than the extroverts.
Establishing strong connections: Extroverts often excel in connecting with others due to their outgoing and sociable nature. However, it is important to recognise that introverted individuals can also establish strong connections with people when necessary. “The main distinction lies in the fact that introverted individuals require ample time alone or in their own personal space. This need for solitude is crucial for them to reflect, process information internally, and draw energy from within,” opines Majumdar.
“Leadership is a quality that is not exclusive to extroverts. Whether or not introverts possess leadership traits depends on the style they adopt. Even introverted leaders can excel in their roles.”
Udbhav Ganjoo, head-HR, global operations, Viatris
Agreeing with the same, Ganjoo asserts, “While introverts may not openly express their thoughts in large group settings like the extroverts, their inclination towards one-on-one meetings and small group interactions allows them to forge deeper connections with individual team members. Through these more intimate interactions, introverted leaders can establish meaningful connections that contribute to a strong bond within the team.”
Active listening: Another crucial leadership trait is active listening, which introverts often excel at. They possess the ability to attentively listen to others and are receptive to different ideas and perspectives. This trait fosters a sense of trust and respect within the team, as team members feel valued and understood. As a result, they are more comfortable sharing their thoughts and positions with such a leader.
Managing a specific group: In certain cases, introverts may be better suited to manage certain groups of people. Majumdar cites an important example of fields such as insurance, actuarial work, and finance, where it is common to find introverts, as they tend to thrive in such environments. Managers in this field often exhibit a more methodical and precise approach when communicating with their team members. Their conversations may be succinct and focused, with a preference for clarity over verbosity. This concise and to-the-point communication style is valued.
On the other hand, in fields such as marketing, extroverts are often preferred due to the nature of the job, which requires more outward-facing and expressive qualities. Marketing professionals may try to be more extroverted and flamboyant while connecting with others.
However, these differences in management styles do not make one individual a better team leader than the other. “The effectiveness of leaders depends on how well their management style aligns with the specific group of people they are managing and the nature of the work involved. As long as a particular management style is suitable for the team being managed and the work being done, it can be considered successful,” adds Majumdar.
“Both extroverted and introverted leaders can excel in their roles. However, some of the most fervent leaders tend to be introverts, as their passion is nurtured through introspection and deep contemplation. Subsequently, they inspire others through their clear articulation and impassioned call to action.”
Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, NewGen Technologies
Credibility: “Many introverted leaders possess remarkable character, and have a clear understanding of their own principles, values and identity. People recognise their strong moral compass, and when they express something, it is taken seriously because they are known to genuinely mean what they say. This solidifies their credibility,” asserts Tripathi.
Empathetic and understanding: “Introverts often possess a heightened sense of empathy and can effectively comprehend the needs and emotions of their team members. This heightened sensitivity can lead to improved communication, stronger relationships and an environment that encourages collaboration within the team,” believes Ganjoo.
Their exceptional understanding also heightens their ability to concentrate. “It allows them to prioritise essential matters and gain a profound understanding of them. As a result, they can develop in-depth expertise in those areas,” points out Tripathi.
High levels of contemplation and introspection: Introverts have a tendency to engage in profound thinking prior to making decisions, and they exhibit great caution in their actions. They frequently examine multiple perspectives, explore diverse alternatives and assess potential consequences. This thoughtful approach can lead to well-thought-out choices and effective strategies.
Balanced management: Introverts successfully manage teams consisting of extroverts, demonstrating the ability to strike a delicate balance. For instance, when extrovert members of teams are managed by introverted leaders, the latter may take more time to introspect, gather thoughts, and then present their ideas for discussion. They may seek individual conversations to delve deeper into the topic. On the other hand, extroverted managers may encourage group brainstorming sessions to generate action points.
Passion for cause: Introverted leaders possess a strong passion for a particular cause. They may not require extensive social interactions, but when they are convinced of something, they effectively communicate their convictions and make a significant impact on their team members. “Once they have identified their purpose, they invest deep thought and cultivate a strong passion for it. For instance, an entrepreneur I worked with for over six years was an introvert but had dedicated ample time to develop a crystal-clear vision and strategy. Introversion, at times, leads to profound thinking, which, in turn, results in clarity and passionate dedication to an objective,” believes Tripathi.
Tripathi further observes, “Both extroverted and introverted leaders can excel in their roles. However, some of the most fervent leaders tend to be introverts, as their passion is nurtured through introspection and deep contemplation. Subsequently, they inspire others through their clear articulation and impassioned call to action.”
By harnessing their strengths and adjusting to the organisation’s requirements, introverted individuals can excel as team leaders and serve as valuable mentors.
However, determining whether one management style is superior to the other depends on the specific situation and the type of people being managed. “There is no universally better or worse style. The effectiveness of leadership depends on various factors such as the context, the goals, and the individuals involved. Assessing the situation and understanding the needs and preferences of the people being managed are key to determining which management approach will be most successful,” points out Majumdar.
Similarly, Ganjoo opines, “Leadership is a quality that is not exclusive to extroverts. Whether or not introverts possess leadership traits depends on the style they adopt. Even introverted leaders can excel in their roles.” The effectiveness of leaders, regardless of them being extroverts or introverts, depends on their leadership style. There is no inherent superiority of one over the other.
“In a broader context, the discussion revolves around what makes a good leader. Anyone with fundamental leadership traits has the potential to be a valuable team member, regardless of their digital or social strengths and weaknesses, or their personality traits,” asserts Ganjoo.
The specific role, the people being managed, and the nature of the work, all influence the required behaviours for effective leadership. “Skilled leaders will adapt and embody the necessary behaviours for their particular job, irrespective of whether they lean towards introversion or extroversion. While their approach to managing situations may differ based on their natural tendencies, it does not render one type of leadership inherently inferior to the other,” concludes Majumdar.