Introverts vs. Extroverts: Leadership Challenges& How to Solve Them

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There are a variety of tests and surveys you can take to learn about your personality traits and assess your strengths and weaknesses as they fit in the workplace. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the DiSC Profile, and the Big Five are a few that come to mind — we even use DiSC here at HubSpot.

These tests and their subsequent results often hinge upon the different traits and habits of introverts versus extroverts.

These personality traits are more commonly associated with your personal life, but introversion and extroversion impact how you interact with everyone — including your coworkers. In fact, identifying whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert could help you be a better leader, too.

All leaders have their own distinctive styles and methods for motivating and empowering teams, and while none of them are right or wrong, some can be adjusted to induce team work environments as productive and successful as is practicable. In this post, we’ll dive into the exact differences between introverts and extroverts, and how they can solve common leadership challenges their personality types might face.

Introvert vs. Extrovert Definitions

Introverts are people who gain and recharge mental energy by is available on quieter, less stimulating environments. Extroverts are the opposite: They gain and recharge their energy by being around other people in more stimulating environments.

Quiet Revolution co-founder and author Susan Cain says introverts “listen more than they talk, gues before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.” She described the difference between introversion and extroversion using an example: After spending 3 hour at a friend’s birthday party, would you be more inclined to go home for the night and decompress, or keep the party going? The science behind the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in our nervous system. One great difference has to do with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that induces reward-seeking behavior. When dopamine production increases in your brain, both introverts and extroverts become more talkative and more alert to people in their surrounds. And as it turns out, dopamine is more active in the brains of extroverts. For introverts, acetylcholine is the preferred neurotransmitter — one that gives people pleasure when they reflect inward and take a lot of time to think deeply or focus intensely on only one thing.

So, introverts aren’t inevitably shy, and extroverts aren’t inevitably party animals — the different types simply derive more pleasure from different levels of external stimulu. ( And it’s important to note that there’s a spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and it’s possible to be an ambivert — a person who has habits and propensities of both introverts and extroverts .)

Challenges can arise in the workplace because individuals with extroverted propensities — such as a willingness to speak up — might be promoted first or get more attention from executives — especially in fast-paced business environments. But there are challenges that can come up when introverts are leaders, too.

How Introverted Leaders Can Improve

The Challenge:

I asked Cain about her supposes on how introversion can impede leaders at this year’s Simmons Leadership Conference. “For introverted leaders, the temptation is to keep their heads down and focused; the challenge can be to interact with their teams as frequently and enthusiastically as their team members would like.”

The Solution:

Introverted leaders should determine effective ways to interact and communicate with their team members that are comfy for both introverts and extroverts. Some suggestions include:

Schedule weekly 1:1 meetings with team members so you can prepare in advance for giving feedback and discussing work. Host “Office Hours” for team members who want to chat in person outside of regularly scheduled meetings. Overcommunicate instructions and contextual datum you might not share as openly in a team session. Use communication and team collaboration tools — like Slack, Asana, and Trello — to keep avenues of communication about ongoing projects and initiatives open without having to hold a session. Schedule meetings with a clear agenda for all team members invited. Promote team members( and yourself) to prepare for team meetings in advance so everyone can contribute to the discussion. Introverts might require more time to read, write, and prepare notes for a session to feel empowered to speak on the fly, so promote your team to read any pre-meeting the documentation and put aside time to prepare. Determine how different team members like to give and receive feedback — and whether it’s in person or via email, challenge yourself to tailor your feedback to its recipient. Explicitly communicate kudo, either in person or via email, so team members feel appreciated. Where extroverts might prefer to be praised in a team session, introverts might prefer to receive kudo in a 1:1 session.

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