Picture an ideal leader. Is it a snapshot of a strong, type A personality who leads by force? Well, though many of us may think of the extroverted alpha leader as the best type, studies show that they may not be the most effective in many circumstances.
A study by Wharton management professor Adam Grant found that teams led by extroverts tended to perform better only when the employees were passive types who tended to do their job without exercising initiative. Introverts had the exact opposite experience. When they worked with employees who actively tried to improve work procedures, they outperformed the extroverted leaders.
Introverts tend to create a circle of proactivity. They are more open and receptive to the ideas of others, which motivates their team to work harder. Extroverts, on the other hand, can be so intent on promoting their own agenda that they risk losing others’ good ideas along the way. Though they have a natural ability to inspire, their efforts are more effective with passive workers (For more information, read Quiet by Susan Cain, pp.55-57).
If you’re an introvert, unsure about your leadership abilities, this should give you hope. Given the right opportunity, your natural inclination will help you to get the best out of a motivated team. If you’re an extrovert, it gives you a challenge. You may have more frequent opportunities to lead, but if you want a team of self-starters, listen more than you speak. Squelch some of your natural inclination to jump to the optimal conclusion and let your team members find their way. Focus on developing others instead of pushing your own ideas.
Great leadership is a complex, nuanced attribute. Use your God-given personality traits but maximize them to get the best out of your team.