Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders - In the Right Circumstances

When you look at the classic personality traits of a successful leader, they usually jibe with those of an extrovert: vocal, outgoing, smooth. The Harvard Business School works very hard at turning reticent students into outgoing students. These outgoing students graduate, step into roles as leaders and, in certain situations, fail or perform less well than their introverted counterparts do. Why is that?

Wharton Management professor Adam Grant wondered the same thing. He partnered with professor Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and David Hofmann of the Kenan-Flagler Business School to perform two studies addressing this question.

The First Study

The first study analyzed data from one of the biggest pizza chains in the United States. They discovered the profits of stores run by extroverts were 16% higher than those run by introverts, but only when the store teams were passive and exercised their roles without initiative. In cases where the store employees were active in their efforts to improve processes or performance, the exact opposite was true - introverted leaders' store profits were 14% higher than the extroverts.

The Second Study

Grant's team divided 163 college students into competing teams who had to fold as many t-shirts as possible in 10 minutes. Undercover in each team were two actors: on some teams, the actors were passive and on some they worked together to suggest an improvement to the folding technique to the leader.

Again, in cases where the team members were active, the introverted leader's team performed better. The introvert leader was 20% more likely to take the suggestion, and their teams had 24% better results than the extroverted leaders'. When the teams were passive, those led by extroverts did 22% better than those led by introverts.

The Conclusion

Introverts are uniquely capable of taking advantage of proactive teams. Their inclination to listen to others and not take charge of social situations puts them in the situation to better hear and implement suggestions. Once they have benefited from the talents of their teams, they are more likely to motivate a proactive approach. This creates a continual cycle of proactivity.

So...look at your team. Are they active or passive? My experience in the business world and the world in general, is that we have created a culture that celebrates extroverts. Who leads extroverts better? Introverts, it would seem. Though this line of study is still in its infancy, it may yet prove the value of introverts in a management capacity, and change the thinking of corporate America.

If this topic is of particular interest to you, you might try picking up a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.


Post a Comment