To speak or not to speak…

Ever felt like people aren’t listening to you? Ever felt like you have said a lot and felt as though others did not listen or understand you?

I was reading a blog post that a classmate wrote recently about listening to others and how we can filter some people out and got to thinking about introverts versus extroverts in leadership. Most people would assume that extroverts make the best leaders for a variety of reasons. Some would argue that introverts, with their lack of communication, would make poor leaders because they don’t present the “take charge” image that most of have with leaders, getting out in front and giving orders. An article I read regarding the argument of introverts versus extroverts as leaders and the argument is made that introverts may edge out the normal belief of extroverts being better leaders.

Noted in the article is that introverted leaders are usually “more reflective and critical of situations” and that leaders should be selected that best fit situations, rather than relying on beliefs of which type is best. There are two examples of introverted leaders I will use to lend more credibility to the article’s note. My grandfather was the half owner and in charge of a multi-million dollar corporation and during most meetings that technology and equipment manufacturers had with his company would be in the board room, attempting to sell their products to improve output, quality, and the like. Usually, my grandfather, who was an introvert, would show up at some point during the meeting and spend only 10-15 minutes listening to the presentation and walk out. He was not one to wear a suit either and, at the end of the presentations, someone would usually ask the board members “who was that man that stepped in for just a few minutes?” The answer was always “that was who you were really trying to sell to” and their faces would show their shock. My grandfather knew that he had other things to accomplish and the other executive officers were already at the meeting, so he would show up just to get a few ideas about what was being offered, and then ask the team about the specifics later to make his decisions.

In my experiences over the last four years in business school (and in most situations I have been involved with in life), there are a lot of group projects that must be done. I too am an introvert, but more because I learned in life that listening was the best formula in decision making, and also basic strategy of not letting others know what you think in competition. One project I was involved with in class had a large group of people to do the semester long work. I did not volunteer to be in charge of the group, but only two weeks after others clamoring to be in charge, very little was being produced and I just began doing the work. The others realized that I knew more about the project than the rest and began coming to me to direct them in their portion of the work and the project ended up with a very high grade. I did not volunteer for, ask for, nor outright take charge, but ended up in the leader role because of knowledge, being critical of the work we had to do, and reflection on the work that was done.

As a note, I do not make the argument that introverts are better than extroverts at leadership, just that they are not worse leaders. Matching the situation with the people is still the best way to go.

I’m always looking for comments, opinions, and ideas on what is posted. What do you think on this topic? Do you have any examples of your own in either personality type?

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