Leverage the talent of people around you

The organisation led by introverted managers extorts good performance.

It is axiomatic, that a ‘leader’ is someone who has followers. So it is the followers who determine who would be leading them.

The greatest leaders are those who are able to leverage the talents of people around them and raise each person to function closer to them or at their full potential. Other essentials attributes to leadership, which are authenticity, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, also have nothing to do with introversion or extroversion.

We often expect corporate executives to conform to certain extroverted “CEO” stereotypes: C for charismatic, E for effusive, and O for outgoing.

The psych literature has another name for extraversion. It is ‘surgency’, having the same derivation as the word ‘surge’. Think ‘troop surge’ or ‘storm surge’ to get the general idea.

Extraverts are born with low cortical stimulation, and seek to compensate by generating neural activity (including talking). In contrast, introverts are born with excessive cortical stimulation and hence seek to block out the noise of extraverts.

But then there are the introverted CEOs: calm, eremitic, and observant. Introverts actually can be better leaders than extraverts, especially when their employees are naturally proactive.

Conflates the concept of ‘manager’ or ‘CEO’ with the concept of ‘leader’, where, in fact, these concepts are orthogonal. Some managers may be ‘leaders’, many would not. Employee compliance is considerably different from a follower’s commitment.

Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual, but with different groups of employees.

An extraverted leader actually can be a liability for an organisation’s performance, especially if the followers are extraverts too. In short, new ideas can’t blossom into profitable projects if everyone in the room is contributing ideas, and the leader is too busy being outgoing to listen to or act upon them.

An introverted leader, on the other hand, is more likely to listen to and process the ideas of an eager team. But if an introverted leader is managing a bunch of passive followers, then a staff meeting may start to resemble a Quaker meeting: lots of contemplation, but hardly any talk. To that end, a team of passive followers benefits from an extraverted leader.

So it would be interesting to know if the subordinates and followers are mainly introverted or extraverted.

Sure enough, they perform well in organisations where the employees are relatively passive but the managers extraverted. On the other hand, where the employees are proactive, the organisation led by introverted managers extorts good performance.

Meanwhile, the performance will be just so in organisations where extraverted managers led proactive employees and introverted managers led passive employees.

Introverted leaders are not prone to self-promotion; typically they have more trouble than their extraverted colleagues rising through the corporate ranks in order to take a leadership role. This is especially true if they are surrounded by extraverted co-workers, who are likely to receive promotions because they actively draw attention to themselves, fitting the stereotypes of great leaders.

Unfortunately, organisations that promote only extraverts are natural ‘breeding grounds’ for the aforementioned ineffectual situations in which extraverts report to extraverts. Fortunately, it is possible not only to change prevailing attitudes about leadership, but to influence leadership behaviour as well - that is, to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation.

A general belief is that introverts are the best leaders for proactive employees and the key to success is showing behaviour either in extrovert or introvert manner. It is a fact that there exists a value difference between extroverts and introverts.

Extroverts are more likely to change their values as per situations. That means, they derive their source of power externally. They try to align their values with external demand whereas; introverts usually do not change their values and beliefs. They do what they think is right. They believe in doing than claiming. So, introverts are action-oriented people and also they do not expect appreciation and encouragement.

They derive their source of power from within. But the fact is that, extroverts are smart enough to create first impression faster than introverts. Introverts usually take longer time or sometimes people do not understand and estimate their capabilities and potentials. But when they reveal their strengths, it exceeds the impression created by extroverts.

No doubt, introverts are self motivators. Effect of referent power and persona is created in case of those introverts having a blend of slight extroversion as they choose different path and solution of the situation than the existing one and meanwhile, they keep in mind the view of other persons, and external factors and results are mostly positive as they have balance in response and they are not skeptical with their views (except extreme introverts) and listen to ideas and views of other persons patiently, but this does not mean that they don’t communicate their ideas, yes they do and in a strong manner. So a balance is required between the two depending on the situation and clarity is essential as the communication process itself is not as simple as it looks.

So, the value created by introverts is usually sustainable, universally accepted and human in nature. When extroverts are leading introverts, there is every possibility of value clash. Extroverts are more change-prone and introverts resist-prone. And extroverts sense the environment and accordingly shift the gear of values. This is the key to success for extroverts.

Introverts on the other hand, believe that people should understand their beliefs and they try to create culture as per what they believe. It is assumed that a challenge to deal with extroverts and introverts depends upon the nature of jobs. Customer-oriented jobs usually require extroverts and research-related jobs require introverts.

All said and done, it is biased to draw a line between introverts and extroverts, but in many of the cases, more of importance has been given to extroverts due to their interaction and communication process with the external environment that comprise people from different strata of society and within organisation.

Non-verbal communication plays a vital role in the process of leadership and introverts are more successful here. They confront the problem from different angles and try arriving at the final decision after analysing the whole situation which sometimes involves longer time and the whole process is not communicated to the outside world unlike extroverts.

Here, the difference starts and balance is required between both extraversion and introversion that are present in each individual except in the case of extremism. In many a case, situations also plays a vital role in leadership and there introverts have edge over extroverts as they give their response not reaction which occurs in case of extroverts (extremes).

Outcome of any situation cannot be predicted completely but its effect can be managed to maximum extent by means of considering all variables and post result effects.

So “faking it out” will not change someone’s predisposition or behaviour. Let us not subscribe to the notion that introverts are passive or shy. They may appear passive to an extrovert. But in reality, they wait to speak until they have fully formed thoughts on a matter; versus extroverts, who interact verbally as part of the process of forming insights and reaching conclusions.

Perhaps, if we stuck to the traits “active” and “passive”, and skipped the reference to extrovert and introvert, respectively, this analysis and the conclusions would make more sense. And the fact remains a fact: “It takes different kinds to make the world.”

(The writer is a HR consultant)

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