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Effective Leaders Aren't Just the Extraverts Among Us

Introverts and extraverts both possess unique leadership skill sets.

Key points

  • Leadership skills differ between introverts and extraverts.
  • Different skills are more natural for individuals depending on personality type.
  • Understanding your type and focusing on what you do well and adding new skills allows you to gain more mastery of leadership skills.

When you think about your social connections and ideal interactions with others, do you imagine being surrounded by friends and hanging out in group settings? Or do you prefer the idea of a nice long talk with one good friend? While both probably sound inviting, introverts tend to avoid crowded social settings, and extraverts thrive on the energy that larger groups create.

Introvert or Extravert?

Introverts don’t mind solitude and can be content to hang out on the sidelines of a group gathering without feeling like they are missing anything. Extraverts enjoy large gatherings and actually use social events as a way to charge up their inner batteries. That is a key difference between the two personality preferences: Introverts tend to feel exhausted and drained after having to socialize with a large group, whereas extraverts tend to be charged up and ready to keep the party going long after the more introverted guests have headed home.

An introvert feels, “One is company, two’s just fine, but three or more is a breakdown.” An extravert feels, “The more the merrier. Let’s get things rolling!”

For whatever reason, opposite types often do attract. This means that one partner may be ready to paint the town after a long week at work, but the more-introverted partner may be ready to get into their PJs and melt into the couch as a favorite show or movie plays on the screen. Learning how to compromise can take some hit-or-miss efforts, but once understanding is in place of the other’s needs, things get easier.

Another key difference between introverts and extraverts is how they work through issues and make decisions. Introverts truly do need to “think through things” before coming to a decision. Extraverts, though, may need to “talk it out” before their final decision is made. These differences can show up in relationships in challenging ways—until you learn the other person’s style. In work settings, introverts may dislike team tasks and prefer to work alone; extraverts love group work and were the kid in the class who was always on board with the group projects that introverts dreaded.

Leadership and Personality Type

There are many qualities that we value in leaders, from ambition to straightforwardness. In essence, though, the most frequently cited qualities that effective leaders possess are competence, honesty, being inspirational, and being forward-looking (Kouzes & Posner, 2017). These are all qualities that can be mastered by introverts and extraverts alike—none are “owned” by one type or the other.

Introverts tend to look inward using their own world of experience and knowledge to be the blueprint for their career journey, while extraverts often look outside themselves to the larger world for inspiration. However, neither way is the one “right way” to blaze the path into leadership. In fact, each personality type has a few “secret advantages” over the other when it comes to successfully leading others.

The Introvert’s Secret Advantages

  1. Introverts are great listeners.
  2. Introverts think before they speak.
  3. Introverts are very observant and their ability to read the room is like a superpower as they can read facial expressions and body language and respond to others’ needs before they are voiced.
  4. Introverts are thoughtful networkers who take the time to get to know the people that they engage with.
  5. Introverts are highly compassionate leaders, and they don’t have to be in the spotlight or claim all of the credit for their group’s success. They are comfortable pointing out the strengths of their team.

The Extravert’s Secret Advantages

  1. Extraverts are very comfortable in social situations, which makes life easier for a leader.
  2. Extraverts are highly responsive and make decisions quickly when time is of the essence.
  3. Extraverts are naturally viewed as “leaders” due to the baked-in social bias in Western culture and so they are easily accepted by others as they take on leadership responsibilities.
  4. Extraverts can use their passion and positive personality as leadership tools due to their charisma.
  5. Extraverts model a “can-do” and “take-charge” attitude, and their natural self-confidence assures others that they are in good hands.

Tricks to Enhance an Introvert’s Leadership Strengths

  • Listen first, talk later. This inspires the feeling that you’re giving everything due consideration.
  • Step up when a crisis arises. This may feel hard to do, but the more you practice stepping up, the easier it becomes.
  • Push yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Leaders need to show courage, and this is one way to do it.
  • Take time to recharge so that you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and compromise your effectiveness.
  • Use your writing skills to convey your message—taking time to write out your thoughts in a way that they carry the message you need them to carry is an excellent way to show leadership.
  • Practice your collaboration skills to encourage collaboration among team members and to show that you’re approachable and supportive of your team.

Tricks to Enhance an Extravert’s Leadership Strengths

  • When you hear yourself droning on, ask yourself, “Why am I talking right now?” Catch yourself when you are saying too much and leaving too little room for other voices in the discussion.
  • Practice “listening more” and “reflecting back.” This ensures that a dialogue and not just a diatribe is happening.
  • Don’t claim to be the “smartest person in the room.” You don’t have to prove anything to your team; let your actions do the talking for you.
  • Before meetings, let your team know what topics will be on the agenda. Introverts need time to process before they contribute to discussions, so alerting folks early ensures that your more introverted team members have time to think about the issues that will be at hand.
  • Be careful of oversharing—extraverts enjoy thinking out loud, but you don’t want to give the impression that you’re not prepared or that you’re indecisive. If you’re going to use a meeting to “brainstorm ideas,” make that clear so that folks know what is happening and don’t assume you’re being wishy-washy.
  • While some of us seem to be “natural-born leaders,” leadership is a skill that can be developed and improved with practice.


Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. Z. (2017). The Leadership Challenge. Jossey-Bass.

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