Lead With Your Personality: Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership

Lead With Your Personality: Tips for Introverted and Extroverted Leadership

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Are you leading with your personality? Or are you trying to conform to some previously established version of what it looks like to be a leader? 

There are four ways that you can lead with your personality and leverage your strengths to become an even better CEO, Founder, or Executive. Specifically, we’re going to focus on two of the most well-known personality traits: introversion and extroversion.

You might be familiar with the terms, but these two personality traits are often misunderstood. Introverts are assumed to be shy or anti-social and extroverts are naturally the life of the party. While that can certainly be true sometimes, the actual definition is based on how each type gets their energy. Introverts recharge their energy by spending time alone and extroverts recharge by spending time with others. That’s not to say that introverts don’t like people and that extroverts can’t stand to be alone. It just means that when their energy is low, they each refuel in a different way and that their relationships with others tends to reflect that.

Introverts and Extroverts in the Leadership Realm

So what do introversion and extroversion look like in the leadership realm? As you might guess, the U.S. in a country that places a high value on extroversion. Susan Cain, best-selling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, claims that thirty to fifty percent of the workforce identify themselves as introverts. And in fact, many of our best known CEOs are introverts, including: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer and Elon Musk. Not to mention historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi. 

Some of the best known extroverted leaders include Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Obviously leadership is not a task reserved for one personality type or the other. These leaders were so successful in part because they knew how to leverage their strengths, as well as how to flex in the areas that weren’t as easy for them.

How to Lead With Your Personality

As a leader, here are the four things you can do to lead with your personality:

Recognize your needs and preferences

First, understand your personality style or archetype and determine which traits resonate with you. A great way to get some insight into this is do the free assessment on 16personalities.com. Notice which tendencies you have, how strong those tendencies are in you, and how that shows up in you as a leader.

Honor your strengths and design your role and/or business accordingly

Next, understand how your preferences are also your strengths. For example, extroverts prefer to be out connecting with lots of people. They are often wonderful at promoting their brands, motivating groups of employees, and inspiring their organizations. Introverts need some alone time and usually have a strong disdain for small talk, especially in large group settings. You’ll often find that they’re great in one-one-conversations and are excellent listeners, they can be talented conflict negotiators, and offer innovative solutions when given some alone time to focus. Based on your personality type and your role, where do you get to let your best qualities shine? How can you do more of those things? Not only will leaning in here energize you, but your company and team members will benefit as well.

Know how and when to flex

And what about the areas where your personality type doesn’t do so well? What about the introverted CEOs who need to motivate their organizations in a quarterly All Hands meeting? Or the extroverted leader who needs to sit down and spend some time understanding the core financials of her business in order to make some needed changes? We can’t just ignore certain leadership responsibilities just because they don’t feel good to our personality type. That’s when we need to flex. Here is where we adopt a growth mindset and learn how to step into these areas outside of our comfort zone. It may be helpful to engage a peer or coach who excels in these areas to help you. 

Know when to partner up

Speaking of help, it’s also important to know when it’s best to partner up. In a keynote presentation at the North American Open Source Summit a few years ago, partnered leadership was the topic. The speech included how in the tech industry, it was really challenging to find “unicorn leaders,” or leaders who were technical wizards, great people managers, and had strong long-term vision (basically all the things). Instead, it was suggested that partnered leaders with different skill sets would allow organizations to make use of the most talented leaders without the gaps.

In fact, partnered leadership is what makes The NU CEO podcast and The CEO Circle run: Natalie and Bindi are complete opposites in many ways, but they’ve figured out how to leverage their unique strengths and preferences to run their business. For example, Natalie leads a lot of the client outreach and engagement while Bindi handles a lot of the backend work on our podcast, website, and learning platform. This allows Natalie time to connect with people and Bindi time to work alone. Their duo allows the NU Company to have the best of both worlds when supporting clients and working alongside each other, all thanks to learning to lead with their personality.

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