Do extroverts make better leaders than introverts? | The Franker Message
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Do extroverts make better leaders than introverts?

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Drawing of Nelson Mandela on wall | Image by John Paul Henry on Unsplash

Have you ever doubted if you can be a great leader as an introvert? Many of us do. It's a topic that a lot of people in my innie community say is the biggest misconception around introverts. 

What most people think of when they hear the word "leader" is the stereotypical alpha. The one who charges through the door first, brash, loud, assertive and dominant. Many people link these traits to extroverts. So, it must be extroversion that makes a great leader, right? Even now there are studies coming out regularly telling introverts to act more extraverted because it would help them to be better leaders (if you want to see some references, I can send them to you).

But what actually makes a great leader? A great leader is simply someone who other people WANT to follow. There are people who lead by rank: We follow them because they have authority. But without the want in the sentence, I don't believe that someone really is a great leader. 

A great leader is simply someone who other people WANT to follow.

Simon Sinek says that being a great leader is not about being in charge, but about taking care of those in our charge. It's not about being the first through the door or about slamming your hand on the table when tough decisions need to be made. It's about making the tough decisions because it is the best thing for your people. My view is that introversion or extroversion could at most be seen as a style choice in this respect. Like wearing a t-shirt or a dress shirt: In reality, it doesn't determine the essence of your work.

The challenge for introverts is to understand their own value and to tune into their unique qualities to make them great leaders. 

Here are a few. Most introverts are great listeners. They are observant, great at asking questions and they can focus on a single topic for long periods of time. When in a room full of people, some introverts will pick up on the moods and relationships of the different people in the room and navigate it in such a way that sets everyone at ease or that gets everyone pointing in the same direction. Without even realizing it, many introvert collect ideas of a lot of people in a busy space - not just during this meeting but all the meetings of the past months- and analyze and compile all the data in their heads. Many introverts prefer deep conversations and naturally create real connection when talking with people. They carefully consider other people's input and allow other people to shine. Is that someone you would like to follow?

The challenge for introverts is to understand their own value and to tune into their unique qualities to make them great leaders. 

If you are not yet a believer, here is a list of introverts who show us what leadership is. Some are famous and some you may never have heard of. Some may surprise you and some you may not agree with all the choices they made in their careers. But we can't deny that these people have moved through adversity to build companies and legacies that inspire us.

  • Nelson Mandela - Former president of South Africa

  • Barack Obama - Former president of the USA

  • Mahatma Gandhi - Lawyer and leader of the nonviolent resistance that lead to India's independence from British rule

  • Michael Jordan - Former competitive basketball player, author and businessman

  • Mia Hamm - Former professional soccer player and member of club A.S. Roma's board of directors

  • Warren Buffet - Investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

  • Bill Gates - Founder and chairman of Microsoft

  • James Sinegal - Founder and former CEO of Costc

  • Marissa Mayer: Yahoo! president and CEO

  • Richard Branson - Founder of the Virgin group

  • Mark Zuckerburg - Founder and CEO of Facebook

  • Elon Musk - Founder and CEO of Tesla

  • Steven Spielberg - Film director, producer and screenwriter

  • Clint Eastwood - Actor, film director and producer

  • Martha Minow: Dean of Harvard Law School

  • Oprah Winfrey - Talk show host and television producer

I picked only a few from different fields, the list goes on and on (just do a google search if you're interested 😊) When you are ever in doubt if introverts can be great leaders, revisit this list and let it inspire you to develop your own brand of leadership.

Wishing you a lovely flow today,

Mariella

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