December 2, 2009

Speaking Up for the Extroverts...

I read an interesting story on recently called Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders. It's an interesting story that talks about five traits that make introverts great leaders.

I think that all of writer Jennifer Kahnweiler's points are well written and make sense, but I'd like to speak up for extroverts to talk about some of their leadership traits by commenting on what Jennifer used as traits of introverts...

1. They Think First, Talk Later - I think this is a good trait for a leader, but I think even extroverted leaders understand that you have to be in control of yourself to be seen as credible. Credibility comes from knowing what you're talking about and being able to articulate your point when needed - i.e. being measured and thinking about your response as it relates to a situation. Every leader that I have ever met has understood this, whether they were an introvert or extrovert.

2. They Focus on Depth - No argument here. Depth is important when considering issues. However, I think that leaders need to be willing to trust those who work with them to focus on the depth (i.e. the weeds), while the leaders focus on the overarching mission, future vision, and goals of the organization. If they get caught up in every little minute detail of a specific project, that might cause some of their employees to not feel empowered, and thus not feel as though they are being led...

3. They Exude Calm - I think calmness in the times Jennifer describes is again, a positive trait for an introvert. However, I want someone leading my association or organization who is going to rally the troops to meet goals, be the loudest cheerleader for the association, and inspire others to act in betterment of the organizational mission. I think that understanding when calmness is needed is obvious, but you have to be willing to also exude passion to be a great leader.

4. They Let Their Fingers Do the Talking - I understand that documentation is necessary, and I also understand that being able to articulate your points in writing is important. I think when leaders embrace social media tools like Jennifer points out, that's a great thing... However, when a leader sits in his/her office and shoots off 100 e-mails instead of picking up the phone to call an employee or member, I'm not sure that inspires people to follow them. I'm not sure that a leader who only blogs and sits on Twitter all day is seen as credible. Knowing when to write and when to communicate more personally should be common for all leaders - not just introverts.

5. They Embrace Solitude - Leaders need to clear their heads - get away from it all every once in a while. But, I want a leader who is visible - someone who inspires me to be better by the fact that I can see their dedication. Occasional solitude is fine, but embracing it too much to the point of being a recluse is not my idea of a great leader.

I guess to close, I believe that in many cases, inspiration is what employees and members are looking for in a leader. If someone inspires them to be a better employee, general member, volunteer, etc., that is a positive thing for an association/organization. Can that person be an introvert? Absolutely. Are they the only ones who can do so? Absolutely not.


Jennifer said...

I love your post, Bruce. A thoughtful and balanced perspective. To me, it is about selecting which leadership traits to use as the situation demands. The introverted leaders I have studied do tap into their "extroverted" side when called for.
Thanks again.

Bruce Hammond said...

Thanks so much for reading the post and for commenting Jennifer. I agree with you that there are a number of different leadership traits, and being able to pull the right one out of the bag at the appropriate time is what the best leaders are able to do.

Thanks again for reading, and I really enjoyed your piece.