Why Introverts Make Nice Leaders
When I interviewed Richard Branson in 2016, I thought I’d get this Richard Branson: an outgoing, adventurous king of the grand gesture.
Instead, he was a little shy. A little uncomfortable. Even, especially at first, a bit awkward. Still a great guy. Still funny, thoughtful and charming.
But to my surprise, clearly introverted.
Although research shows, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
According to several studies, there is no difference in the effectiveness of introverted and extroverted leaders on the overall performance of the team and the company. (Although, as Adam Grant notes, extroverts are more effective leaders who tend to seek guidance, direction, and motivation, and introverts are more effective leaders who tend to take initiative and do well without supervision.)
That’s because extraversion and introversion have little to do with social skills. Many extraverts are socially awkward. Many introverts are committed.
The context is also important; Some extroverts love to interact with a group but struggle with one-on-one conversations. Some introverts feel uncomfortable in one-on-one conversations, but like the self-described “totally introverted” Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, he can be comfortable in front of tens of thousands of people.
More importantly, however, the difference is in the energy.
As Susan Cain describes in Quiet, extroverts derive energy from social interactions. Introverts lose energy through interactions.
Or as Simon Sinek describes:
An introvert wakes up in the morning with five coins. They spend a coin on every social interaction. In the end, they are exhausted.
An extrovert wakes up without coins. They receive a coin for every social interaction. They end up feeling rich.
As with many things, it’s not who you are.
It’s what you do with who you are.
Like Elon Musk, who claims to be an “introverted engineer”.
Or Bill Gates, who says, “If you are smart you can learn to take advantage of an introvert … [going] Take a few days off to ponder a difficult problem, read all you can, and do your best to think on the fringes of this area … to have a company that thrives on deep thinking. “
Or Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who says, “I don’t think the committee ever invented anything really revolutionary.”
Again, that’s what you do with who you are.
These are phenomenal, phenomenal leaders, all of whom are introverted. The only thing they have in common, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, is undying belief in your cause.
The charisma is not how much energy you have. The charism is how much you are ready to devote yourself to it. And when that is all, you have charisma. You have leadership skills.
When you are introverted, one of your strengths is the ability to evaluate, analyze, evaluate, and consider thoughtful decisions. This also applies to a willingness to support your decisions – and your goals – with determination, effort, and perseverance.
Both are qualities of a great leader.
As long as you make sure that you are spending your “energy” coins wisely.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.