We hear from a lot of people who feel they aren’t being heard at work by their leaders, as well as their peers. Based on our experience, more often than not, their leader truly isn’t listening to them (with no awareness around this) and/or their leader isn’t curious and asking questions to gain a clearer understanding of their perspective. One thing that we didn’t take into consideration was the idea that some leaders are introverts and others extroverts, and how that affects their leadership and those around them.
In Susan Cain’s TED “The Power of Introverts” she delves into the importance of introverts and how they are often overlooked in leadership roles, even though introvert leaders often deliver better outcomes. According to Susan, when introvert leaders are managing pro-active employees they are more likely to let those employees run with their ideas. Where extrovert leaders can unwittingly get so excited with ideas that they “put their own stamp on things and then often don’t let other ideas bubble up to the surface”.
Susan defines introversion by how one responds to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation where as introverts “feel their most alive, switched on, and their most capable when they are in quieter more low-key environments”. She goes on to say that the key is to maximize our talents is to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.
Looking at today’s open plan workplaces and the constant need for big group discussions in order to achieve collaboration and innovation, now taking into consideration the notion that one-third to one half of our population are introverts, it begs the question – how effectively are we seeing, hearing and understanding those in our organizations? How are we accommodating the one-third to one half of the people who thrive in more low-key environments?
We believe that collaboration is key in any successful organization, and its success is often a reflection of the leadership. Like Susan Cain, we don’t see collaboration resulting from just throwing people together in a room to discuss ideas. Collaboration streams from the ability to truly listen to others without bias, ask question to gain each person’s perspective, and test assumptions to push boundaries of what is possible. These leadership skills are available to all of us whether we are an introvert or an extrovert.
We invite you to bring awareness to when you feel you’re most alive? How quiet or loud do you like your environment to be? When you feel your most creative and successful, what’s going on around you? Knowing this about yourself, what can you do to ensure that your needs are being met so you can maximize your success in your workplace while still contributing to your team in the way your leader is asking of you?
Leaders, we invite you to think about your leadership style and how being an introvert or an extrovert influences that. When you get excited about a new idea, how open are you to others’ perspectives and suggestions? When looking at your team, when are they most alive and maximizing their talent? How can you support that?
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, all people want is to be seen, heard, and understood. Listening, asking questions, seeking to understand the perspectives of others, and testing assumptions are all leadership skills that support collaboration and lead to innovation. It doesn’t matter what type of leader you are, what matters is how you show up as that leader, how you honor yourself and those around you, and how you see, hear, and understand your team in order to maximize their success. Whether it is quiet or loud, having awareness around your leadership style and how it affects others is a powerful and a key first step in your success.