Most people visualize a great leader to be an extrovert; well-spoken, confident, and authoritative. In reality, this is not always the case. J.K. Rowling, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniak of Apple, and even President Barack Obama are all reported introverts who have become some of the most well-known leaders and innovators in the world.
As an introvert, I personally never think of myself as a leader. I’ve always been quiet and uncomfortable with being the center of attention. However, the more experiences I have working with a team, the more I find myself playing the role of a leader. My most recent experience was in my Technical Communications class I’m currently taking. We were assigned to groups and needed to complete a project. No one in my group spoke, had a direction, or took the initiative to start working. After some troubles with my GPA as a transfer student, I needed a decent grade. So, I broke the ice. I just asked them some questions and tried to come up with some ideas to get us all thinking, which worked. As in my nature, I’m very observant and could tell when someone was confused or when they didn’t need my input at that moment. I was also able to make compromises. When I didn’t agree with an idea, but the rest of my team did, I went with it. My group looked to me for guidance and I surprised myself by handling that gracefully. This experience makes me think how other introverts can also make great leaders.
To better understand my point, let’s look at how the Myers-Briggs organization defines the opposing personality traits. Myers-Briggs formulated the personality test, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, that results in one out of sixteen personality types. Extraversion (or extroversion) and introversion are the first pair of psychological preferences when generating a personality type result. Extravert and introvert are words used to describe different ways people use their attention and where they get their social/emotional energy. An extravert is someone who is outgoing, gets their energy from being involved with other people, and more of a doer than a thinker. An introvert is on the opposite of the spectrum, being reserved, likes being alone, and gets their energy from thinking of ideas and being in their own head. Introverts can be confused with people who are shy or reclusive, but these traits are not connected. Although most people feel familiar with one, it is rare that a person is an introvert or extravert all of the time.
With these opposing personality types in mind, what exactly makes a great leader? According to Tanya Prive of Forbes.com, there are 10 qualities that make a great leader. These qualities are honesty, the ability to delegate, communication, sense of humor, confidence, commitment, positive attitude, creativity, intuition, and the ability to inspire.
When looking at the list of qualities that make a great leader, Immediately I see some qualities that are common of either introverts or extraverts. An extravert is known for their energetic communication and confidence. While an introvert is known for their creative thinking, intuition, and perhaps even the ability to delegate. However, some of these qualities are of character and skill, not personality. Leadership skills can be learned, but the character of a leader is something one simply has or doesn’t. Being honest, having a sense of humor, confidence, commitment, a positive attitude, and the ability to inspire are all characteristics and somewhat objective, regardless if someone is an introvert or extravert. In other words, an introvert could have all of the qualities that make a great leader, but demonstrate them differently than an extravert would. They could be confident in the sense of having a calm appearance in stressful situations or being confident in their work decisions. An introvert could also have great communication with a group of people, but then go home to recover the internal energy they spent.
What makes a great leader is not and should not be confined to how a person thinks or gets their internal energy. A great leader should have character and the drive to improve themselves. That person is not always the extravert. Do not overlook the introvert, for they may be the next great innovator of the world.
Who is your favorite leader? Why?
Are you an introvert or extravert?
Do you think you could make a great leader? Why?
References & Citations
The Myers & Briggs Foundation – Extraversion or Introversion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/extraversion-or-introversion.htm
Prive, T. (2012, December 19). Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyaprive/2012/12/19/top-10-qualities-that-make-a-great-leader/
Schocker, L. (2014, November 7). 16 Outrageously Successful Introverts. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/13/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html
Goudreau, J. (2015, April 13). JK Rowling reveals what she wishes someone had told her when she was first starting out. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.businessinsider.com/jk-rowling-on-failure-2015-4
Introvert and Extrovert Personality Test. (2009, November 3). Retrieved June 16, 2015, from http://www.towerofpower.com.au/introvert-and-extrovert-personality-test