by Carol Pipes
Extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy, right? Not necessarily.
Extroversion and introversion describe where people focus and find their energy—outside themselves or inwardly.
Extroverts (or those who have extroverted tendencies) gain energy by being around other people. They recharge in social situations. Often, the more people that are around, the more energized extroverts feel.
On the other hand, introverts often lose energy in social situations and need time alone to recharge their batteries.
Everyone falls somewhere along the extrovert-introvert spectrum, either from one extreme to the other or somewhere in the middle.
Our place on this continuum influences almost every decision we make—from our career choice to who we marry and even what we’ll do on Friday nights. It affects how we interact with the people around us, how we lead and resolve conflict, even how we share the gospel.
Introverted and extroverted leaders will present themselves differently from one another because of the different ways they get energy and process information.
There are no good or bad personality types; each has its gifts and blind spots. All personality types are valuable.
However, for years it was believed that extroverts make the best leaders. They have the qualities that make for great leadership, right? They are charismatic, energetic, confident and quick on their feet.
In her book, Quiet, Susan Cain explains that in the early 1900s, America shifted from a “Culture of Character” to a “Culture of Personality.” People prized extroverted leaders for their outgoing personalities while ignoring sensitive, introverted thinkers.
“At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons—as a way of outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society,” Cain writes. “But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people.”
The truth is, both personality types can make strong leaders. How someone recharges (alone vs. in a group) has little to do with leadership success. But understanding and indentifying personality type can help leaders maximize strengths and pinpoint areas of weakness.
How to get the best out of everyone
Every day we come in contact with a variety of personality types, from extreme extroverts and introverts, to everyone in between. Because personality affects how people lead, how they communicate, even how they react to challenges, Christian leaders need to understand the differences between personality types to get the most out of people.
Even though personality type influences behavior, it doesn’t have to limit behavior. Taking into account personality differences and adapting to the preferences of others can be the key to successful leadership.
Here are four things extroverted leaders can do to help the introverts on their team.
1. Introverts need time to process information. Provide written information before staff meetings so introverted team members have time to reflect on the material and prepare for discussion. If big changes are on the horizon, try to give them as much advance notice as possible.
2. Introverts prefer one-on-one conversations. If you have to reprimand them, do it privately.
3. Give introverts an opportunity to share their thoughts. Introverts tend to avoid the limelight, so they may not speak up in meetings. That doesn’t mean they don’t have anything of value to add. Be intentional about inviting introverts into the conversation.
4. Make meetings efficient. Because extroverts find energy from dialogue and engaging others, they often allow meetings to go longer than necessary. This can drain the introverts on your team. Follow an agenda and keep meetings as short as possible.
Here are four things introverted leaders can do to help extroverted team members.
1. Extroverts need to be around people. If sequestered to their offices for too long, extroverts can become unfocused and unproductive. Allow them the freedom to interact with others in the office or assign ministry tasks that involve engagement with people. Create social situations for your staff or team away from the office.
2. Extroverts often process things externally. Be patient and listen. Encourage their enthusiasm by allowing them to explore ideas and talk things out.
3. Extroverts are prone to action. They act first and then reflect. At times this can be beneficial. Depending on the situation, you may need to help them think through the appropriate way to act or react depending on the desired outcome.
4. Give extroverts time to shine. Allow them to take the lead in settings that require charisma, energy and charm.
Carol Pipes (@carolpipes) is editor of Facts & Trends.