Recognize and Avoid The Perils of Extroverted Leadership

Naturally outgoing and authoritative, an extroverted personality can do great in a leadership role—as long as they play to the strengths of their personality | Image Attrib.: Flickr user Search Engine People Blog

Naturally outgoing and authoritative, an extroverted personality can do great in a leadership role—as long as they play to the strengths of their personality | Image Attrib.: Flickr user Search Engine People Blog

The boardroom of a company is often filled with a bevy of extroverts. That comes as no surprise; outgoing and authoritative, extroverts are natural leaders. Extroverted leaders prize communication, openness, and group work, and they get their energy through socialization—all of which makes an extrovert a great fit for the head of a company or an organization. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, 60% of senior-level managers identified as extroverts—and a full 65% said that introversion would be an impediment to climbing the ladder at work.[1. “The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses,” https://hbr.org/2010/12/the-hidden-advantages-of-quiet-bosses]

But while many of their extroverted traits lend them a leg up in the world of business, extroverted leaders need to be careful not to overshadow others in the room. If you consider yourself an extrovert, make sure you’re not making the following common extroverted mistakes when interacting with your employees and team members.

Encourage Employees to Share Their Ideas—and Don’t Feel Threatened By Them

You’d think that when it comes to extroversion, “birds of a feather flock together” and that extroverts work best with other extroverts. But studies have shown that extroverted bosses often feel threatened by their more proactive employees who offer up a lot of ideas and solutions to help move the company forward.[2.“The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses,” https://hbr.org/2010/12/the-hidden-advantages-of-quiet-bosses] As an extrovert yourself, you have a leg up in understanding your extroverted employees’ thought processes and personality quirks, so use that to your advantage. Pair extroverted employees with team members who are more introverted so the different personalities can feed off one another.

Speaking of introverts, it might come as a surprise to learn that extroverted leaders are actually especially apt at supporting their more introverted employees. Extroverts in leadership positions have been shown to be better at helping more reserved employees come out of their shells and contribute more. In fact, in a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, having extroverted bosses was associated with 16% higher profits when the employees were more introverted and naturally less proactive.[3. “The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses,” https://hbr.org/2010/12/the-hidden-advantages-of-quiet-bosses] Use your extroverted traits for good by motivating more passive employees to engage and contribute ideas and solutions. Draw on your people skills to connect an introverted employee to a mentor or small group of peers that the introvert would feel comfortable bouncing ideas off of, and make sure you allow introverted employees to develop their skills privately before asking them to contribute their skill set to a group.  

Be Wary of Crossing Personal Boundaries

Friendliness is often a side effect of extroversion, and having a naturally friendly personality is definitely a big plus for business leaders. When they don’t keep their outgoing personalities in check, however, extroverted bosses may push friendship on more reserved employees who will feel pressured to respond to a boss’s overly eager friendly advances because he or she is, well, the boss.

Instead of trying to be everyone’s best friend, extroverted leaders should channel their “friendly” energy into creating an overall welcoming work atmosphere for both introverted and extroverted employees. For one, think about how your workplace is set up—are there spaces that are welcoming for both introverts and extroverts? While open office layouts may look sleek and sexy (picture the long, shared desks that are all the rage in hip offices right now), they spell disaster for introverted employees’ production levels. On the other hand, lots of closed office spaces will drive extroverts crazy, since they get their energy from interacting with others. Make sure your office has a mix of spaces that will appeal to folks on either end of the introversion/extroversion scale. Think about implementing closed office spaces or cubicles, while incorporating more casual meeting places, with a few comfy arm chairs that encourage conversation, around the office. If you do go the open office route, build in enclosed spaces for quiet use, which introvert expert Susan Cain calls “Quiet Spaces.”[4. “How to create space for introverts in extroverted offices,” http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2014/09/create-space-for-introverts-in-extroverted-offices.html?page=all] Think of these Quiet Spaces as small offices that anyone can use when they need extra focus, or—if they’re an introvert—just need to escape from the office hustle and bustle for a while.

When leaders take the time to cultivate a strong workplace culture and atmosphere for employees of all personality stripes, they develop more cohesive teams that produce high results, even when the leader isn’t there to lead the way (which is one indicator of a successful team dynamic!).

Run Your Meetings with Both Introverts and Extroverts In Mind

Extroverted leaders are often fond of brainstorming sessions and meetings—and they’ll often schedule these meetings first thing in the morning, so the team can hit the ground running. But be cognizant of the introverts on your team; introverts crave alone time to work on solving problems, and they often tend to prefer planning out their days in the morning by themselves. Brainstorming sessions are great, but be sure to schedule them at different times throughout the day (and don’t schedule them excessively) so that you’re accommodating both the introverts and extroverts on your team.

Just as important as scheduling is how you run the meetings themselves. During brainstorming sessions, extroverts are generally comfortable engaging in an idea “free for all,” where they’ll toss out suggestions and naturally enter and exit the meeting’s conversation with ease. Introverts, however, may need an extra push in social situations, like larger meetings, and they could find it difficult to interject their own ideas into a free-flowing conversation. To help facilitate the exchange of ideas, try calling on an introvert during the meeting and asking him to share his thoughts on a specific issue. You could even give the introverted team member a “heads up” before the meeting so they have time to collect their thoughts before sharing them.

Interested in developing your extroverted leadership skills and learning how you can create a workplace culture that’s welcoming to all employees no matter where they land on the introversion-extroversion scale? Then get in touch with the expert guides at Applied Vision Works to see how we can help.

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