Introvert or Extravert: Who Should Lead Your Team?

You might think that extraverts make better team leaders than introverts, but the reality is that it depends on the personality makeup of the team.

Got a team full of people needing a lot of air time to voice their opinions? Choose an introvert like Abe Lincoln to lead them. But if your group is subdued, Rahm Emanuel is probably your guy to get them engaged.

Research from Harvard Business School's Francesca Gino and colleagues concludes the following:

  • Extraverted leaders can be a liability if the followers are extroverts, tending not to be receptive to employees who make suggestions and take initiative.
  • Introverted leaders are more likely to listen to, process, and implement the ideas of an eager team.
  • Leaders need to adapt their style depending on the type of group they are leading. With proactive employees, leaders need to be receptive to the team's ideas; with a more passive team leaders need to act more demonstratively and set a clear direction.
The researchers note that organizations need both types of leaders to succeed, but, unfortunately, it's the extraverts who rise up the ranks more often. But this can be fixed.
"By fostering a work environment where people feel free to speak up and be proactive, the organization is creating the right place for introverted leaders to be successful," Gino tells HBS Working Knowledge.
When I've chosen people to lead teams, the personality of both the lead and team members is certainly a consideration. But I've never thought in terms of getting the right balance between assertive and quiet. Makes sense, especially if you've seen how a team with a bunch of Type As works (or doesn't).

What do you think?

(Image by Flickr user JMRosenfeld, CC 2.0)