Why Can’t Introverts Be Leaders?


Are extraverts really better leaders? Can an introvert be a good leader?  I hope you realize the title is a rhetorical question.

Research has shown a consistent positive relationship between extroversion and leadership. In groups of strangers, such as a jury, extroversion predicts who will be selected foreperson of the jury (it’s actually likely to be the person who talks the most, and that person is probably an extravert). So, extraverts are more likely to be chosen for leadership positions (what we call leader ‘emergence’).

There is also a positive relationship (although a weaker one) between extroversion and leader effectiveness, particularly rated effectiveness of leaders. So it appears that extraverts have an edge, but does this mean that introverts can’t be good leaders? Of course not!

Many successful leaders are introverted, for example Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and in business, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. One of the best company presidents that I’ve known was easily the most introverted person among his executive team, but he was very successful and his colleagues admired his “quiet reserve and confidence.” So what is the critical factor that both extraverts and introverts need to emerge as a leader and to be effective?

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There are some times kids say it best.

The Multiple Intelligences of Leaders

Published on March 27, 2009 by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. in Cutting-Edge Leadership

Do smarter people make better leaders? Although the general answer is “yes,” it depends on what you mean by “smart.” Almost a century of research on basic intelligence (what is referred to as “academic” or “verbal” intelligence - better known as IQ) suggests that IQ is slightly to moderately related to attaining a leadership position and to leader success. But that doesn’t always fit with people’s experience. Some who we consider geniuses don’t always make good leaders, for example, scientists, brilliant mathematicians, breakthrough artists. On the other hand, we see leaders who don’t appear particularly smart. One US congressman recently said, “you don’t have to be a genius to be in Congress.” So, IQ matters, but not as much as we might think. There are, however, other types of intelligence.

In the past dozen or so years there has been huge interest in what is called “emotional intelligence" (EQ as opposed to IQ). Emotional

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7 Things Successful Leaders Do Differently

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of coaching, teaching, and talking to thousands of leaders from varied walks of life. What I’ve noticed is that while most are successful on some level, a handful of them have that something extra. Their path hasn’t always been easy, and they’ve encountered numerous challenges, but this select group of leaders thrives both personally and professionally. Here is what they do differently:

1. They put relationships first. Successful leaders not only build networks, but they also nurture the connections they make. They make time for their clients and colleagues. They make time for people they mentor. They make time for their personal relationships. It takes a great deal of energy to keep connections thriving, but successful people are willing to put in the time and the effort. I’m reminded of a quote by Robert Martin that illustrates this point: “Taking an interest in what others are thinking and doing is often a much more powerful form of encouragement than praise.”

2. They know that meaning matters. In a recent Psychology Today blog post, I talk about the importance of incorporating meaning into your life, your work, and your business ventures. Many entrepreneurs, particularly millennials, are building their businesses around giving back and doing something that will affect the world in some way. Successful leaders know how their life’s work fits into a broader, more significant context.

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