015 Communication Part 2: Leading the Introverts and Being Led By Them

Sad Depressed Person Stands Alone - Sticky Notes

One of the most subtle but most important differences that leaders must take into consideration (if they are serious about being the best) is the attention they pay to handling different types of personalities.  One dimension of this is the difference between the extroverts and the introverts.

Bob and Alex recount their experiences with the Myers-Briggs (MBTI).  Alex is an ENTP.  She says the P for Perceiving at the end of her type reflects her tendency to be open to communication and alternative ideas.  Bob is an ENFJ.  His J for judgmental is very strong (perhaps rooted in wanting to be a baseball umpire).  The J is usually task oriented.

The letters at the front end though are just as important.  The I is for introvert and E is for extrovert. This quality is not how you act, though…it is about how you recharge. Bob is a borderline E.

Companies that use the MBTI or other similar instrument often look for E's because they wrongly infer that they are more driven to results.  He points out that the book by Susan Cain Quiet  talks about how significant the contributions of the introvert can be.  While the extroverts are driving forward at high volume in a hyperactive way of problem solving, the introvert is the one that is sitting back collecting the thoughts and synthesizing what they are hearing into a significant contribution.

The trend toward open architecture office space is troubling to the introverts.  Alex suggests these people need their own head space.  Organizations attempt to create a friendly environment can be totally overwhelming to the introvert.  In her book Susan also suggests that in an open environment no real intimate working relationship develops because there is much less opportunity to have those more private intimate conversations.

The answer to this though is not setting all the introverts aside to their own space in a quiet room.  Another example: as a group develops from the start and the extroverts are loudly setting up the team infrastructure and driving the development of the norms, the introverts are the ones doing the work.

As for the seat at the top, which type is more suitable? An introvert runs the risk of seeming aloof and unapproachable while they feel thoughtful and problem solving.  On the positive side, the best manager for an extrovert may indeed be an introvert because they are more likely to give them the communication bandwidth they need to bring their solutions to the table.

Susan Cain and Quiet

Sample MBTI Test

5 thoughts on “015 Communication Part 2: Leading the Introverts and Being Led By Them”

  1. I like the focus on “how one recharges” and not “how one behaves in a social setting.” I am and extrovert and do recharge when engaged in an interesting conversation with one or a few people (and often get my best ideas from this activity) but I am drained in big group settings.

    I know some fantastic CEOs who can engage and be lively in a group setting. They just need to make sure they have time to work quietly as well.

    Great topic, Bob!

  2. Super interesting post! I didn’t really know that the mark of an introvert is how you recharge. I think I’m naturally an introvert who can become somewhat of an extrovert when it’s something I’m passionate about – I would have a very hard time with the open architecture office space, I like my “office cave”! Love that this infers that you really have to look at people as individuals and on a case by case basis, creating an environment for them to achieve success!

  3. Very thought provoking. Thanks for sharing the tool to see what category one falls into. Like Bob, mine has changed to as I moved from one industry to the next.

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