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Do you have to be an extrovert to be a great leader?

In a recent newsletter I talked about the importance of authentic leadership and

being your true self by knowing and showing enough of what you stand for.

People want to be led by someone who is real, with sincerity, honesty and integrity. So does it matter whether you’re an introvert or extrovert?

First, let’s seek to gain further understanding of this personality trait. Fundamentally, it’s about where you focus your attention and how you derive and direct your energy.

Extroverts get stimulation externally, by directing their energy outward and

generating energy from interacting with people and things. Extroverts enjoy working in groups and are comfortable with sharing their thoughts freely. They like to communicate by talking and prefer action over reflection.

Introverts get their source of energy from within, directing their energy and attention inwards, by reflecting on thoughts, feelings and ideas. Introverts work out ideas through reflection and conceptualising problems. They enjoy working alone or in small groups and listen more than they speak. This can often, wrongly, be misconstrued as being shy or lacking in self-confidence.

Everyone has qualities across the spectrum, but we tend to interact with the world in the way that feels most comfortable, thus developing our preferences that we naturally lean towards.

Neither is right or wrong, even when it comes to leadership!

Leadership is about inspiring, motivating and enabling others to act. So, if your natural ability isn’t working for you here are some practical things for you to try:

Tips for extroverts

  • Try to listen more and speak less – reflect back what you hear and ask more questions

  • Think before you speak and resist the urge to immediately start providing your opinion

  • Provide space for people to contribute, not everything needs quick decision making and action – try making time for reflection and processing before asking for action

Tips for introverts

  • Use active listening skills to your advantage - regular 1-to-1 meetings will help build rapport, trust and understanding of individuals in your team

  • Involve others in your thinking, by sharing information and articulating the thought process and motivations behind your ideas before they become full-blown solutions

  • Set aside time to recharge – it’s where you get your source of energy, so it's important to take care of your solitude

And finally, regardless of where you are across the spectrum here are some

strategies to build into your continued journey of self-awareness:

  • Know what re-energises you – how do you get your stimulation and do you set aside time to re-charge your batteries?

  • Value the diversity and respect the needs – surround yourself with diverse personalities to enable you to keep developing skills from each other

  • Keep practicing - seek opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and find the zone of stimulation that’s right for you


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