There is a general perception in our society that extroverts make better leaders. Social interactions form the basis of human society and thus strong leadership qualities are associated with people who are extraverted in nature. The characteristics of extroverts give off the appearance of a leader. It also cultivates effective leadership styles such as charisma and inspiration, which makes sense intuitively (Bono, & Judge, 2004). These characteristics are especially prevalent in the current workplace where importance is placed on strong teamwork and communication skills, which further strengthens the view of extroverts being better leaders. Recently, however, people are slowly starting to realize and appreciate the unique strengths introverted leaders bring to the table. Yet when it comes down to who makes a better leader, the answer is neither. Both have the potential and equal chance to excel in leadership roles (Grant, Gino, & Hofmann, 2011). In this essay, however, I would talk about misconceptions of introverted leaders, the impacts of such misconceptions, and why introverts are equally good, or in some ways, better than those who are more extroverted.
Despite only half of the population being extroverted, 96% of leaders and managers report being extroverted (Grant, Gino, & Hofmann, 2010). Meanwhile, in a poll, 65% of senior executives stated that introverted leaders are disadvantageous whilst merely 6% saw it as an advantage. This further establishes that compared to extroverts, fewer introverts take on leadership positions. Additionally, it is unlikely that introverts will emerge as leaders through the normal route of promotion and selection channels and is much less likely to do in an informal and unstructured group. Even if they were to emerge, they would typically be rated as being a weaker leader by their peers (Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt, 2002). Simply looking at these results would suggest that introverts are worse leaders than extroverts. However, they are likely caused by the prejudice society has towards introverts and their leadership abilities.
Firstly, extroverts earn leadership roles more often than introverts due to perceived ability. When hiring CEOs, boards are more inclined towards more extroverted candidates. However, it was the introverts that tends to exceed the expectations of the board. The candidates that projected confidence are also twice more likely in landing the job. Yet when their results are measured, there was no evidence of confident candidates bringing about more success, and was merely a projection of confidence over actual capability (Botelho, Powell, Kincaid, & Wang, 2017). This might be due to our cultural beliefs that introverts are subpar to extroverts. The way introverts perceive their feelings of being in a leadership position also plays an important part in explaining why they struggle to emerge as leaders. When the participants think that they would experience negative emotions, it serves as a strong psychological deterrent to acting like or becoming a leader. Introverts were more likely than extroverts to feel such negative emotions. Introverts are less likely to think of positive emotions. Both the thought of negatives and lack of positives are accountable for the leadership behavior - or lack thereof - of introverted participants (Do, & Minbashian, 2014). Another reason for the failure of introverts to emerge as leaders is due to their personal forecasted effect. Introverts often believe that being a leader is unenjoyable, whereby they perceive leadership situations as worrying and distressing (Spark, Stansmore, & O'Connor, 2018). Therefore, this shows how the perception of society cannot just impact their ability in getting a leadership role but also their emergence as leaders.
Contrary to the general belief that extroverts have an innate ability to lead, introverts are equally as capable of becoming successful leaders. Several studies have identified situations where introverted leaders outperform extroverts. Both extroverts and introverts are overall equally successful, but they excel with different employee types. Introverts were reported to be more effective leaders of proactive teams than extroverts. This means that introverts excel more with proactive employees who voice out their opinions and suggestions to improve the workflow and processes. Whilst extraverts excel when employees are passive and looking for direction from their superiors, reporting 16% higher profits. However, when proactive employees are led by extroverts, profits are observed to be 14% lower. Extraverts are enthusiastic and assertive which would motivate and bring the potential out of passive employees. However, extraverts would command the attention, which restrains the initiative of proactive employees, thus resulting in the demoralization of the employees and the loss of potential novel ideas. Thus, importance should be placed on, instead of solely the leader, but on both the leader and the team (Grant, Gino, & Hofmann, 2011). Another study also found that companies run by introverted CEOs outperformed their peers and publicly traded companies run by extroverted CEOs had a 2% less return on assets. Although 2% is not a significant difference, it minimally shows that introverts are equally capable as extroverts in high-performing leadership roles. One possible reason for the 2% less return is that when companies are facing crises, they often seek out extraverts. When they are unable to reverse the problem, they would face the blame for it (Gow, Kaplan, Larcker, & Zakolyukina, 2016). Another study also found that introverted characteristics are prevalent in effective leaders known as “servant leaders.” These leaders are individuals who foster good performance in others by focusing on the growth and well-being of their teams (Hunter, Neubert, Perry, Witt, Penney, & Weinberger, 2013). These studies showcase the ability of introverted leaders and that they should not be undermined for their capabilities in leadership.
There is no single right way in leading. One's leadership potential does not depend on their extraversion or introversion. What's important is how one plays towards the strengths of their personality and responds to their weaknesses. There are many instances of introverts making good leaders and potentially emerging as leaders, and vice versa. However, the idea that introverts are subpar to extroverts is misleading. The best leaders are not always the most out outspoken or ones who command the attention of the crowd but are rather the more soft-spoken and less noticeable ones. Some of the world's most successful leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Abraham Lincoln are just some examples of introverted leaders. And in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, 'In a gentle way, you can shake the world.'