Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership Styles: Finding Your Authentic Approach

by | Dec 17, 2023

In past blog posts, I’ve reflected on the true value of leaning into who you are as an individual – a teammate, a manager, a leader –  when deciding how to show up in various spaces, especially work. Together, we’ve explored how embracing your preferences for engaging with others, communicating, taking in new information, making decisions, and planning for the future are fundamental to your leadership. These preferences can drive how you network professionally, provide feedback to team members, approach work, manage stress, and otherwise show up in the world.  

And while your personal “wiring” suggests how you prefer and are most likely to act in these spaces – as revealed by assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type IndicatorⓇ (MBTIⓇ) – it is also true that sometimes we step out of those comfort zones when we see that it is needed or beneficial. (Full disclosure: I am in the process of becoming an MBTI Certified Practitioner, so my coaching “toolbox” in this space is growing rapidly. Stay tuned for more on that in future posts.)

Today’s blog post is taking a closer look at how – either before or without completing an MBTI assessment – you can start to consider whether you have a preference for introversion or extroversion and the corresponding implications for your leadership. For context, introversion and extroversion refer to the realm from which individuals draw their energy. Those with a preference for introversion tend to direct energy and attention inwardly and are energized by reflecting on ideas, memories, and experiences. While those with a preference for extroversion, direct energy and attention outwardly, and are energized by engaging with people and taking action.

However, it’s important to note that leadership isn’t influenced by this dynamic alone – your preference for introversion or extroversion does not exist in a vacuum. It is also informed by how you prefer to how you take in information, make decisions, and plan (or don’t plan) for taking action (more to come on these in future posts). The key is to find your authentic approach, drawing on the strengths of your personality type, whether you prefer introversion or extroversion. 

The Introverted Leader

Leaders with a preference for introversion tend to be excellent listeners and are more inclined to think deeply before making decisions. Some typical areas of strength are:

  • Thoughtfulness: They excel at reflection and introspection and are more likely to consider their decisions carefully through an internal process. This can lead to very well-thought-out strategies and plans.
  • Active listening: They are often great listeners and pay close attention to others’ ideas and concerns. This fosters strong interpersonal relationships and team cohesion.
  • Empathy: Their ability to empathize with team members can make introverted leaders approachable and understanding. This quality often helps in resolving conflicts and building trust.
  • Independence: Introverted leaders are often self-reliant, making them resilient in times of crisis. And they often don’t shy away from taking unpopular decisions when necessary.
  • Focused communication: While introverts may not be as talkative as extroverts, they tend to communicate in a clear and concise manner, which can be beneficial in conveying complex ideas.

At the same time, leaders with a preference for introversion often face challenges related to this preference, including difficulty networking, being perceived as reserved, and/or struggling with public speaking. 

The Extroverted Leader

Leaders with a preference for extroversion, in contrast, tend to thrive on social interactions and external stimuli. They are often seen as outgoing, charismatic, and enthusiastic. Their specific leadership strengths typically include:

  • Charisma: Extroverts are naturally charismatic, which can help inspire and motivate their teams. Their energy is contagious and can boost team morale.
  • Networking: They excel at building extensive networks, which can be invaluable for business growth and opportunities.
  • Quick decision making: Extroverts tend to make decisions more swiftly, which can be advantageous in fast-paced environments.
  • Adaptability: Their social nature makes them flexible in various situations and open to new ideas and changes.
  • Effective public speaking: Extroverts are often comfortable with public speaking, making them effective communicators in front of large audiences.

Along with these strengths, extroverted leaders may struggle with active listening, becoming overwhelmed by too much social interaction, and at times, they may make hasty decisions without thorough consideration. 

Finding Your Authentic Approach

While there are distinct characteristics associated with introverted and extroverted leadership styles, it’s important to recognize that most people exhibit a blend of both traits. The goal is to find your authentic approach to leadership by leveraging your strengths and preferences, managing your less-developed or challenging spaces, and leaning into the approach that makes the most sense in a given situation.

This will often NOT BE COMFORTABLE. But it will almost always be necessary to achieving your goals as a leader, as a manager, as a teammate, or simply as a human.

Here are some strategies that may make this a little less “painful”:

  1. Practice self-awareness: Self-awareness is the foundation of effective leadership. Reflect on your personality type, strengths, and areas for improvement. Recognize when you should harness your natural tendencies and when you need to employ approaches that are less comfortable for you. To enhance your self-awareness, consider taking personality assessments like the MBTI or the Enneagram. These can provide insights into your natural tendencies and how you relate to others. Another approach is to reflect and journal: take time regularly to reflect on your actions, reactions, and decisions as a leader and how they may be driven by your preferences for introversion or extroversion. Journaling can be a valuable tool for gaining insights into your thought processes and emotions.
  2. Leverage your strengths: Part of the beauty of knowing and understanding your preferences is the power it gives you to purposefully “flex those muscles,” driving your effectiveness as a leader. For example, if you have a preference for introversion, embrace your thoughtfulness and active listening skills. Use these qualities to foster a culture of collaboration, thoughtful decision-making, and empathetic leadership. If you prefer extroversion, capitalize on your charisma and networking abilities. Find opportunities to inspire your team through your enthusiasm and energy, and use your extensive network to create opportunities and solve problems.
  3. Engage in continuous learning: Leadership is an evolving skill, and there’s always room for improvement. Invest in leadership development. Both introverts and extroverts can benefit from improving their communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution skills through formal training, peer support, and feedback from others.
  4. Strive for balance and flexibility: Remember that leadership is situational and that effective leadership often requires a balance of different approaches. There will be times when an introverted or extroverted approach is called for. For example, sometimes, introverted qualities like thoughtfulness are needed, while other situations may require extroverted qualities like charisma and quick decision-making. Be adaptable in your leadership style, as you move through various spaces, situations, and people. This flexibility can be an especially valuable asset in a rapidly changing business or health care environment.
  5. Be open to experimenting: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different leadership techniques – pushing yourself to “live” in the zone of discomfort every once in a while (or even a lot). Learning from both successes and failures is a vital part of growth.

By actively engaging with these and similar strategies, you can develop a leadership style that resonates with your preferences and personality, while effectively leading and inspiring others. Remember that leadership is not static; it evolves with your experiences and the changing needs of your organization and team.

To sum it up…

Leadership styles are as diverse as the sky is blue, and neither a preference for introversion nor for extroversion makes you a stronger or weaker leader. Whatever your preference, finding your authentic approach involves understanding your natural tendencies, tapping into your strengths, and sometimes leaning into situations and behaviors that may make you squirm in your seat. By doing so, you can become an effective and influential leader in your own unique way, without pretending to be someone you’re not.

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to receive future resources to help build your organization’s capacity to effect social change, or you would like to explore how we can work together on leadership development, meeting design & facilitation, collaborative learning, or strategic communications, please email us. We also welcome you to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, where we promise not to overwhelm you with meaningless chatter.