Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity. ~Susan Cain
My last two blog posts about introversion struck or chord, or maybe even a nerve. Hence, I’m going to continue with the introverted leader topic one more week. Susan Cain, an introvert, collaborates with management researcher, Adam Grant, I’m guessing an extrovert. Here’s what Grant’s research uncovered about introverted leaders as described by Cain.
“Introverted leaders are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers.”
“Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity. [In Grant’s research study] team members reported perceiving the introverted leaders as more open and receptive to their ideas, which motivated them to work harder.”
In Grant’s own words from an interview with David Brancaccio on NPR: “When you have proactive employees who take initiative to bring new ideas, to make suggestions, to come up with better ways of getting work done. Under those circumstances, we actually found that introverts brought in 14 percent higher profits. The logic is pretty simple, which is extroverts love to be in the center of attention. They like to command the room, and they often felt threatened when their proactive employees were bringing ideas to the table. And they tend to shut them down, which meant that those people were less motivated, and also they got fewer good ideas. Whereas the introverted leaders were very open; they were willing to listen. They took better suggestions, and they left their people feeling more valued. So there is such a thing as an introverted leadership advantage.”
Implications for a Fast-Paced Environment
Cain reports that “Grant is especially excited about the implications of these findings because proactive employees who take advantage of opportunities in a fast-moving 24/7 business environment, without waiting for a leader to tell them what to do, are increasingly vital to organizational success. To understand how to maximize these employees’ contributions is an important tool for all leaders.”
Interesting isn’t it, even paradoxical. In a fast-paced environment with proactive employees, introverts are the better leaders.
Listening, not dominating, and implementing suggestions are all effective motivators that come naturally to introverts.
I recall an example when I was a board chair. At the end of the year I asked the board members to evaluate the past year. At the next meeting I adjusted the agenda, meeting priorities, etc. based upon the collective board members’ input. I still remember what one board member said (an extrovert): “You actually implemented what we suggested.” He was both surprised and pleased. To me, it only seemed logical; why else would I have asked?
Introverts reading this: Do what you do best—create virtuous circles of proactivity!