Let’s face it, many businesses are dominated by assertive individuals and by all means we need charisma and confident people in business. However, Dr Lynda Shaw believes that neglecting the input of all staff, including introverts, is at the peril of the company.
Shaw explains that “although introverts may take a back seat because they feel outnumbered by more vociferous extroverted characters, they have a valuable contribution because of their natural ability to reflect and analyse. These are skills which may not be adequately utilised in business. Introverts are often misjudged as shy, possibly boring, may not speak up, and without opinions and ideas. However, taking a back seat enables them to more accurately assess a situation. They may be fantastic listeners and are often thorough.”
Ironically, corporate executives view introversion as a barrier to leadership yet according to the book ‘Quiet: the Power of the Introvert‘ by Susan Cain, introverts tend to be more successful in the workplace. Cain specifically mentions Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet or numerous occassions. But don’t forget Marissa Mayer, Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Larry Page, who all also fall into the category.
In fact, many leaders of Fortune 500 companies introverts, with 70 per cent having considered themselves introvert in 2012. Shaw believes when employees are passive and looking for leadership from above, it pays for the boss to be an extrovert. In contrast, in environments where the business model revolves around more teamwork and interaction, it may be better to have a more reflective boss.
While extroverts report being happier across a great number of situations and in their lives as a whole, studies of working groups show that extroverts actually generate more negative emotions in the work force, as they create slightly difficult relationships with team mates. They start off with a higher status which is lost over time because they fail to make others feel as happy and confident as themselves.
“If you walk into any company you will find many shy introverts who are uncomfortable interacting with strangers or larger than life personalities but love to go out and socialise with friends,” says Shaw. “Many introverts are very sociable and will create a conversation with random people at parties, but get easily overwhelmed by people who shine brighter or have a louder personality.”
So how can businesses ultimately ensure that all staff are valued equally?
Shaw says: “A great leader will know the strengths of each of their employees regardless of their introverted or extroverted tendencies and be able to bring out their best qualities, ask for their valuable input and give them tasks that they excel at as well as ones which may challenge them.
“It is vital in staff meetings that everybody’s input is listened to by the rest of the group so that the conversation is not dominated by the same people otherwise valuable ideas may be lost which could have been a goldmine to the company. A team which comprises both introverts and extroverts who are both allowed a voice is the optimum team.”
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