Do Introverts Make Good Leaders? The Role Maturity Plays
If you are an introvert or work with an introverted leader, this article is for you.
Earlier this year I was talking with a phenomenal leader, and I mean a leader with an impressive track record. He runs an organization that makes a positive international impact. After a heartfelt discussion about his journey, he told me, “I don’t think I am operating in my strength by being the leader of this organization.” Stunned, I asked why. He responded, “I am an introvert.”
Is it true introverts do not make good leaders, or that they are not naturally equipped to lead?
I am an introvert by temperament, so I had already given the topic a lot of thought. So I listened to my friend and offered him the best encouragement I could. It does not matter whether we are introverted or extroverted. What matters is that we are mature leaders.
I want to offer you the same encouragement today. There is really no tangible advantage to being either introverted or extroverted. Effective leadership is mature leadership. People are not born mature. They grow—in every way. Therefore introverts and extroverts can both make remarkable leaders if they mature in their temperaments and character. And both can make terrible leaders if they are immature and refuse to grow.
Let me share with you my experience with introverted and extroverted leaders.
Extroverts Make Terrible Leaders If They Do Not Mature
Extroverts can be loud, confident, demanding, attention-seeking, and passionate. They also instinctively know how to direct people in what they want them to do. These traits usually earn them quick promotions to middle management. And that’s often where they remain, unless they mature. Low to middle management is full of immature extroverted leaders. Why?
Immature extroverts are often loud at the wrong times. They may be confident, even if they aren’t competent. They can be demanding, but not always respectful; attention-seeking, even when attention needs to be given to others; and passionate, but not about what counts. Extroverts may excel at directing people’s activities, but are often oblivious about how to connect with people’s hearts.
Immature extroverted leaders can cause a lot of pain. They can be obsessive about getting things done, regardless who gets crushed. They don’t understand that leadership is not about what you can do, but what others can do. As a result, people quit, the team is destroyed, and too often immature extroverts can’t see the destructive cycle. They work so hard, but their organizations don’t grow.
Introverts Make Terrible Leaders If They Do Not Mature
Immature introverted leaders are a disaster of a different kind. Not too many of them make it to middle management because the loud, productive extrovert usually gets there first. Being timid, they are not effective protectors of the team culture and boundaries. They can be moody and even depressed, making everyone around them feel nervous and on edge. They can also be passive-aggressive and vindictive. They may mangle people’s sense of well-being and create crippling anxiety for those who report to them. They may not be loud and abrasive, but their silence is corrosive.
Just like the immature extroverts, immature introverts are not acting out maliciously; that’s just their maturity level. They are operating within their current skill-set by which they deal with their world. Until they have matured, immature introverts (just like immature extroverts) must also be removed.
How Introverted and Extroverted Leaders Mature
I love seeing leaders grow. It’s beautiful. They are transformed, and the lives of those around them are changed. Here is what happens.
As extroverts mature, they learn to honor people, to listen, to think, to accept that they don’t know it all. These lessons learned, combined with their natural strengths, confidence, and willingness to take risks and action produces a very effective leader.
Similarly, when introverts mature, they learn not to be so sensitive, or so afraid to make mistakes. They learn how to get things done and how to be bold. When they combine these lessons with their natural ability to feel, be empathic, reflective, and humble, you also have an effective leader.
If you are an introvert, be encouraged. There is a great leader in you. You have a big heart. You feel people’s pain, and empathize with their dreams. You are a thinker and a strategist. Simply work on maturing and growing daily. Don’t let anyone tell you extroverts have an advantage in leadership. The only person who has a real advantage is the one who is growing.
You may say, “But I am not comfortable in front of people.”
When my leader friend shared with me that he felt inadequate to lead as an introvert, he gave me an example to prove his point. He shared an instance where he felt so uncomfortable literally just to walk at the front of a group of people he was leading. That was his understanding of what leadership is: walking up front.
Leadership is not about walking up front. Leadership is about going somewhere great together with your people. Let someone else walk up front. The leader is not the one who walks up front, but the one who moves the hearts of others to walk together toward a better place.
Book I Just Read: Up Your Business, by Dave Anderson
For Further Reading: