Introvert or Extrovert, Who Should You Follow?

I was just invited to a webinar based on the book “The Introverted Leader.” Most people don’t understand that introvert is a made-up thing by some psychologists who love to label people. It is not a real thing. It is not based on anything other than a self-assessment. The best that can be said about the assessment is that most people responding as you did tend to fall into the same category as you. No one actually looks at anyone’s behavior. How would it feel knowing you are in the same category as 160 million others? How unique is that?

That being said, people love to know the category they fall into of almost anything you can name — height, weight, eye color, intelligence. There are even websites that offer a multitude of quizzes that will tell you which “House of Cards” character you are or what kind of dog you would be — there is almost no end of how people can be labeled. The only problem I see with it is that people take it seriously and think it means something important (well, maybe not in the case of the above examples). Since being labeled “introvert” can be based on your answer to just one question in the test that throws you out of the extrovert category and in with the introverts, you would be advised not to take it seriously at all. Amusing, maybe. Cocktail conversation, certainly.

I consider myself to be an introvert, as does more than half of the population (See Myers Briggs numbers on this) with introverts holding a slight edge. Accepting those percentages, it would indeed be surprising that some of them don’t end up being good leaders by chance alone. I don’t believe that a label of “introvert” gives me any advantage or disadvantage in being an effective leader. Leadership is not based on personality type, regardless of the popular literature’s spin. Leadership is based on the behaviors that cause people to want to follow you and want you to speak for them. I have known many outgoing, social people who I would not want to follow around the block. I have known people who were shy and reluctant to speak up for whom I had tremendous respect.

The problem is that the behaviors that constitute good leadership have not been pinpointed very well so that people who want to be good leaders could begin to work on developing them. In the meantime, my recommendation is if you personally want to be a leader, or want to help your organization create them, focus on helping the people you come in contact with every day become successful in whatever they want to do and you will be well on the way to becoming a good leader, whether you are more at home with a book or running for mayor.

On the topic of transactional versus transformational leadership, I invite to read this related article and weigh in. Or, you may also be interested in What Box Fits You?