Adapting Your Leadership Style for Introverts and Extroverts

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

The best managers are able to adapt their leadership style to suit all personality types on their team.

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People management has never been easy. Success in the role relies on being able to communicate with professionals on the team and understand how to utilize their skills to the best possible potential for the organization.

This is particularly difficult when a team is made of contrasting personalities. Introverts and extroverts are completely different in how they interact with their peers and superiors, but also with what motivates and drives them. This can make it challenging for managers to connect equally with both of them.

So how do you adapt a leadership style to ensure it's applicable to both introverts and extroverts?

Managing introverts

Introverts can be difficult to build a relationship with because their natural quietness can be perceived as disinterest or even a lack of knowledge. However, if managers are able to connect with introverts on their team, they can be some of the most valuable professionals in the organization.

One of the biggest obstacles is that they are often reluctant to come forward with ideas or problems they have. This makes it difficult for managers to celebrate their talents but also prevents them from understanding how they can help or support them in their personal or professional life.

Personal meetings, such as one-to-ones or appraisals, can be an effective way to get to know introverted employees. It can be a lot easier for more timid professionals to speak openly when it's with another person, rather than a room full of people, though building a connection can take more time.

Introverts typically create deeper relationships, which can be key for employee engagement, so making the most of these interactions can pay off. Quieter people are often more creative too, so ensure personal meetings are used to gather ideas or insight from introvert employees, as well as for discussing current workloads or personal matters.

Managing extroverts

Extroverts present their own challenges when it comes to management. Their outgoing and enthusiastic demeanor can often be mistaken for arrogance or ignorance. They can also struggle to listen to the opinions and ideas of those around them, further isolating them from colleagues if not managed effectively.

Their dominant personality can be nurtured into positive leadership skills, helping other members of the team to flourish. Basing their personal development goals on peer coaching will give them the autonomy they need to succeed, while providing additional support for less confident colleagues.

Extroverted employees are typically strong at working independently, meaning they can be given tasks such as internal training or client relations. These jobs should make the most of their natural traits and add something unique to the team. 

Channeling their outgoing personality in this way makes it easier to talk about their more dominant traits, which could be isolating other members of the team. Use one-to-ones to discuss the ways they can better support their colleagues on a day-to-day basis, such as making sure to listen to everyone's opinion before replying.

Adapting leadership styles

The most important thing about managing a team of introverts and extroverts is to never assume anything. Most mistakes are made because managers think they know what's best for employees but this isn't the case. Talk to everyone on the team about how they prefer to work and learn. This will probably mean providing a variety of resources, such as both private and social areas or places for independent ideation and brainstorming, that will get the most out of employees.

It's not impossible to get introverts to work alongside extroverts but approaching it in the right way is crucial. Doing so can be a challenge if a team has been reluctant to notice the different personality types in it. Asking everyone to complete something like the Myers-Briggs test can be a great starting point. Not only does it tell employees about their traits but it also highlights the positive aspects of each type, along with the challenges. This ensures everyone is coming from a place of mutual respect for everyone's skills regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted.

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