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SILENCE (Photo credit: Anders Printz)

Daniel Goleman has an article in the autumn edition of the ‘Harvard Business Review’ titled ‘Leadership that gets results.’ Goleman discusses leadership styles shown to be effective from his work in the field of Emotional Intelligence. He argues that there are a range of six styles that effective leaders need to use depending on the situation.

I was trying to work out how two leaders I’ve worked for fit into Goleman’s analysis. Both ran sizeable business units. They had distinct styles; but different from the stereotype we have of an effective leader. They were highly analytical, taking time to get to grips with the finer points of complex reports or plans. They were more at home managing one-to-one or in small groups than presenting to large audiences. Both had an immense grasp of detail; although they could take an eternity to study the situation and decide a course of action. They had no fear of (and actually enjoyed) working alone. Both achieved outstanding results.

Susan Cain has written an incredibly good book called ‘Quiet.’ In the book, Cain argues that, in a business world increasingly designed for extroverts, the talents and skills of introverts are often overlooked.

We work in open plan offices, pay more attention to those who speak loudest in meetings, encourage our leaders to be comfortable in the spotlight – and see those who sit in quiet reflection as poor team players requiring development. As Cain says ‘introversion is now a second class personality trait.’

However, 30-50% of the population are naturally introverts.

Cain makes some powerful points to promote the case that we often overlook the qualities of introverts who are leaders or team members; speaking up admirably for the ‘power of introverts.’

For example: ‘If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good and bad ideas then we should worry if the loud and forceful people always carry the day.’

Or what about –

‘Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues. Introverts seem to know these things intuitively and resist being herded together.’

Introverts win in some unlikely environments.

There is surprising research in telemarketing and cold calling. It’s been shown that extroverts are more likely to lose focus if results aren’t as expected and become distracted by other things. Introverts, however, are often more likely to stick to the script and get results.

Even in highly creative environments leaders who are classed as extrovert may be less effective than introverts. Research shows that extroverted leaders are more likely to get personally involved in creative initiatives and impose their own ideas and direction. Introverts are more inclined to let staff get on and develop their work to a successful conclusion.

So what’s the implications for you as a manager?

Well, if nothing else, you should circulate the agenda of your next team meeting in advance to make sure everyone can think through the issues in their own space. And in the meeting, don’t associate arrogance and loudness for good ideas or the right answer.

And remember, next time you think badly of a team member who doesn’t rush to drinks on a Friday night or join the lunchtime birthday bash, it could be that they are among 30-50% of people who are naturally introverts. They might, however, be just the person who, given the chance, can think deeply about a problem or issue and come up with an alternative solution or spot the obstacle that has caused the problem.

You can see Susan Cain’s Ted Talk on this subject at www.ted.com