There’s this guy who is described as shy, unsocial, and will go off by himself to think. Sounds just like that awkward guy from your high school math class, right?
Well, would you be surprised to know that guy I described is one of the best-known entrepreneurs and richest people in the world? Yep, those characteristics I listed are used to describe none other than Bill Gates.
Outgoing personality traits are typically associated with those in leadership roles. These kinds of leaders are assertive and good at giving directives. However, recent research points out that introverts can play a crucial role in leading teams as well.
Harvard Business School researcher Francesca Gino said when it comes to day-to-day teamwork in the workplace, an understated leadership style can lead to improved team performance.
Gino and her collaborators asked bosses to rate how extroverted they considered themselves and then studied how their teams work.
The extroverts were indeed more dominate and drove conversations – but were less receptive to new ideas. The introverts listened to the ideas, internalized them, and were able to help improve team performance.
Gino stated in an interview with CNN, “If you’re working in a team that has lots of knowledge, where people are proactive and suggesting ideas for improvement, you would do better for the team if you took a backseat position and took the approach of an introvert, who is very careful in listening to suggestions.”
Still, many established leaders are extroverts. A 2009 study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota and Baruch College found that 60 percent of top level executives displayed high levels of extroversion.
However, introverts have a significant presence as well – look at Warren Buffet, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates.
Okay, so who really wins in the battle of extroverts vs. introverts?
Gino said when conducting her study, she found that regardless of their personality type, when pushed to try different styles, people were able to learn the positive leadership characteristics of both introverts and extroverts.
“What the findings suggest is that no matter who you are and what your disposition is, you can push yourself,” Gino said. “Some people may just need to push themselves a little harder and use an attitude that sets the situation.”