Introversion and extroversion are two ends of a personality spectrum. And when it comes to being an introvert or an extrovert, there can be plenty of nuances. There are introverts who are a little extroverted, and extroverts who are a little introverted, and every person has a unique connection with either end of the personality spectrum.
But for leaders, identifying commonly shared traits of introverts or extroverts is a great way to ensure your leadership style is suited to all members of your team.
Let’s go over how these different personalities show up at work, and what to consider when leading introverts and extroverts.
Who Are the Introverts and the Extroverts?
Being introverted or extroverted can shape the way your staff interacts with their colleagues, how they manage their workload, and what motivates them.
To better understand how introversion or extroversion impacts performance or work style, let’s look at some differences between introverts and extroverts.
An extrovert is usually outgoing, action-oriented, and derives energy from working with others. They thrive in groups of all sizes, and prefer to tackle ideas and challenges as part of a team. Some extroverts tend to be more spontaneous and free-spirited than introverts and are less afraid of sudden change.
Introverts are individuals who gain energy and recharge through spending time alone, where they can reflect on ideas and feelings. They still value relationships and connection but prefer engaging in smaller groups or one-on-one. They may also be more introspective than extroverts, and more comfortable working alone.
Leading Introverts and Extroverts at Work
Leaders are more effective when they understand how their teams operate, and it’s important for them to determine what motivates and excites their staff.
We’ve narrowed down three work processes that are central to most careers: Collaboration, Project Management, and Integrating Feedback. Within the context of these processes, here are some tips for leaders to support employees that are both introverted and extroverted.
For the Introverts
Considering strengths and weaknesses, here are some tips for leading introverts:
Group Settings and Collaboration
Collaboration is an excellent method for producing well-rounded solutions and strategies, but everyone approaches it differently. For introverts, they may feel hesitant to voice opinions in large groups.
For the more introverted members of your team, create space for them to contribute without putting them in situations that make them uncomfortable. Introverts value having time for introspection and prefer to contribute thoughtful ideas that they have had time to fully consider. Try sending an agenda for group meetings ahead of time. This way, the introverts on your team can consider talking points, have time to prepare ideas, and feel more confident when sharing them with the group.
Another tip: At the end of every group meeting, ask the room if anyone missed a chance to share their input. This will help create space for introverted participants to contribute, when they may not have had the opportunity to interject during the meeting.
Introverts often have very analytical minds and feel more secure when working in structured environments and situations. Essentially, they place a lot of value on rules and guidelines. They prioritize planning ahead and can feel cautious when facing the unknown.
So, when leading introverts, it’s vital to lay the groundwork before a project is set to begin. Address how the new project will impact their workload and their day to day, what will be needed from them, and who they will need to collaborate with for success. Having time to anticipate any changes to their regular schedule or to prepare for new challenges or responsibilities will help them go into the project feeling confident and capable.
As we mentioned, people who are introverted may struggle with voicing their ideas and opinions. This is especially true in large groups, or when they need to think aloud and share ideas on the spot.
Similarly, they may not provide feedback—or feel comfortable receiving it—as freely in a group setting either. To give and receive feedback that is constructive and beneficial, be sure to schedule regular one– on– one meetings with your team members. Not only might it create an environment where they feel less anxious, but it will also give them opportunities to present ideas without interruptions or the need for social responses—which can be major obstacles for introverts.
For the Extroverts
Follow the below tips to ensure your leadership style is also conducive to the extroverts on your team:
Group Settings and Collaboration
Extroverted individuals thrive in group settings and place a lot of value on collaboration. For them, it’s extremely helpful to bounce ideas off other team members to reach the best ideas, solutions, and strategies. Their excitement and optimism can be uplifting for teams, but it can also inhibit efficiency.
Extroverts can articulate their ideas with confidence and feel comfortable speaking up in a group. And although their communication skills can be useful, the thrill of conversing and sharing ideas can lead extroverts down tangents and even cause meetings to get off track. They can also forget to pause and make space for other team members to contribute.
Similar to helping introverts feel prepared, sending a meeting agenda ahead of time is a great way to keep extroverted contributors on track. Having a list of topics and sticking to them will help prevent any derailments while still presenting extroverts with a chance to voice their ideas.
Many extroverts tend to be very headfirst when it comes to projects. They may not require as much time to mentally prepare for upcoming shifts or changes in their workload. However, they can benefit from structure just as much as introverted team members, when done in a collaborative way.
Instead of a top-down approach, try working alongside them to build an effective game plan. To walk the fine line between micromanagement and guidance, a good method is to establish check-points throughout the project life cycle. This way your extroverted team members will have the freedom that makes them feel trusted and respected, while also allowing you the opportunity to ensure the project remains on track.
One on one feedback opportunities are usually going to be your best bet for sharing and receiving feedback from your more introverted employees. But, to make the most out of having extroverts on your team, it’s a good idea to offer both group and individual feedback opportunities.
The reason for this is that extroverts like to take cues from their peers and reach decisions as a group—it’s helpful for them to process things aloud. Group feedback meetings for projects, campaigns, or general workflow will allow them to hear what others are thinking and feeling, which can help them process or express their own thoughts. Plus, they truly value the input of their team members.
But even the most extroverted team members may be hesitant to openly share or receive personal feedback with their leaders. So, when it comes to individual performance feedback, be sure to provide them with plenty of one-on-one opportunities, too.
In any workplace, teams are bound to be filled with both introverts and extroverts. They both bring their own unique approaches to their roles, as well as their own sets of strengths and weaknesses.
Human behavior and personality traits are fluid—leaders don’t need to get too caught up in exact definitions of introverts and extroverts. However, understanding the two personality types and how they operate can provide useful insights to motivating their teams and maximizing unique strengths.
For more resources on personality types at work, check out our content for the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types:
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