The power of introverted leaders

I included the topic of introverted leaders in my eighteenth newsletter. This post is based on it.

In the issue, I started introducing a video from Business Insider, where Adam Grant shared why introverted people would be better leaders. Adam Grant is a well-known psychologist, bestselling author, and professor at Wharton School.

At first, I didn’t understand the video at all. IMHO introverted wouldn’t be the right adjective. I was thinking of “humble”, because somebody who doesn’t want to share the spotlight and feels threatened would be a self-centered person, but not just extroverted.

Then I remembered Susan Cain‘s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and decided to dive a little deeper into what Adam was explaining.

The power of introverts

I already had some notes in a draft post about a series of articles based on her book. I start with the following interview from HBR, also available the MP3 from the podcast.

In the article, Susan makes a call to all the managers, noticing them that a third to half of their employees are introverted and that realizing this will help them figure out how to get the best from them.

But why knowing this will help get better results? Because research demonstrated that they react and operate in different levels of stimulation. As she explains, the “one size fits all environments” doesn’t work. So, again, the challenge is to get the best from everyone.

At that point, you would have noticed that when we say introvert, we don’t mean shy or antisocial. Shyness is more about the fear of social judgment, and some introverted are shy, but some are not, or not in all circumstances.

Stimulation response

Being introverted is about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverted people need more massive stimulus to feel at their best, and introverted feel better in quieter, lower-key environments.

Based on what I have shared, you could imagine that the office environment affects introverts and extroverts differently. Working with others is normal for introverts, but when you put them in a more stimulating situation like a meeting or brainstorming, it doesn’t get the expected results.

So group work doesn’t work equally for all the people, and this is important in the current moment where the more-agile environments push us to communicate, interact, and in the end, work together.

The problem with introversion is that in some places and environments is viewed somewhere between disappointment and pathology.

Introverted people capabilities

Susan defends that a crucial role of creativity is also solitude, as many great creative artists and other people understood it and cultivated solitude. Groups can influence and manipulate people’s viewpoints.

In general, institutions are designed for extroverts. Knowing what we know now means a huge waste of talent only because people don’t have in mind the different personalities and behaviors.

Introverts have many capabilities, as the creative one as solitude and emotional introspection, but also have more persistence and concentration.

Albert Einstein, who Susan defends that he was an introvert, said: It’s not that I am so smart. It’s that I stay with problems longer.

In fact, as seen in this Forbes article, several icons are introverts: Warren Buffett, Rosa Parks, Charles Darwin, Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Google’s Larry Page.

More about Susan’s work

If you’re interested in Susan Cain’s work about introverts, you could see the following 19-minute TED talk.

Also, you could find the following link to her Google Talk interesting. It turns out that at this talk, most of the Googlers felt that they were introverted, with only five extroverts in the room.


But what about leadership? That is the point where we come back to Adam Grant.

In research with Francesca Gino and David Hoffman, they found that introverted leaders deliver better outcomes than extroverts when managing proactive employees.

It shows that introverted and extraverted leadership styles can be equally effective, but with different groups of employees. Our research provides insight into when each style is effective, as opposed to trying to test which one is better — which I think is the wrong question.

Introverted leaders are more likely to listen carefully to suggestions and support employees’ efforts to be proactive.

So the point that Adam was referring to with “sharing spotlight and feeling threatened “was that introverts let extroverts get the best of themselves, listen to them, and adopt suggestions, allowing them to be autonomous and be proactive, doing things their way, increasing their motivation.

Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity.


Well, regarding Adam’s video, I would have to start with a reflection about humility. Sometimes we didn’t understand things because we lack the necessary knowledge, and we have to admit it. We have to admit our limitations.

I found this topic very interesting, not only regarding leadership, which was the main excuse for the post. Also, thinking about knowing better the introverted people, how they respond to stimulation, their limitations, their capabilities, and then, from a management perspective, how to get the best from them.

I wrote a post time ago about people’s personalities that you could enjoy. If I remember correctly, Myers-Briggs has 8 types of introverted personalities.

I always considered myself introverted and shy. Now I know that I should consider both differently. Maybe you are introverted or manage introverted people, which could help you better understand future situations.

I hope you liked it. If so, please share it! Do not hesitate to add your comments. And, if you want to stay up to date, don’t miss my free newsletter, where this post began.

As always, thanks for reading.

Also published on Medium.

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