The Stigma Of Being An Extrovert


English: Group photo in front of Clark Univers...

Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung; Back row: Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi. photo taken in 1909. (Wikipedia)

I am writing this post as I really feel there is a wrong debate about extroverts versus introverts and their supposed capacity to lead effectively. If you Google the words “extrovert” or “introvert” you get two times more results for “introvert” than for “extrovert”. There is also an overwhelming number of articles supporting the fact that extroverts are bad leaders and introverts their victims.

Definitions:

The introversion or extroversion personality trait, first described by Carl Jung, is used in many psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to describe how individuals respond to various situations. Those tests are supposed to help people understand how they process social information (cognition) and what type of emotions, motivations and behaviors they have under typical social interactions such as work.

Basically, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people and an introvert is energized by being alone.

Are introverts better leaders than extroverts ?

You can find many articles and books with negative bias toward “extroverts“, especially in the U.S., such as Leadership Tip: Hire the Quiet Neurotic, Not the Impressive Extrovert” Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. or The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

Saying that introverts are better than extroverts in leadership seems to me a bit too simplistic and worst, this assumption is not backed by serious studies. in addition, introversion is not necessarily linked to shyness or extroversion does not makes you the center of the party.

According to MBTI, I am an extrovert but although I do get energy and ideas by talking with people, I also like spending time alone without being bored. I am also not comfortable in big parties where I know nobody, I prefer one on one interactions.

Daniel H. Pink, author of  A WHOLE NEW MIND, describes  in a recent article the results of a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management. In the study researchers collected data from sales representatives starting by giving them an often-used personality assessment that measures introversion and extroversion on a 1-to-7 scale, with 1 being most introverted and 7 being most extroverted. Then they tracked their performance over the next three months.

The introverts fared worst; they earned average revenue of $120 per hour. The extroverts performed slightly better, pulling in $125 per hour.

So, according to Daniel Pink, the best sales people are neither strongly introverted nor strongly extroverted, they are “ambiverts”.  

Ambiverts tend to know when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to shut up. 

I am Extrovert but with a low % and I test positive as an Ambivert in Daniel Pinks’ test : http://www.danpink.com/assessment

I also think that best leaders are the ones who have high listening skills and emotional intelligence regardless of being extroverts or introverts.

Personality traits in multicultural teams

American culture is often described as being dominated by extroverts. It is true that compared to other cultures, such as French, Russian or Japanese,  American children are taught at very young age to speak in public, develop self-confidence and believe they can do anything if they adopt a positive and outgoing attitude.

However, it is not clear if culture has a strong influence on personality traits in adults as all cultures seemed to have extroverts and introverts.  Some studies have shown that personality traits have a single normal distribution replicated in each human society, while other researches tend to prove that culture influences socialization patterns, which in turn shapes some of the variance of personality. I believe it is very difficult to draw a clear line between innate and acquired personality traits.

Deloitte Australia had the opportunity to evaluate impact on culture and individual personalities in a  “new” team working on a 3 month project in Australia. The project team consisted of 7 members from Spain (the team leader), Australia, Japan, the United States and Germany (the team members), as well as the client who was from Australia. Intriguingly, it appears that the expectation of

“cultural differences caused team members to become more conscious of their own behaviors and to become more flexible and adaptive. Moreover, cultural diversity provided a unique point of connectivity and enjoyment”

Conclusion

Extrovert leaders are not worse than introvert ones because introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with today’s leadership. Data also show no clear evidence that extroverts are better sale people than introverts.

Personality tests should be used with caution and more as a discussion base to help individuals discover their own behavior and communication style rather than stereotyping and stigmatizing people especially in highly diverse environments.

In multicultural teams, it is not clear if cultural differences are related to the country of origin or to the individual personality, or both, but well managed, cultural diversity can lead to better performance.

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6 thoughts on “The Stigma Of Being An Extrovert

  1. Marquita Herald (@martyinmaui) April 18, 2013 at 7:01 am Reply

    Interesting article. I’ve had to slog my way through Meirs Briggs 3 times – not by choice – but because a former employer thought it was the best thing since chocolate and all managers had to go through it. My results never changed – extreme introvert. I mean as far to the “introvert” rating as the scale could go. Yes, I do value alone time, prefer a few close friends to large groups, and I’ve never been one to engage in idol chit chat. And yet, for more than 25 years I was highly successful in sales and marketing, frequently gave presentations to large groups, did radio interviews, chaired fundraisers, blah, blah, blah. Here’s my take on the debate – I HATE it when anyone tries to fit me into a nice neat little box. I am ME – complex and different from you, and every other person on this planet – just as you are.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach April 18, 2013 at 8:39 am Reply

      Thanks Marquita, well said for an “introvert” LOL! I totally agree with you, MBTI and other psychometric tests are useful only if you use them to develop individual awareness about preferences, not as a life sentence to stay in a box. We all have biases or stereotypes and it takes courage to admit it and be aware of them when we interact with others. I think managers lacking emotional intelligence love putting labels on employees rather than trying to understand what really motivates or stresses each individual. Leadership is about helping people to grow, so any tools that increase self-awareness and stimulate constructive discussion is valuable when used correctly. Developing cultural sensitivity also requires that you understand people for who they are not for where they come from. I have also the same kind of “epidermic” reaction when people generalize “typical” behaviors in various cultures. While it is true that the etiquette and social rules are different from one country to another, individual variations are high within a nation and “typical” becomes stereotype.

  2. Penelope Tobin (@BBMbreaksthru) April 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm Reply

    There’s a lot of introvert-ist behaviour around isn’t there, Anne! This has been an area of concern for me too, being an introvert – yet also a CEO, speaker, and professional jazz musician. It’s a dilemma, whether to join in the louder, currently more listened to way of communicating, or to hold true to an alternative approach, and risk being ignored or just missed in the hubbub! The more that raise this as well as you do, the more chance of change.

    • Anne Egros, Global Executive Coach April 26, 2013 at 3:22 pm Reply

      Hi Penelope, Interesting comment, thanks. I think the real issue behind the stereotypes is a miss-interpretation of what extrovert and introvert means in tests such as MBTI or DISC. The differences is about HOW you find your energy, not about being shy or able to be a great leader or an artist etc. So if you score very high on introversion >70% it means you tend to get energy back by being alone and concentrating on tasks. While a high score in extroversion means you get ideas and refill your energy by being with other people. I am Extrovert but with a low score and I test positive as an Ambivert in Daniel Pinks’ test : http://www.danpink.com/assessment

  3. Guillaume Gevrey May 21, 2013 at 10:16 am Reply

    Hi Anne, interesting topic and great article, thanks. However big a fan of Dan Pink, I am still not comfortable with the concept of ambiverts. I do not think that anyone can be both introvert and extravert. However, i strongly believe in Enthusiastic Introverts, as defined by the MBTI level II assessment. Enthusiastic Introverts are people that will look and feel like extroverts when with people they are comfortable with or when discussing something they are passionate about. But that does not make them extraverts. In my opinion,The effective leader, or salesman, is the one who knows how to ‘flex’ his style in order to achieve the best sale/relationship/deal, etc.

  4. […] The Stigma Of Being An Extrovert (zestnzen.wordpress.com) […]

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