Introvert or Extrovert: Who Makes the Better Leader?

Extroversion is the dominant style in the United States. As a result, we sometimes confuse leadership with charisma. Yet, research shows that not only are 40%-50% of CEO’s introverts, some of the more “famous” CEOs are also introverts, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Charles Schwab and Steve Spielberg. 

Amongst entrepreneurs, the numbers are higher. Why? Because entrepreneurs frequently are the expert at their chosen business and experts most often are introverts.

So what does this mean?

First, recognize that extroversion/introversion isn’t binary. Most leaders tend toward one style or the other. Leadership, by its very nature, doesn’t attract people who live in extremes.

As with all style differences, start by celebrating and leveraging the differences in style. While other factors come into play in style differences, the key difference between introverts and extroverts is where they draw their energy. 

Both introverts and extroverts seek input. Introverts tend to ask for feedback and then “go within” to think things over and make a decision. One thing to keep in mind about introverts – they aren’t necessarily shy, frequently just quiet – taking it all in.

Extroverts tend to think out loud, drawing their energy from the interaction with others. 

Introverted leaders are frequently your “back of the room” leaders – they are calm, unemotional, and perceived as wise. 

They are the ones that speak infrequently, but when they do, everyone listens.

Extroverted leaders are typically the “charismatic leader” – they are engaging, inspiring, and draw people to them.

If you are an introverted leader, leverage your natural strengths:

  • allow yourself to pause and reflect before making a decision and let others know this is your style
  • leverage your ability to build relationships with small groups inside and outside your company
  • And, take note when it is time to access your extroversion to rally the troops inside your company or externally show up as an ambassador

If you are an extrovert leading introverted leaders, you can help by:

  • giving the introvert time to think
  • asking them what they think rather than assuming by being quiet they are not in agreement
  • inspiring the introvert to step out of their comfort zone when it is time for them to be inspiring to the team

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, one of my favorite books on the topic is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Let’s work together. You can learn more about my leadership coaching and peer advisory boards here. 

Leadership Quote: Knowing Our Impact On Others


This month’s leadership quote:

“Of the many, many things about which we are unclear, or of which we are unaware,

our impact upon others is at or near the top.”

-Larry Cassidy, Vistage Master Chair

Today’s blogpost is offered by guest blogger Larry Cassidy, fellow Vistage Master Chair and author of this month’s quote. Larry has been a Vistage chair in California for 27 years and his words of wisdom inspire all of us.

Are you aware of your impact upon others, for better or for worse? We all too often live in our own personal bubble, unaware of how what we say and what we do land upon others. So come with me on a short walk, to the wood fence behind our house…..

If each time we did something thoughtless or rude or unkind, we had to pound a nail into our fence post, over time the post would resemble a metal porcupine. And if we could pull a nail out of the fence post each time we did something thoughtful, kind or caring, our battered fence post might someday be devoid of nails.

That last nail pulled should be cause for celebration; however, before we hoot n’ holler, let’s first take a hard look at our fence post. After all the pounding and pulling, what is left? Nail holes! We have slowly exchanged our hard words and abuse for decency and respect, but the wounds from our nails linger on. The holes remain. The fence post never forgets. Nor do the people in whom we have punched holes.

Sorry, but there is no escape. This is our responsibility. We are leaders, and someone is always watching. And as leaders, our job is to grasp our impact upon others, to better shape what we say and what we do, and to ensure those in our lives are better for being in our lives. If we are not willing to “do the work,” our offerings too often kidnap self-esteem, and can even become abuse.

My suggestion: don’t think about this. Rather, feel those who have changed your life. Who are they? How did they make you better? Why do you remember them so many years later? I am clear about those who have their fingerprints on who I am today, and I am deeply indebted to each. I also have another list, those who took advantage, who were unkind, who toyed with key values, and they are no longer part of my life.

You know which is which. You can feel the difference. And so can the people in your life. Your children, the team you coach, your employees, everyone. They can feel you. Yours is the opportunity to show them a better way to be. To be the one they remember for supporting their work to be the best they can be. So remember: they are watching, always watching, and every exchange is one more precious opportunity to not drive a nail, to not leave yet another nail hole. Each is a teaching moment. Seize it.


Elisa K. Spain