The Introvert's Guide To Leadership (& The Extrovert's Guide To Leading Introverts)

The Introvert's Guide To Leadership (& The Extrovert's Guide To Leading Introverts)

Some say 40% -50% of the top large company CEO’s are 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 for those of us who are introverted leaders and for extroverts with introverted leaders on your team?

As with all style differences, first 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 seek the input and then  “go within” to think things over and make a decision. Extroverts tend to think out loud, drawing their energy from the interaction with others. One thing to keep in mind about introverts – they aren’t necessarily shy, frequently just quiet – taking it all in.

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 people are naturally drawn 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 that 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 it time for them to be inspiring to the team

Lisa Petrilli, a fellow leadership coach, has a great series of posts on this topic starting with The Five Myths about Extroversion from the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.


Elisa K. Spain





Personality Style Drives Choice

Personality Style Drives Choice

There has been a lot of research over the years about the concept of loss aversion.  This research tells us that we as humans are more likely to prefer choices that avoid a loss than those that achieve a gain.

Turns out, research also indicates that our personality style drives our loss aversion behavior.

As a leadership coach, I have become a student of personality profiles, thanks to Vistage speaker, Stuart Friedman.   One thing I have learned, is the pace at which people make decisions is driven by their style.

Research by Alexander Chernev, Associate Professor of Marketing at Kellogg introduces the theory that personality style not only drives pace, it also drives choice.

Chernev’s research involved asking people whether or not they would choose to invest in alternative funds, some with potentially higher yields than ones they already owned.

Prevention-focused people—those concerned above all with safety and security—were more likely to stick with the status quo even when they were told that another option would most likely out-perform.

In contrast, promotion-focused people—those who focus on growth and development—were much more willing to venture into the unknown.

Additionally Chernev’s research uncovered another decision driver: regret aversion, people tend to blame actions that produce bad results more than they blame inactions that produce bad results.  In other words, people who switch to a new investment fund and end up losing money will experience more regret than if they took no action and lost money on their old fund.

How might we apply these findings as leadership lessons?

  • When deciding how to invest in our businesses?
  • When handing out raises?
  • When assigning employees to a new project?
  • When selling a new product line?
  • When defining the success factors for a new hire?


Elisa K. Spain