Our culture is obsessed with extroverts. These friendly, sociable, outgoing people are idealized in the morning news, our social media feeds, and our work places.
This extroverted ideal is especially prevalent in leadership. Because extroverts crave external stimulation, they are often looked to as natural leaders. Researchers estimate that 50 to 74 percent of the U.S. population is extroverted.[ref]Dan Buettner, “Are Extroverts Happier than Introverts?”, Psychology Today, May 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thrive/201205/are-extroverts-happier-introverts[/ref] Other studies have shown that an astounding 96 percent of leaders and managers report being extroverted![ref]Adam Grant, “5 Myths About Introverts and Extroverts,” The Quiet Revolution, n.d., https://www.quietrev.com/5-myths-about-introverts-and-extroverts/[/ref]
We’ve already established that leadership is not dependent on personality. Through Christ we have all been recreated to be leaders, and we are called to lead in our everyday lives. Last week we discussed introverted leadership and the advantages of quiet influence.
But what about extroverts? How does the outward-focused individual cut through the cultural noise and truly impact their family, friends, and co-workers? In a world where everyone is talking, how can your message resonate amidst the surrounding static?
Here are some tips for the extroverted leader:
1. Take a Personality Test
If you suspect you’re an extrovert—you probably are. But what you many not know is how much of an extrovert you are. Many people (including introverts like me) have developed the skills to fit in with our extrovert-obsessed society. You may really be an ambivert who exhibits extroverted behavior.
I recommend the 16 Personalities test. This 100 question evaluation is a simplified version of the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. Your results come with a detailed description of your personality type’s strengths and weaknesses, friendships, career paths, and workplace habits. Artios Christian College also offers a free guide to Discovering Your Leadership Strengths. While there is no test that can fully capture your personality, this is a great way to prompt some meaningful self-reflection as you pursue your leadership calling.
2. Recognize the Spectrum of Personality
Personality can be described as a spectrum or as a kind of scale. You may tip more towards the extroverted side, the introverted side, or balance out somewhere in the middle. The uniqueness of our individual traits and experiences means that no two extroverts (or introverts or ambiverts) are exactly alike.
After you’ve taken your own personality test, take some time to explore other personality types. Observe people and their interactions with the world. Then, evaluate your own brand of extroversion. How are your habits similar to the typical extroverted traits. How are they different?
3. Foster Healthy Communication
Polar opposites in many ways, extroverts and introverts are vastly different when it comes to small talk, conflict resolution, and interpreting silence. Susan Cain, author of Quiet, devotes an entire chapter to communicating with members of the opposite personality type.
Since extroverts crave external stimulation, they are often at their best in social situations. An extrovert’s brain is specially hardwired to process large quantities of short-term information without being distracted or overly stressed. They’re adept at processing surrounding conversations, body language, and tone—all while actively contributing to the conversation themselves. [ref]Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (New York, NY: Broadway Books. 2012), 237.[/ref] When it comes to conflict, extroverts are often “confrontive copers”, comfortable with an up-front (almost argumentative) style of disagreement.[ref]Cain, 230.[/ref] Conversely, since they tend to be verbal processors, silence can make an extrovert uneasy. It can be hard for them to understand an introvert’s need to be alone at the end of a busy day.
As a leader, you can minimize these communication roadblocks. Begin by discussing personality differences with your circles of influence. Ask what kind of environment your co-workers or teammates need to be productive. Extroverts often prefer working in groups, while most introverts do better when working alone. Foster an environment that accommodates both introverts and extroverts.
4. Build a Leadership Team
Leadership doesn’t have to be a solo quest. In fact, we see examples of team leadership in the New Testament.[ref]Acts 14:23[/ref] In a recent Leadership Conversation, Israel Steinmetz (co-dean of Artios Christian College) said: “It is team leadership that we see modeled for us in the New Testament…what we’re taught about leadership only works in team leadership.”
Because extroverts posses a “natural ability to inspire” they excel at motivating passive followers.[ref]Cain, 57.[/ref] Their enthusiasm is often infectious and can help propel the team toward a common goal. However, if handled improperly, this very same exuberance can stifle creativity and innovation from other team members. When building a team, be sure to gather members who will balance your weaknesses with their strengths. If your specialty is big picture planning, find someone who revels in the details (chances are, this will be an introvert!).
5. Make Time to Recharge
Most extroverts thrive with social stimulation. An environment that keeps you busy and energized is key. Without enough external stimulation, an extrovert can grow distracted and bored. Susan Cain advises looking for “restorative niches” in your day.[ref]Cain, 220[/ref] Does your job offer enough opportunities for talking, traveling, and meeting new people? Is the office space stimulating enough?
Constantly investing in other people can also be a drain on an extrovert’s energy. As much an extrovert excels at inspiring others, it’s equally important to have individuals who can inspire and motivate you in return. Do you have people who actively invest in you?
6. Learn When to be Silent
Extroverts tend to take up verbal space. This can be both a strength and a weakness. Thanks in part to Susan Cain and the Quiet Revolution, extroverts are learning that there are times to be quiet. An extrovert’s assertiveness and dominance may actually discourage contribution from others. There are times where extroverts “may want to learn to sit down so others might stand up.”[ref]Cain, 58[/ref]
By recognizing when to be silent, you allow other members of your team to contribute their ideas and talents. A great way to cultivate this quietness is to practice active listening. This is one of the most practical skills a leader can develop. Even during a simple conversation, an active listener must: listen to the other person’s words, read body language, facial expression, and tone of voice, contribute relevant content, assess whether or not your message is being understood, and adjust your strategy according to the situation. Extroverts are adept at this kind of mental multi-tasking. It’s what makes them excel at motivating passive followers or easing tension out of an awkward social encounter.
There’s more to extroverts than being open and friendly. Resonant leadership isn’t about how many words you can speak a minute, or how many connections you can make at a dinner party. It’s not about an open office design, team projects, or aggressively friendly customer service.
We learn in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for all things. A time for planting and harvesting, weeping and dancing, war and peace. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. A wise leader learns when to speak and when to be silent. This kind of discernment is what separates a great conversationalist from a truly resonant leader.
Want to learn more about embracing your call to leadership? Here are some resources for you:
- Read Why Jesus-Followers Should See Themselves as Leaders
- Read 10 Qualities of Influential Christians
- Download Artios’ free guide to Discovering Your Leadership Strengths
- Enroll in Artios’ introductory course Essentials of Vibrant Leadership (LEA 111)
- Resonant Leadership: 6 Tips for the Extroverted Leader - March 4, 2019
- Quiet Influence: 6 Tips for the Introverted Leader - February 25, 2019
- Myths of Personality and Leadership - February 18, 2019