Monthly Archives: September 2021

Why Do Introverts Make Great Leaders?

I recently joined a local Toastmasters club. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made. When you realize you need to work on something. There is no other way to tackle it, than, to act on it. For the longest time, I have realized the need to improve my communication skills. The need to put myself in an uncomfortable situation, to help me grow. Toastmasters club is the perfect platform to do just that! So far, I have given four prepared speeches at my club, this is the forth one – that was a part of the Visionary Communication pathway>Level 2. [Read my 2nd speech on data privacy]

Conventional wisdom has us believe that extroverts make the best leaders. These leaders need to be authoritative, loud, abrasive, stern. Naturally, being an introvert, I never thought I could be a leader.

Then one day a study led by the famous organizational psychologist Adam Grant concluded that: in certain situations introverts make even better leaders than extroverts.

Now, being an introvert I had to find out why that is so. Why in certain situations, introverts make better leaders? 

Here’s what the study had to say: In a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders. Especially in cases, when workers are proactive, offering ideas to improve processes. Such behaviour can make extroverted leaders feel threatened. As opposed to introverted leaders; who tend to listen more carefully and are receptive to new ideas and suggestions.

Therefore, according to the study, if you have a team that’s supposed to do the same job over and over with no change whatsoever, in those cases, extroverts make the best leaders. If you have a growing team, trying to adapt to new changes, trying to improve processes then, introverts make the best leaders.

To test this idea, the researchers conducted a field study in 130 franchises of a U.S. pizza delivery company. And collected data on each store’s profitability. The results showed that in stores where employees weren’t very proactive, extroverted leadership was associated with 16% higher profits than average—but in franchises where workers offered ideas, extroverted leadership was associated with 14% lower profits.

So, now that we have this data, it’s worth reexamining our prejudices. We all know there is a cultural bias against introverts. In one of the surveys, senior corporate executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership. And it’s no surprise that those who are dominant and outgoing are favored more in hiring and promotion decisions.

Now with that let me pivot to the original structure of this speech itself. 

When I was looking at the details of this level 2 speech, I was utterly confused. It talked about different kinds of leadership I had to give a speech on. There are all kinds of leadership styles that toastmasters has laid out: authoritative, democratic, innovative, pacesetting….and few more. I didn’t think I fit into any one of these boxes. 

Maybe each framework helps us figure out what our own style is. But before we can even get into different styles, before we can decide what path to choose as a leader, there’s something else we need to understand…..and that is ourselves. Then, It all comes down to understanding our own ego.

Now coming back to the same famous psychologist Adam Grant, who started this research on why introverts make better leaders, he also has the following rules on leadership in general and would like to end this speech with these rules.

The 1st rule of leadership is; as a leader you always put mission above your ego.

The 2nd rule of leadership is, if you don’t care about your people, they won’t care about your mission.

3rd rule of leadership : if someone has to tell you the 1st two rules then, you’re not ready to lead.