Power of Introverts: Can They Be Better Bosses?

There is no doubt that pop culture has shaped America's image of a great boss. When the majority of people picture a great leader, they think of someone outspoken, personable and attractive, quick with input and an opinion, inclusive of others yet demanding attention from them at the same time.
09/29/2015 07:30 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

There is no doubt that pop culture has shaped America's image of a great boss. When the majority of people picture a great leader, they think of someone outspoken, personable and attractive, quick with input and an opinion, inclusive of others yet demanding attention from them at the same time.

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Image Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons: Jean-François Chénier

In other words, besides business acumen, a great boss has the same traits as a darling guest at a cocktail party: they are both prime examples of extroverts.

Certainly, extroverts have qualities that make them effective leaders. No one is better at networking than the extrovert, and they tend to be better public speakers than their quiet counterparts. These skills help extroverts with team building and winning people over, invaluable skills for a growing company, yet this is only half the story of success.

In 2006, USA Today released a study with findings that revealed 60% of successful business executives are extroverts. Okay, so maybe extroverts tell a bit more than half the story, but the point is that introverts make up 40% of these successful executives. That's no accident.

While the popular image of the successful top-level business leader may be an extrovert, in fact many of the most famous leaders were introverts, from Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to Abraham Lincoln. Introverts have many skills that extroverts lack, or at least have less of, and in the past decade many books have been published on the subject, including Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, which is summed up excellently in her TED talk. In essence, the answer to the question "can introverts be better bosses?" is sure they can be, but they aren't necessarily better. Here's why.

Introverts are better listeners
If you talk less, you hear more, so naturally introverts are the more attentive listeners. Better listeners are more empathetic and are liked by other people more as a result. Listening makes introverts better leaders because they actually hear what their employees say and can use those ideas to the advantage of the business and to intra-team relations. On the flipside however, without an outspoken leader, the team's direction can flounder because its leader listens too much and decides too little.

Introverts are more cautious
As a result of spending more time alone, introverts are cautious. Meticulous, introverts will think things through before they act, using their own reasoning but also often rigorously researching the decision before making it. As a result, introverted leaders don't make hasty business decisions, and their choice is often the right one. Like listening, this can be a double-edged sword if not tempered properly. The introvert's consideration of every option slows down the decision making process, in turn impacting a company's growth.

Introverts have more self discipline
It's no secret that extroverts are more effective team players, and introverts are more efficient working alone. Because introverts spend more time alone, they have developed self-discipline to complete a task without support or oversight. As a result of this discipline, they can maintain their focus on work better and also have a more rational thought process based on logic and reason because they think things through on their own without help. With the rise of remote work in the modern world, introverts have become even more important in their fields.

Introverts prefer depth over breadth. Extroverts prefer talking with lots of people at a party, and introverts tend to gravitate towards in depth conversations with a few individuals. This same trend applies to work. Extroverts like to dabble in a lot of different projects while introverts like to dedicate themselves to one task until it is complete. This trait can make a good boss if there is a strong team to handle all of the other work, but without a strong team, this trait can hold a business back because the introverted boss isn't checking in on every project and making sure it's up to speed.

Introverts are more humble. Less interested in the spotlight and more interested in helping and contributing to the final product, introverts can make better team players without having a huge vocal role within the team. In many ways, this makes introverts better leaders because they won't tread on other employees' ideas. Instead, they will let employees work through their own ideas. An introverted leader is ideal for a driven-proactive team that will take initiative. Granted, sometimes those ideas will fail, but the road to innovation isn't without potholes.

Introverts write more
Not every introvert is a novelist, but every novelist is an introvert. Because introverts find extensive social interaction tiring, they generally feel more comfortable with the written word. As a result, introverts are very successful with online networking, whether through emails, written blogs, or social media. With a deft control of language, introverted leaders can make impersonal communications feel personal, an element that makes clients and employees alike happier.

Introverts exude calm, not energy
Rarely will you see an introvert leaping about a stage invigorating a crowd. They tend to be a calming presence, whether they are delivering good or bad news. While this style of delivery may not be as effective at delivering good news, it's ideal for situations of turmoil. Introverts will keep the company calm by remaining calm themselves, an asset for any business during a trying time.

Can introverts be better bosses?
Absolutely. They possess many useful business skills that extroverts tend to neglect. But remember, being a better boss is ultimately less about whether you are an introvert or extrovert and far more about how you utilize the skills you have to leverage your business and your team into positions of success. So get out there and use your talents to their fullest potential!