Here’s How Losing The Labels Leads To Greater Success
I’m going to make a bold statement: The majority of articles on how to identify introverts and extroverts are wrong. In my own company (like many others), the greatest members embody the characteristics of both. The classic advice has us mislabeled. So here’s my proposal: Why use these labels at all? By David K. Williams, Forbes, sept 2016
If you were to watch the majority of my leadership team in a meeting, for example, you’d say they’re introverts. They’re neither loud nor gregarious. “Your top sales guy isn’t animated? What’s wrong with him?” people might say. Or, “He’s not extroverted enough to lead.”
But take a look at leaders like Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit. He’s one of the most unassuming people around. Some might even call him quiet enough to seem a little “introverted” at times. But he hasn’t needed to be traditionally extroverted to lead a $5B company to success. He’s probably more extroverted in front of his Board of Directors, but even then, he most likely expresses himself in a humble way without “chest pounding” or being loud.
The best leaders, in my opinion, are skilled at matching their approach to the environment, and exemplify the best characteristics of either personality style. They can be extroverted when they’re expressing something that needs to be said (even forcefully, when required). They can be introverted when it’s important to listen. For example, our VP of Sales, David Bauerle, and our top Sales Executives are great listeners. They will typically not say anything until needed, and then when needed will say something that is profound.
In a similar way, our COO, John David King, will listen respectfully as I get carried away for an hour. The verbalization and responses are helpful to me as I clarify thoughts. But these quiet leaders aren’t merely waiting for an hour for their turn to jump in and respond. They are processing and clarifying their own thoughts by listening intently.
We have classic extroverts as well—the “Trents” and the “Cades” who get up and tell jokes, stand on a table, or even pull up their shirt up to get people’s attention. They serve by sounding a trumpet call to keep team members informed and aligned. We value these characteristics. They bring great spice to an organization.
Sometimes it’s important to sound a war cry or a call to arms. Slumps can occur in a market sector that can lead to bad days, months, or years. A great leader needs the ability to rally the troops. But it doesn’t necessarily require an extrovert—sometimes it’s the quietest guy on the team who steps up and says, “This is what you could do to improve.”