L09- Personality and Introversion

Group work, small conversation, presentations; these are all things that have always been hard for me. For me, it is usually more rewarding to speak to people one on one, to enjoy time for myself, to prefer working alone. However; these traits are what most people see and think that it makes me less likely to be a leader and it makes them less likely to be recommended for leadership positions. I am considered an introvert, and usually leadership is most highly correlated with the trait of extroversion (Penn State University, n.d).

The trait of introversion is described as “the tendency to be more self-directed, less assertive, and more introspective” (Penn State University, n.d) These, which I have recently began to qualify as qualities, are not often seen that way to other people. I have, as most introverts can also related, been judged by peers for not being loud enough, not being social enough, not speaking as often. At the other side of the spectrum you have extroversion which is defined as “the tendency to be social and assertive in nature, and to bring a positive energy to a group” (Penn State University, n.d). These people are often seen as the lives of the party, people who are charismatic, influential. Like mentioned previously, these are seen as leaders, and people to look up to.

However; despite the differences in perception mentioned before. There has been research that has been showing different results. According to Nobel (2010) there are various reasons why an introvert would make a good leader:

  • “Extraverted leaders can be a liability if the followers are extroverts, tending to not be receptive to employees who make suggestions and take initiative”
  • “Introverted leaders are more likely to listen to, process, and implement he ideas of an eager team”
  • “Leaders need to adapt theirs style depending on the type of group they are leading. With proactive employees, leaders need to be receptive to the team’s ideas; with a more passive team leaders need to act more demonstratively and set a clear direction.”

Cain (2012) gives us examples of these introverts. One of them our current president Barack Obama. He is describes as being cautious and temperate. Another example is a former Marine commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak.  He explained that he was not the kind of person who was “out there waving a banner and riding a white charger”. He preferred to keep to himself and not go out on the weekends. He would also take a moment to himself and consider his options in solitude before making a decision.

If this is the case, and introverts are just as capable of being leaders than are extroverts, why is it that most of the time people require introverts to be the opposite? Why are we not including these traits that could be beneficial to businesses?



Cain, S. (2012). “Must Great Leaders Be Gregarious?” The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/opinion/sunday/introverts-make-great-leaders-too.html?_r=2

Nobel, C. (2010). Introverts; The Best Leaders for Proactive Employees. Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 1-2. Retrieved from https://lib.ku.edu/sites/lib.drupal.ku.edu/files/docs/KULSS/Handout_introvertedleaders.pdf

Penn State University (n.d.). Personality. Retrieved from Penn State University Ethics and Leadership: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1775390/pages/l08-intelligence?module_item_id=20678755



One Comment

  1. Charity Spinelli March 24, 2016 at 1:20 PM #

    Michelle, you bring a good point to light. My organization recently began offering a leadership course called “The Leadership Trek”, and the class is taught by a representative of Bill Cox Coaching. The class material is a book by John C. Maxwell called “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. Excellent book, I highly suggest reading it. Great read, real life examples, and interesting throughout. But I digress. My point is, that during the 12 week course the focus was not building the traits that make a good leader, but rather how make the traits you possess strengthen you, as a leader.

    As the title alludes, there are 21 “laws” to follow that make a good leader. None of these laws are traits. According to Maxwell, anyone, at anytime, can be a leader if they follow these laws. The crux of this book is one key phrase, “The true measure of leadership is influence” (Maxwell, 16). Although extroversion is a key trait for leadership in many arenas, influence comes in many forms.

    An extroverted leader may be great at influencing because they have the power of persuasion, or elicit fear from their followers. An introverted leader may be great at influencing because they build relationships with others, and people respect and admire them, and want to help them in return. “You’re a leader only if you have followers, and that always requires development of relationships – the deeper the relationships, the stronger the potential for leadership” (Maxwell, 17).

    I think that as time progresses, and more focus on leadership emerges, we will find that possibly the introverts make some of the better leaders.


    Maxwell, J.C. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville: Thomas Nelson

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