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The common knowledge tells us that the good business leaders are great communicators who are assertive and outgoing. However, is this always true and applicable? What would happen when two strong willed, extraverted individuals come together in a work situation with opposite points of view? Some theorists have begun to question the common knowledge and extensive work has been done by Prof. Adam Grant of Wharton. They have inferred that introverts are better in certain situations.
In an extroverted leadership the leader commands the center of attention. This implies that the leader is outgoing, bold, communicative as well as dominant in many aspects of behavior. This simply lends a clear structure, direction and authority in a business situation. However, when such leaders get to work with employees who are proactive and take initiative, there tends to be friction between the leader and the led. However, when an introverted leader takes charge of such employees there tends to be better chances of success. Grant and his colleagues have identified situations when introversion for a leader is better!
A study was undertaken on a national pizza delivery company with 130 stores, which got responses from 57 store leaders and 347 employees. Factors average price of pizza orders and worker hours were factored in for managing factors beyond the control of the leaders’ influence. The survey used a self - rating of extroversion by the leaders and included factors on how proactive were the employees in the store. Employees rated on factors like how involved, they were in improving procedures and processes, speaking out on issues concerning work etc.
The study surprisingly, identified an inverse relationship between employee productivity and leadership introversion. The leaders who were introverted led the proactive employees to earn higher profits. The proactive behavior, according to Grant and the team is important in an uncertain economy.
Grant also noted that extroverted leaders who command the center of attention tended to feel threatened in a proactive employment situation. The inference was that the introverted leaders tend to listen to proactive employees more carefully and consider the suggestions thoughtfully. The study goes on to infer that the proactive employees when paired with extraverted leaders would respond less perceptively and this would discourage the proactive employees leading to a dip in employee productivity thereby reducing the overall organizational profitability because of personality conflicts.
Personality conflicts always lead to a loss of productivity and profitability in an organization pitting employees and leaders against each other. Thus the researchers observed would be more applicable to flat organizations and more relevant where the leaders are newly promoted when the leadership credentials has to be established clearly. This is clearly where the employees tend to challenge the leadership and the leaders also tend to feel threatened.
The same team also undertook a different study where individuals led by leaders were to fold as many T-shirts as possible in a given span of time with rewards for higher performance. The team leaders were told to emulate either extraverted or introverted leadership styles. Proactivity was planted in the teams by design for the purpose of the experiment in the team members. The findings from this study also corroborated what was found in the pizza delivery chain study. When team members were proactive with introverted leaders they tended to perform better and vice-versa. Both the studies clearly indicated that it is not the introversion or the extraversion of the leaders that mattered, but the way the teams and the team leaders were paired and clearly established that pairing introverted leaders with proactive teams led to increase in organizational profitability and performance.
Adam Grant, F. G. (2013). Reversing the extraverted leadership advantage: the role of employee proactivity. Academy of Management Journal.
Smart Company. (2014, February 10). Why extroverts are not always the most successful bosses. Retrieved from Smart Company: http://www.smartcompany.com.au/leadership/41039-why-extroverts-are-not-always-the-most-successful-bosses.html#