The Extroverted Introverted Leader

The Extroverted Introverted Leader

Recently, researchers Tamar Parush and Niina Koivunen conducted a study in order to isolate characteristics of leaders in the arts and see how those qualities can be applied to traditional corporate settings. One aspect of the study involved the researchers overseeing a group of senior executives with no musical training conduct a choir. Each executive had a turn at conducting the singers, in spite of their lack of experience. The singers would stand went they felt inspired by the novice conductor and take a seat when they didn’t. The heart of this experiment was to see how executives were (or were not) able to find the balance of giving control to the real talents of the group, while maintaining control and authority of the chorus as a whole.

Mintzberg identified these two methods of commanding authority and ceding control as “heroic” leadership and “post heroic” leadership. Heroic leadership embodies the typical extroverted behaviors that we picture when we think of leaders. This type of leadership is explicitly authoritative and charismatic. “Post heroic” leadership however, is someone who delegates and distributes authority among their employees and is open to listening to subordinates.

The amateur conductors quickly realized they needed to find that balance of deference and assertiveness in leading the choir successfully. The research team calls this practice the “paradox” of leadership. Essentially, the idea that managers have to exhibit two seemingly antithetical attitudes and approaches when it comes to leading the group.

This study highlights the need for managers to be able to juggle the persona of someone who is both very verbal, assertive and outwardly charismatic with the seemingly quieter and more observational persona of an introverted leader.

While an extroverted leader may inspire multitudes through such a tangible expression of traditional leadership qualities, the danger is in not listening to those around her or him. If an extroverted leader is too focused on him or herself and one’s own opinion, this leader will miss advice and insight very capable people who may excel in areas that this person does not. The ability to really listen to others and observe their strengths is key for the naturally extroverted leader. Whereas the introverted leader must project an air of confidence in his or her own decisions. One thing is clear from these studies, however. A person’s  leadership style tends to extend across fields, and the most successful style is one that blends elements from both types.


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