The chances are, everyone of you reading will identify with either being an introvert or an extrovert.
Whether you’re more inclined to stay at home with a good book or head out on the weekend to socialise, there are benefits to both in the business world.
It’s important to recognise that ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ aren’t terms to be used in isolation of one another. At one end of the spectrum sits the extreme introvert, at the other an extreme extrovert. We simply lean one way or another.
As Carl Jung, who popularised the terms, said: “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in a lunatic asylum”.
But, which end is better? Does an entrepreneur have to be an extrovert in order to make those all-important business connections? Or do they need to be an introvert to have the deep-thinking that will drive their business? We take a look.
The Oxford English Dictionary describes an extrovert as: “a person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations”.
Those who identify as extroverted are perceived to be the life of the party, as they draw mental stimulation from being in the company of others.
Extroverts are often great public speakers and expertly communicate their point well to others, as well as leading others to be motivated into action. These are vital skills when building a workforce and increasing productivity of a small business.
This makes networking a great trait of an extrovert. They are more likely to seek out a strong business network which will help a company prosper in the future and are also great at working under pressure when things start to look tough.
However, there are some downsides to being an extroverted leader. It’s argued that extroverts lack self-awareness and may be more likely to offend people than introverts. Extroverts are also more inclined to take action based on the words of others, rather than take time to consider their own opinion in depth.
Making up one third to one half of the population are introverts, or those of us who are more reflective than extroverts.
The persona attached to being an introvert it doesn’t always mean you’re shy, awkward in social situations and unable begin a conversation. But, it does mean that you’re at your most able when you’re alone and able to think more deeply.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is every introvert’s hero. She brought attention to the overlooked qualities that introverts bring to leadership, such as deep thought, reflection and creativity.
In Cain’s TED Talk, she explains the shift in leader personality, as it grew more important to make a great impression amongst strangers and put public speaking at the helm of becoming a leader, rather than the great thinkers.
On the other hand, because introverts don’t require as much stimulation from outside themselves to be at their most alert they can easily be over-stimulated in busy or hectic environments.
Introverts also feel less excitement from a risk, so they are less likely to take risks, which can have a damaging effect on business growth.
So, which makes a better entrepreneur, the extrovert or the introvert?
Each an be equally effective but under different circumstances.
For example, Francesca Gino of Harvard University and David Hoffman of the University of North Carolina, published the Academy of Management Journal, in which they found that extroverted leaders work better with passive employees, and introverted leaders worked the best with active employees.
So, in reality, wherever your personality falls on the spectrum, you can still be a great leader. You just have to surround yourself with the right people and resources.