Leadership: What is it like to be an introvert AND a leader?


Simon Sinek is on a lot of panels and has a lot of videos published on LinkedIn and YouTube. Sometimes it feels like to much but I have just watched this snippet on "Can introverts be effective leaders?" and have to admit, this is just genius.

It is crucial to understand the definition of 'introvert' and 'extrovert' though. Simon refers to Susan Cain and her definition. He says: "It is about energy; An introvert loses energy in social interaction, an extrovert gains energy from social interaction. An introvert wakes up in the morning with 5 coins, [for] every social interaction they spend a coin and at the end they are depleted. An extrovert wakes up with no coins, every social interaction they get a coin, by the end they feel rich."

This resonated strongly with me. While I am an outgoing, sociable person, the way I gain energy is when I read, hang out on the computer or go for a walk with the dogs or a run early in the morning, without a soul in sight.

It also resonated with me because of occasions in my private life. After an intense week with team meetings, client interactions, panel speeches, work socials I come home for the weekend, having spent "all my coins". With my wife being an extrovert in the truest sense of the definition Simon puts forward, she wants to host friends, go out and 'be sociable' as this re-energises her. In the past we have clashed quite a bit over this issue, me being "anti-social", her being too much of a "social butterfly".

With this definition though and the reference to Susan Cain (view her brilliant TED Talk below) it is clear that there is no right or wrong, no absolutes on the introvert-extrovert spectrum and no binary solution to the question "Are extroverts or introverts the better leaders?" There is no correlation between being a great leader and being either an introvert or an extrovert. Zero, non at al, as Simon continues to explain.

One thing though to take away is the awareness that our society, our education system and our working environment are optimised for extroverts, as Susan points out. As leaders we do have the responsibility to foster both, environments for introverts and extroverts!

Innovation Leaders include everybody on their innovation journey, they seize the strengths and creativity of individuals and the dynamics of the team. This is what Innovation Leadership is all about and what I coach when helping my clients on their innovation journeys.