5 Personality Type Facts Every Leader Should Know
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
As an introvert who worked in corporate America for 30 years, there was one consistent message, “If you want to lead, you should abandon your quiet, purposeful, and reserved leadership style and learn to be more outgoing and social.” In other words, you are too introverted to succeed as a leader. The belief that people with extroverted personality types make better leaders is commonplace in our society and workplace. This one flawed belief results in bias that leads to culturally accepted, and often legal discrimination against introverted leaders.
Please join me in welcoming David Boroughs as our Beyond Introversion guest blogger. David and I connected this past summer and found we had so much in common as far as our corporate background and our passion for advocating for introverts. David's post dovetails nicely with our Myers-Briggs (MBTI) post last week. He provides 5 insightful facts about personality type that come from his decades of first hand experience. Enjoy his passion!
It is time that we break this prevalent bias and end this harmful discrimination. It is time we elevate leaders of all personality types. It is time we leverage the strengths of the entire workforce, not just the half that leans to the extroverted end of the spectrum.
IT IS TIME for every leader to understand, believe, and reinforce these 5 facts about personality type.
1. Introverts, Ambiverts, and Extroverts are all normal.
In corporate America, we have laser tuned our definition of normal to focus on extroverted behaviors. Normal is the person who is outgoing and sociable. It is the person for whom speaking in front of a group comes easily. Normal is the person that gets energy when around others. This is normal, normal for the extrovert that is, but it is far from normal for the average introvert. Business leaders need to put down the laser and learn that true normal is never one specific behavior; normal is more accurately described across a spectrum of behaviors. A bell-shaped distribution can represent the personality type spectrum. Another common name for a bell-shaped curve is a normal distribution. No one personality type on that distribution is normal by itself; it is the distribution of personality types across the population that reflects normality. That is right - whether you are introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between you are all normal!
2. Introverts, Ambiverts, and Extroverts all excel when they are allowed to be authentic.
We are happier and more productive when we can be authentic. Great leaders are authentic to their true nature, and this characteristic is reflected in the authenticity demonstrated by their team members. They lean on their team’s unique strengths and encourage others to do the same. When we coach introverted leaders to act extroverted in order to advance, we ignore the toll this solution takes on the introvert’s productivity, creativity, health, and happiness. It robs the workforce and organization of the benefits of the introvert’s natural leadership style that appeals to teams of empowered self-starters. It is time we gave introverts the same privilege we have historically provided extroverts and allow them to lead from their place of authenticity.
3. Personality Type has no bearing on how good or bad a person is at leading.
Corporate America often wrongly uses personality type to pre-judge whether people can be effective leaders. People of all personality types can be great leaders. During my career, I was lucky enough to work for extroverted and introverted great leaders. These leaders shared a key similarity; they let me lead from my place of authenticity.
Both extroverts and introverts can be terrible leaders. Unfortunately, I also had the opportunity to work for leaders of each personality type who sucked the joy out of assignments that should have been once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The common theme in this group was that they tended to only trust and reward people who acted like they did; they failed to benefit from the diverse set of experiences and styles that their workforce brought to the table.
Personality type does not limit how effective you are or can be as a leader. There are more ways to lead than by just acting extroverted. There are many examples of both introverts and extroverts in the same field who have profoundly changed or influenced the world such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali, and Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, respectively. Leadership success is not limited to one formula. Just as every individual is a sum of their collective parts, every leader is a sum of their collective experiences, talents, motivations, behaviors, actions, and inactions.
4. The most successful leadership teams are comprised of a diverse group of people.
A growing body of evidence supports the idea that diverse leadership teams that ensure inclusion and encourage belonging by promoting a variety of unique thoughts produce more ideas and alternatives, ultimately increasing the probability of success. A BCG study found that organizations with highly-diverse teams produced returns that were nineteen percent higher than companies with more homogeneous teams. A McKinsey study found similar positive results for diverse leadership teams but also showed that organizations with less diversity had a twenty-nine percent lower chance to achieve higher-than-average returns. The bottom line is, companies that have a balance of diversity within leadership get it right far more often than those that do not.
5. Culturally accepted personality type bias and discrimination are fundamentally wrong. It is time to end it!
When we talk about discrimination in today’s typical US workplace, we often limit its meaning to illegal forms, as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity laws. These define illegal discrimination by a group of protected classes (for example, age, race/color, disability, national origin, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, religion, etc.). This often results in hesitancy to use the word “discrimination” because of its legal definition. I am not proposing that the government rewrite the Equal Employment Opportunity laws to include personality type bias, but I am suggesting that we be willing to call out discrimination when we see it, even if it is not technically illegal. Most workplaces choose to use the words tailwinds (positive impact) and headwinds (negative impact) to describe bias that results in behaviors that help some and hurt others. These behaviors frequently lead to discrimination, and when they do, we must be willing to name them and have an honest and open conversation about their impact.
Regardless of what we call it, personality type bias in the workplace results in a form of culturally accepted, and often legal, discrimination when acted upon to create advantages for extroverts and disadvantages for introverts. Unfortunately, both introverts and extroverts alike consider this discriminatory behavior normal far too often. This covert acceptance of bias and di