It is perhaps natural to assume that extroverts will always make the best leaders. However, in a recent discussion for Harvard Business Review, Francesca Gino, Professor of Business Administration, argues that those who have a quieter or more introverted nature can be highly successful leaders, possessing attributes that extroverts do not have.

Having conducted studies on the relationships between employees and both introverted and extroverted leaders, Gino discovered that among more pro-active teams of employees, introverted leaders were more successful. It was discovered during studies, where certain leaders were instructed to display either introverted or extroverted leadership characteristics, that those under the command of the introverted leaders displayed greater creativity in coming up with solutions to tasks.

Extroverted leaders tend to do a lot of talking, so when they have pro-active followers, this pairing does not work so well. When pro-active followers are paired with introverted leaders, the leaders tend to listen, and thus take good and productive ideas on board, benefiting all.

The experiments conducted reveal what could possibly be seen as weaknesses in extroverted leaders, but Gino advises that is not the case, and this can be dealt with by carefully assessing the context which the leader is working in. If surrounded by creative, pro-active workers who are offering ideas, it might be best to sit back, listen and be receptive to any ideas put forward.

It still seems to be the case that most leaders are extroverts. Should introverts adopt more outgoing characteristics, or will people come to realize the benefits of being introverted in leadership? Gino reiterates that, again, context is important. If followers are silent and aren’t forthcoming with suggestions and ideas, then it would be beneficial to be an extroverted leader. However, in this situation it is also important to try to push your followers to become more pro-active and creative, creating a beneficial environment for everyone.

Particularly in Western cultures, extroversion is often highly valued in leaders which can present a problem for some people when trying to get ahead in their company. Gino, however, does not recommend pretending to have a more extroverted nature, and suggests this can be bad for both your personal well-being and also for the success of the company. Instead, she suggests that introverts in this situation should play to their strengths, such as good listening skills, to try and encourage others to be more productive and come forward with more ideas to create a productive team environment.

Click below to watch the Harvard Business Review discussion in full:

This article was written by Chris Storey, Marketing Assistant at the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in more than 75 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at 


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