Introverts are as important as extroverts for a successful business

Employers may be being misled by the power of a louder voice, or the notion that the traits of an extrovert such as being a natural-born leader, someone who is self-assured, or a decisive communicator are more favourable.

This means they are at risk of ignoring the important input from introverted workers thereby not getting the best out of all their employees and not accommodating different personality types as part of an inclusive, productive workforce.

Making room for introverts:

HR should offer more support to introvert employees

The power of introverts in innovation

HR mythbusting: Can people be sorted into personality categories at work?

Previously many businesses, especially industries like finance and law, were dominated by assertive, extroverted individuals.

We certainly need charismatic and confident people in business, but neglecting introverts who are associated with deep thinking, reflection, being self-aware and thinking before acting is to the cost of the organisation.

Interestingly though, most businesses are roughly equally made up of introverts and extroverts. It is what happens in the workplace that shows that they are geared towards extroverts and that introverts are often not regarded in an equal light or utilised for the valuable skills that they bring to the table.

According to Myers-Briggs, the descriptors for extroversion are: outgoing, imaginative, enthusiastic, alert, practical, ingenious, decisive and responsible – and who doesn’t want people fitting those descriptions in their organisation?

But equally the descriptors used for introversion are just as attractive: dependable, realistic, conscientious, insightful, original, tolerant, sensitive and loyal. These traits are ones that are being increasingly favoured by organisations that value and prioritise inclusion, flexibility, equality and diversity.

Importantly let’s remember that most people are ambiverts, rather than 100% introverted or extroverted. The vast majority of us are quiet in some situations and loud in others, feel sociable in some circumstances and not in others.

So, how can we get the best out of our introverts (and extroverts)?

Reality check

Introversion is not an obstacle to successful leadership in fact many leaders of Fortune 500 companies are introverts. It may pay for a leader to be an extrovert for employees who are passive or need inspirational leadership, but reflective bosses are ideal for business models which revolve around teamwork and interaction.

Set the organisation structure to work for both

A good business needs a range of personality types. Extroverts and introverts are able to learn and benefit from one another’s strengths, which if harnessed productively, makes for a far more successful team and business. 

Be flexible to meet needs

Some introverts (and extroverts) thrived working from home during the pandemic, others did not. Know the best way to get the best out of them but all the while ensuring inclusion.

Listen to all voices

Avoid allowing meetings to be overtaken by overly dominant voices and ensure the whole group listens to each individual’s input so that valuable or even goldmine ideas are not lost.  

Value everyone’s skills and talents

While many extroverts bring energy, good communication and decisive action to the business, introverts often have a strong and intuitive ability to reflect, appreciate, be open to ideas and listen to suggestions which are increasingly traits required in a business world where positive respectful culture is not negotiable.

Recognise the team as individuals

Thanks to neuroimaging technology, we know that different parts of the brain are more or less activated in line with if you are an introvert or extrovert and this will differ in each individual.

A great leader will recognise the strengths of their employees and be able to bring out their best qualities and give them tasks that they excel at, as well as ones which they might initially find challenging. A group which comprises both introverts and extroverts who are both allowed a voice is optimal.

Lynda Shaw is a brain and behaviour specialist and neuroscientist