Since when did being an introvert become such a problem? Well, since forever. Take this post by an introvert (here). This author complains about how people chastise his personality type and constantly try to “fix” him. He’s not unhappy. He’s successful. So why try to mold him into a different personality type?
It’s because many people think that being an extrovert is more beneficial. An article within BBC (here) explains some of the misconceptions to both the popularity and number of extroverts in society. Funny thing though, some of our most successful people are introverts… do we need them to “be more social”? Should they try to be more like their extroverted counterparts? My answer, and the answer by the majority of psychologists and social scientists, is no… introverts do not need to change. This article (here) does explain the differences between personality types and abnormal mental disorders. It notes that although we often factor them into two types, there is actually a spectrum that constitutes ones personality profile and the use of two nouns often clouds the real being. This article is more focused on the mental issues that such a bucket implies, but it makes a point (even if indirect): our personality can and will be different from others around us, and sometimes much different.
So does that mean if we have different personality types we should make an effort to group everyone into the one we find more favorable? My husband likens this to hair color, gender, height, and other characteristics that make us who we are… and absolutely not something we discriminate against. I agree. God has graced us all with the gifts that make us who were are. With all the books and therapists telling us to embrace our true selves, we are shocked when workmates or leadership tells us to be more like them. It’s really a leadership issue.
Leadership expert Mike Staver (here) summed it up best: (As a leader) how do I know the difference (between encouraging engagement and being insensitive to the personality needs of people)? The key is focusing on what you want the results to be. Let’s use an example of a large group event in which one desired result would be better relationships between coworkers of a geographically diverse company. Given this result, what should leaders do to accomplish this result? The key is to be sensitive enough to know the difference between encouraging versus pushing. Leaders need to create opportunities to build relationships, yet allow their teams to build these based on their own individual relationship building techniques.
Mike said, “Take you (Elle) as an example. You’re highly successful in your career. What has worked for you?” Good point. I’ve built long-lasting and robust friendships with a variety of people throughout my life… even as an introvert. My level of engagement shouldn’t be measured by how long I stay at a party, or how many people I introduce myself to. I get to know people via more personal and closed conversations. I build trust via actions and words coming together to show me a complete picture of someone. My relationship building is influenced by my personality, but also by many other facets that, to me, create a complete and functional way of being successful in life, and at work. So the point to this?
Great leaders need to understand the results they are looking to achieve (the why they are doing something) and be sensitive to how they create the opportunities for it to be accomplished (the how). There is (rarely) one right way to do something. It is arrogant to think otherwise. Great leaders know this and create an environment to encourage personality, success, and diversity. Whether you’re tall or short, have a certain hair color, are male or female, or are introverted or extraverted, your leader should leverage your talents, encourage your growth and be sensitive and accepting of who you are. That’s what leadership is all about.
What personality type are you? For an online version of the Myers-Briggs personality test click here.
“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.” – Albert Einstein
“I’m an introvert … I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.” – Audrey Hepburn