Single woman in front of computer with coffeeThough written in 2003, the Atlantic Magazine article Caring for Your Introvert  is a timeless piece on the differences between extroverts and introverts. The author is speaking in general terms but I have seen this specifically with organizations I have worked with in regard to handling their employees. The following paragraph taken from the article is a good summary to how our world handles the differences between extroverts and introverts:

 “With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. “People person” is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like “guarded,” “loner,” “reserved,” “taciturn,” “self-contained,” “private”—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.”

 As an extrovert I have had to be deliberate about learning to understand the introverts in my own world. I have 4 siblings much younger than me and 2 of my siblings are introverts while 2 are extroverts. As I have watched them grow and develop I have seen more clearly the strengths that each bring to the table, making me more aware that introverts bring unique perspectives and approaches that extroverts do not bring and vis-versa.

As a manager it is critical to remember that being an extrovert does not make someone a good leader. In fact, introverts may often be better leaders because they have sharpened the skill of listening, a key to being a strong leader. In organizations I have worked for and those I have consulted with, I have seen people with fantastic leadership skills be passed over for opportunities or promotions because they appear to not be as people oriented as an extroverted colleague. This is a disastrous mistake that managers should seek to avoid.

This is also important in interviewing, team building, meeting agendas and participation expectations, and of course for appropriately aligning people with the roles in your organization. Don’t bypass someone because they are an introvert. They bring valuable skills and abilities and unique and valid perspectives that cannot be brought by extroverts, which probably make up much of any given team.