Busting common leadership myths, part 2: Extroverts only!

3 minute read article Leadership   Technology   Productivity Comments

I want to tackle some common leadership myths, but instead of hitting you with thousands of words all at once, I’m going to tackle them one at a time. In part 1, I started with an easy one. Here is part 2, and another pretty easy one.

Myth: In order to lead, you need to be an extrovert

The short version

tl;dr - No, you don’t need to be an extrovert to be a leader.

The Long Answer

Introvert vs. extrovert

First, since words matter, let’s talk about what an extrovert is. The dictionary defines an extrovert as:

a person who is predominantly focused on external things or social interaction rather than on internal thoughts and feelings, often characterized as being outgoing and socially confident. Compare with introvert.

Compare that with introvert:

a person who is predominantly focused on internal thoughts and feelings rather than on external things or social interaction, often characterized as being quiet or withdrawn. Compare with extrovert.

There is also an energy component that goes along with those definitions. Extroverts tend to gain energy from interacting with others where introverts have their energy drained by interacting with others.


Yes, there are a lot of extroverted leaders out there, “outgoing and socially confident,” but that doesn’t mean only extroverts can be leaders. They definitely have a leg up on us introverts, what with all the “extra” stuff most leaders are asked to do. They are far more comfortable in larger groups, and far more willing to put themselves out there than introverts are.

Think of people like former Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. I’d probably throw Obama in there, too. All extroverts.

Thinking back over all the presidents during my lifetime, I can only think of a couple that I wouldn’t consider extroverted: Ford and Carter, but maybe I’m wrong. Of course, knowing what I know of introverts being one myself, I can’t imagine anyone running for any kind of public office who wasn’t an extrovert.

There are plenty of examples of introverted leaders including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and like him or not, Elon Musk. Each brings their unique personalities and skills to the table, and all have built amazing companies.

I’ve worked with and for many introverts. I remember being at a company Christmas party a few years ago, off in a small group or maybe on my own, when I came across a VP, also standing away from the crowd. I think we made small talk for a few minutes. We both mentioned how big crowds weren’t our thing, and all of my interactions with him from that point on tell me he’s “one of us.” He’s also one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked for, modeling great values and behaviors.

Making it work as an introvert

The key is to use your strengths to your advantage. We (introverts) tend to be great observers and listeners, often picking up on things others don’t. We often excel in analytical thinking, too. Many times, I’ll sit in a meeting and just listen, taking a few notes here and there. I then spend time processing what I’ve heard or written down. Much to the annoyance of extroverts, this is a feature, not a bug. 🤷‍♂️

I also find that leading other nerds is easy because most of them are introverted as well.

Final Thoughts

Over the years, I have been in positions of leadership many times. I can say for certain that in those roles, at the end of a day spent dealing with team members and dealing with people, I’m exhausted. It’s a different kind of tired for me, one that requires lots of time to recharge.

When I worked for FinTech, the CIO once told me I was too quiet, and I’ve had a lot of feedback over the years that I can be too withdrawn. I’ve certainly worked on both of those things over the years, but I only have so much energy to give each day and I have to make decisions about where that energy goes.

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