When asked what characteristics a good leader has, most people would say that they are outgoing, gregarious, maybe even a little bit cocky or arrogant. They’re the kind of people — we tend to believe — you are go-getters, battling the world for their chance at the top of the proverbial food chain.
In short, we tend to think that extroverts, with their outgoing personalities and sometimes bossy qualities, make the best leaders in the workplace. However, these extroverts, those who are at ease in social settings, who know how to sell, how to strike up a conversation and never back down, aren’t actually the ones who get the job done.
If you want results, a recent study shows, don’t hire an extrovert. Hire an ambivert.
Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management, found that extroverts fare no better in the professional world than shy introverts. Instead, his study found that it is the middling group, the ambiverts, who make the best leaders.
In the recent study, he began by giving an often-used personality assessment that measure introversion and extroversion on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most introverted, and 7 being the most outgoing. He then tracked participants’ work performance over the next three months.
Not surprisingly, the introverts fared worst, earning an average revenue of $120 per hour. Surprising, however, is that the extroverts didn’t fare much better, earning an average of $125 per hour. Neither group did as well as a third, almost unheard of, group: the ambiverts.
Ambiverts — a termed coined by scientists in the 1920s — are neither particularly extroverted or introverted. They are “normal people,” who fall somewhere in the middle of the 1 to 7 scale that Grant used. Ambiverts, notes StarTribune, are “not quiet, but they’re not loud. They know how to assert themselves, but they’re not pushy.”
In Grant’s study, ambiverts earned an average hourly wage of $155, beating extroverts by a healthy 24 percent. In fact, the salespeople who did the best of all the participants, earning an average of $208 per hour, were right in the middle of the extrovert to introvert scale with scores of 4: the “perfect” ambivert.
Extroverts, in short, can talk to much and listen to little. They can be too cocky, too aggressive. Introverts, on the other hand, can be too meek in the workplace, not speaking up when necessary, sometimes too shy to initiate. But if you’ve lived your whole life under the guise of “introvert” or “extrovert,” perhaps its time to take a closer look.
It turns out that the vast majority of people are ambiverts, falling somewhere in the middle of the introvert to extrovert spectrum. While there are some true extroverts, and some true introverts, the vast majority of people are somewhere in between. So in a sense, suggests StarTribune, we are all “equipped to lead.”
So perhaps the next promotion shouldn’t necessarily go to the most outgoing guy in the department, or the more aggressive woman at the office. Perhaps the best leader is someone who knows how to initiate conversation and how to listen well, who knows when to speak up and when to keep quiet, who can balance a gregarious smile with steady emotion.
Perhaps the next leader in your company will be someone just like you.
Are you an ambivert, extrovert, or introvert?
[Image via Shutterstock]