Friday, March 21, 2014

The best leaders are ambiverts

A friend forwarded this excellent article to me: "Want results? Hire an ambivert." Written in 2013 by Dan Pink, the article advocates looking for the right mixture in new leaders. Neither completely extrovert nor fully introvert, the "ambivert" provides a mixture of traits that tends to meet with best success.

In new research from Adam Grant, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Management, Grant collected data from sales representatives at a software company. "Then he tracked their performance over the next three months. The introverts fared worst; they earned average revenue of $120 per hour. The extroverts performed slightly better, pulling in $125 per hour. But neither did nearly as well as a third group: the ambiverts."

In Grant's study, ambiverts earned average hourly revenues of $155, beating extroverts by a healthy 24 percent. In fact, the salespeople who did the best of all, earning an average of $208 per hour, were smack in the middle of the introversion-extroversion scale.

And as Pink describes, good leaders are actually salespeople of a different kind. Rather than "selling" to customers, successful leaders pitch a vision and get people to support that effort. Strong leaders are able to reach out to people who can lend a hand, and build bridges between constituent groups. Pink advocates that good leaders need to reflect the ambivert:
What holds for actual salespeople holds equally for the quasi-salespeople known as leaders. Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little. They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities. Sometimes they care too deeply about being liked and not enough about getting tough things done.

But the answer - whether you're pushing Nissans on a car lot or leading a major nonprofit or corporation - isn't to lurch to the opposite end of the spectrum. Introverts have their own challenges. They can be too shy to initiate, too skittish to deliver unpleasant news and too timid to close the deal. Ambiverts, though, strike the right balance. They know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.
Reflect on your leadership qualities. Are you a strong introvert who speaks loudly but may not listen well? Or are you an introvert who prefers isolation, but may lack the ability to reach out to others for support? Find ways to incorporate typical behaviors from the other end of your "introversion-extroversion" scale.

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