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Are Ambiverts the Most Effective Leaders?

Ambiverts, extroverts, and introverts all have unique leadership skills.

Key points

  • Extroverts and introverts can thrive in leadership roles, relying on their natural leadership-oriented traits.
  • Ambiverts bring the best of both worlds to leadership due to their diverse strengths.
  • Ambiverts balance enthusiasm and stewardship, allowing them to try new things in a carefully measured manner.
  • Effective leadership is based on healthy and productive relationships, not just personality types.

For a while, people believed that only extroverts could be highly effective leaders. Their gregariousness, outgoing nature, and take-charge manners were viewed as the preferred leadership style. However, there are equally successful qualities that introverts can bring to leadership positions that set them apart. Some of the most frequently mentioned successful introvert leaders include Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, Barack Obama, and Warren Buffett. A tendency towards introversion did them no harm.

The key to effective leadership is the relationship a leader develops with their team. There are four basic elements that are essential to this relationship: trust, respect, support, and positive communication. None of these are negatively affected by the qualities that we typically associate with introversion or extroversion. While extroverts tend to get energized by being around people, introverts, on the other hand, build up their energy in quiet, solo ways. The extroverts among us recharge through socialization while socializing tends to exhaust introverts.

What Do People Want in a Leader?

There are four frequently cited qualities that are valued in a leader. Effective leaders must be honest, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking (Kouzes & Posner, 2023). Again, introverts and extroverts can be all of these things. But each of these types does offer some unique leadership advantages over the other.

The Introvert’s Secret Leadership Advantages

  • They are excellent listeners.
  • They think before they speak.
  • They are very observant, and their observation powers are almost like a superpower. They can effectively read a room by interpreting body language, facial expressions, and mood. This enables them to respond to others’ needs before they are even voiced.
  • They are thoughtful and intentional networkers. They don’t jump right into relationships, but they take their time to get to know others and build relationships over time. They network meaningfully.
  • They are compassionate. They don’t have to be in the limelight and don’t claim all the credit for their team’s successes. They acknowledge and openly value their team members’ strengths, which can keep them motivated.

The Extrovert’s Secret Leadership Advantages

  • They are super comfortable in social situations and often able to put others at ease.
  • They can make decisions quickly and can be highly responsive to change and nimble in their efforts to manage it.
  • Due to our social biases, they are often viewed as natural leaders. Others look to them to lead the way, which allows them more practice over time to fill leadership roles.
  • They have charisma that attracts others, and their passion and personality can be used as leadership tools.
  • They come equipped with a “can-do” confidence and a “take charge” attitude. These elevate their standing among others, and their courage helps them assume leadership.

The Ambivert Leader

There is another variation of these two types, the ambivert; they exhibit traits from both ends of the spectrum. Ambiverts are like those people who are ambidextrous and who are equally skilled with their left or right hand. They can engage extrovert skills as easily as introvert skills and do so in the most advantageous way.

If you’re wondering if you might be an ambivert, here are some traits associated with these individuals:

  1. Having time to spend alone is appreciated, but you also need time in the company of others to feel fully at your best.
  2. If there’s just too much “together time” or “group time,” it can be exceptionally exhausting.
  3. You recognize the value of quick casual chats and check-ins with team members, but you also value and make time for deeper discussions, as well.
  4. You enjoy working on solo projects, but you find rewards in teamwork, too.
  5. You trust your own instincts and can make up your own mind, but you appreciate insights and input from others you trust.

The Ambivert’s Secret Leadership Advantages

  • They have a strong intuition that supports problem-solving in a flexible and responsive manner.
  • They are balanced and steady in their approach to work; they don’t play it too safe, and they don’t act recklessly.
  • They function well as independent team members but are productive team members, as well.
  • They are never afraid to try new ideas or to make mistakes; they bring a healthy mix of enthusiasm and stewardship to their work.

Four Tips for Honing Your Ambivert Side

  1. Practice trusting your gut instinct; keep a log of when you’re on target or off-kilter
  2. If you’re too hesitant in life, take a few “gentle risks” in safe situations as you develop more confidence. If you take too many risks, practice reining in your actions.
  3. Embrace being a team member and visualize the group as a springboard to greater achievements; trust yourself to work solo—set goals and hold yourself accountable.
  4. Take measured chances when you have a “brainstorm” or “inspiration,” but be ready to manage any negative repercussions or fallout as needed.

Ambiverts are extremely effective leaders. They can run meetings with authority or connect deeply one-on-one with their team members. Ambiverts use their intuition to suss out problems and their logic-based problem-solving skills to address issues in flexible and responsive ways. They are happy to work solo on a project if that’s what’s needed, but they make excellent team members, too. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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