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We’re historically accustomed to the idea of entrepreneurs as outgoing, ultra-charismatic leaders – the likes of Richard Branson or Arianna Huffington weren’t known as being backwards in coming forwards. Yet in recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of the introvert leader. The Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages have delivered some of the most innovative business ideas without needing to adapt their quiet, intellectual natures.
There are plenty of advantages to both forward or quiet personalities. But a relatively recent development is the rise of the introvert/extrovert power couple – businesses steered by a pair whose characteristics should clash, but somehow just work.
So what’s behind the proliferation of the double-headed business, where one head is quite unlike the other? Why is modern business suited to this seemingly mismatched combination? And how can your company make the most out of a partnership of loud and quiet personalities at the top?
A new leadership generation
A key factor in the rise of the intro/extro power couple is that it can often be a necessity in today’s business landscape. There are more and more people launching businesses – in the US alone, recent statistics show that 27 million people are starting ventures, and it’s only natural that many in this expanding pool of entrepreneurs won’t fit into the typical outgoing, ultra-charismatic mould.
In fact, generational split shows a definite shift in personality traits. Deloitte found that millennials are 32% more likely to identify themselves as reserved, wary of change and respectful of tried-and-tested ways of working than Gen X or baby boomers. More surprisingly, just 19% of the younger generation identified as risk-taking pioneers. Millennials aren’t just coming of age but have reached the stage in life where more often than not, they’re the boss – and many of them just don’t share the characteristics typically associated with the extrovert entrepreneur.
A necessity for modern business
The sharp rise in new tech businesses is a massive driver of this new form of alliance. Many extrovert entrepreneurs have dreamed up fantastic ideas for tech products, but often rely on others to turn a gem of an idea into reality.
It’s something of a stereotype that coders and programmers veer more towards the quiet, intellectual personality, but it’s also often the case. An extroverted ideas-machine trying to get an early stage concept off the ground with little financial backing won’t necessarily have the financial clout to hire someone – so offering a stake in the business can be the natural first step.
Of course, introverts can often be the driving force behind a company’s initial concept. In these circumstances, the need to plug a skills gap also comes into play. Sales are the most important factor in the survival of an early-stage business, and effective lead generation can be the difference in a venture staying afloat or sinking. If the only person at the helm isn’t accustomed to putting themselves out to market – and dealing with the inevitable rejection that every company faces at one stage of another – then even the best-designed product will falter as funds dry up.
Empowering the power couple
So why – and how – can you make the intro/extro alliance work for your business?
A study from behavioural scientists at Harvard Business School found that in some cases, introvert leaders can have a greater impact on the productivity of workers. They found that this was due to the different reactions that the managers had to innovative and proactive employees; with extroverts feeling threatened and are therefore unreceptive and introvert leaders listening to them carefully and making them feel valued. Yet extrovert managers were more successful at motivating unproductive employees to achieve more.
It’s plausible that when working together successfully, a seemingly contrasting power couple leadership team could complement each others pitfalls when it comes to engaging employees.
Diversity of employee input in the workplace can be hugely undervalued or not utilised. By embracing different leadership styles and the knock on effect this would have within a company, the power couple can allow for different types of employees to have their voices heard.
Employees with the loudest voices don’t always have the most important thing to say and are not necessarily the best at what they do, but there is a tendency for loud people to bulldoze and overshadow the more reserved. If your management team can empathise with a diverse range of individuals and their approach to business, a more accepting attitude will be embraced and an environment which fulfills everyone’s needs can be created.
With business and social dynamics continuing to change, it’s to be expected that the companies of tomorrow will be led by personalities that are quite unrecognisable to the entrepreneurs of yesteryear. That’s not to say there’s a right or wrong character for leadership. Rather, we can expect that our definition of a ‘good leader’ will likely change in the near future. Instead of focusing on what an entrepreneur does bring to the table, businesses should get better at constructively recognising what they lack – and how to fill the void.
March 5, 2019 at 06:15AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs