Contrary to the idealized notion of the extroverted leader, introverts can be just as effective—albeit in different ways.
In an interview with Academic Leader, Candace Atamanik, research manager in the Center for Leadership at Florida International University’s College of Business, explained how introverts lead and how to create an environment that is conducive to the ways introverts lead.
Atamanik says that introverts have two qualities that can serve them well as leaders: they’re good listeners, and they empower their people.
Introversion is particularly compatible with servant leadership—taking a back seat to one’s followers and empowering them rather than managing them—an approach that seems particularly suited to the higher education setting. “Higher education is an autonomous environment. People are self-motivated. They have their own research streams that they focus on. Faculty need some guidance and direction, but certainly they don’t need somebody looking over their shoulder to make sure they get the job done,” Atamanik says.
In a recent study, Atamanik examined whether the work environment has an effect on introverted leaders’ effectiveness and well-being, comparing leaders in a competitive (corporate) environment with those in a collaborative (education) environment.
The introverted leaders in this study performed equally as well as the extroverted leaders did, but their sense of well-being was not equal in both environments. “The difference was in their sense of engagement and organizational support. In academic environments, introverts felt equally as supported and engaged as extroverts did, but we found that in corporate environments introverts felt less supported and engaged,” Atamanik says.
Although academic environments may be conducive to nurturing introverted leaders, there are steps that introverted leaders can take to maximize their leadership opportunities. Atamanik offers the following advice to introverts:
Atamanik, Candace. 2013 “The Introverted Leader: Examining the Role of Personality and Environment.” Florida International University Center for Leadership. Accessed on February 11, 2014, at http://lead.fiu.edu/_assets/docs/Introverted%20Leaders.pdf.