KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I want to focus on research I have been working on for three years now looking at introverts in the executive suite.
Over the last three years, I have talked to about 150 CEOs and some other C-suite executives, but primarily CEOs, about introverts in the C-suite – that is, the top of the organizations.
In this case, I have been looking at organizations over 10,000 people, so big organizations and not a person and their dog at all.
Much to my surprise, 25 to 30 per cent of senior executives in these big companies are introverts. As an extrovert, I at least found that surprising. It is interesting that three strengths keep coming through in all the interviews I have been doing about what are introverts bringing to the table.
The first one is that introverts tend to be better listeners. Extroverts, like myself, tend to rush to talk, the words come out easily, perhaps too easily, and so this strength of listening, of thinking before you speak, something probably that our mothers taught us, is one that introverts really have in spades, at least most introverts.
This fits with two interesting things that we see happening. One is millennials, people under 35, have been brought up in a way where they really honestly believe that their story is as good as the story of the person at the front of the room, as the professor, or as a manager or leader. Millennials want to be listened to, they feel like they need to be listened to, otherwise you are a jerk.
So introverts, as better listeners, fit very much in what the millennials want, and it also fits with where strategy is coming from. Emergent strategy seems to be more what is happening today rather than the bit more old-fashioned, deliberate strategy typical of Michael Porter and the Harvard Business School perspective on the world. We will talk about that some other time.
The second thing which introverts tend to be better at, on average, anyway, is that they are more apt to share the spotlight than extroverts. So extroverts like myself like the spotlight, we are comfortable with it, but part of being a manager and a leader is not to be about me but to be about we – going from being the superstar to someone who develops and grows other people's talents.
Introverts tend to be better at that, putting the focus on other people, sharing the spotlight, and allowing them to be at the front of the stage rather than always having to be at the front of the stage themselves. That is very much a strength that introverts bring to the table.
The third thing is that they take time to think before they speak, and so they let other people's ideas come to the fore, and then what they do is tie those ideas together because they have time to think about it and come up with a better idea based on other people's input as well as their own. This is something that really is helpful as we look for greater innovation in the workplace.
So we see three – there are other strengths, but three great strengths that introverts bring to the executive table, and in fact to any other team at all.
So what I would encourage you to do is consider the value of introverts and make sure you have more introverts on your team going forward.