As you may have guessed – I am an avid golfer. So much so that many of my colleagues have encouraged me over the years to go find a marketing job in the golf industry. “You’d be perfect!” was a common thing I’d hear. “You love marketing. You love golf. You fancy yourself above average in both. It’s a real no-brainer.”
But for some reason I didn’t want my personal passion to be my work passion – if that makes any sense. Probably because if my golf game went to hell and I began to hate the game I now love, I’d also start to hate my job and then I’d be left with nothing!
So I'm an extrovert - pretty much always have been. For those of you who are also extroverts, I bet you immediately thought of me as engaging, energetic and talkative gal who might be fun to meet for a glass of wine. For all you introverts out there (including the one I married), I heard your loud groan from here and bet you were thinking - 'Ah geez - here comes another Chatty Kathy who is going to talk my ear off and sap all of the energy right out of me'. But even us Chatty Kathy's know when to keep our mouths shut. Or - at least we are working on it.
So before we get to the debate around who makes a better leader - extroverts or introverts - let's talk Chatty Cathy as I am sure you are dying to know her history. Chatty Cathy was a pull string 'talkative' doll manufactured by the Mattel toy company from 1959 to 1965. The doll was first released in stores and then appeared in TV commercials starting in 1960. Chatty Cathy was the most popular doll of the 1960's after Barbie, and "spoke" phrases at random when the "chatty ring" protruding from her upper back was pulled. Chatty Cathy's original repertoire included 11 phrases like, "I love you", and an additional 7 phrases were added in 1963 to include such compelling asks as "May I have a cookie?" Hmmmm....wouldn't it be interesting if all off-the-chart extroverts were restricted to just 18 phrases during any meeting. Wonder how that might change the flow of discussions.
Because extroverts tend to be outgoing, charismatic, socially confident and communicative - we fit right into the Chatty Cathy persona. Introverts, on the other hand, are typically deemed as shy, quiet, modest and cautious - someone who needs time alone at the end of a long day to recharge and who is less likely to dominate a conversation or have to be the center of attention. As I expect you know, there is a ton of research out there on who makes a better leader between extroverts and introverts which I find just fascinating (although sometimes contradictory). And of course the answer is neither.....or both.
Extroverts tend to command the center of attention and be the head of a discussion, which makes leaders with that profile very effective at invigorating others around them and managing people who like to follow. Introverts, on the other hand, have a predisposition to listen to and consider the suggestions of others which makes them great at leading highly proactive employees who wish to have a say in what gets done and how. Extroverts are great at providing vision. Introverts are calm in a crisis. Extroverts typically have a huge network of friends and colleagues that a business can access. Introverts are typically excellent written communicators and highly effective in building one-on-one relationships both inside and outside your organization.
So which is better? Guess you'll have to pull my Chatty Kathy string to hear my answer this time. But I know we all agree that diversity yields better results and to be effective as a leader you must surround yourself with people who bring different skills and competencies to your team. But for all of us extroverts who naturally tend to dominate a room and who JUST WON'T STOP talking, some words of advice: two ears, one mouth, use proportionately.