Personality and Leadership

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 1, 2013    •    464 Views

Thinking of human capital, leading politicians, successful pizza makers and top software sellers might be surprisingly similar.

We can start with Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Associated with strong leadership, FDR’s style was assertive, bold, outgoing. By contrast, for Abraham Lincoln, we might say that he was reserved and contemplative. And yet, we associate both men with successful leadership.

Wharton School researchers observed how both leadership styles could work. Using data from pizza delivery businesses, they saw dominant outgoing managers clash with proactive employees. Because the “chemistry” was wrong, the bosses sometimes were threatened and the workers, demoralized. On the other hand, when the extravert boss had an introvert employee, productivity was higher. Correspondingly, the opposite seemed to happen, too. Introvert managers drew the best from extravert workers. Extravert or introvert, the manager’s style mattered less than whom he was leading.

As the study’s leader, Adam Grant said, “…introverted and extraverted leadership styles can be equally effective, but with different groups of employees.”

In a newer experiment, though, Grant might have slightly “tweaked” his conclusion. Trying to ascertain whether introverts or extraverts were the best salespeople, he tracked sales reps from a software company for 3 months. Least successful, the introverts earned an average of $120 an hour; slightly better, the extraverts were at $125. The best? At $155, the ambiverts, those who were at neither the introvert nor extravert extreme, earned the most.

Where does all of this leave us? It takes us to the complexities of the human capital–the accumulation of knowledge– that fuels economic growth.

Sources and Resources: Excellent for academic studies on many topics, Knowledge at Wharton was my source for Adam Grant’s study of employees and employers while this Washington Post article introduced me to ambiverts.



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