Taking the Middle Way: Why Ambivert Leadership Works

Freeway to the salt flats of the Danakil Depression.The Middle Way, The Golden Mean, Moderation in All Things….

To start with, the wisdom of being an ambivert is not new to this world. Wise thinkers have agreed on this point, including Gautama BuddhaAristotle and Carl Jung himself, the man who first popularized the terms introvert and extrovert. As cited in Entrepeneur‘s article on ambivert leadership, Carl Jung believed “there is no such thing as a pure extrovert or pure introvert. Such a man would be in an insane asylum.”

Drawing Back from the Edge: Extroverts Don’t Always Win

Citing a recent University of Pennsylvania study titled, “Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage,” Entrepeneur goes on to show that contrary to popular opinion extroverts do not have the best sales records. Neither, less surprisingly, do introverts who do only slightly less well than extroverts. Ambiverts, those testing near the middle of the spectrum, do the best by far, while those at the exact middle do better still at nearly double the sales of the extremes. The study shows that extroversion does help one to get good sales, but great sales only comes somewhere in the middle.

Ambivert Leaders

In addition, the article asserts that most leaders are probably ambiverts (although one would have to test them to know for sure!). A great leader must have both the assertiveness, social confidence associated with extroverts and the thoughtfulness and care associated with introverts.

In Harvard Business Review, author Jeffrey Cohn similarly takes apart the process of choosing a new CEO, critiquing the tendency to find someone who suits a particular preconceived mold, usually an extrovert. As Cohn states, a complete extrovert is almost as unsuited to leadership as a true introvert. “What is needed is an ambivert,” someone who can adapt to circumstances and display the traits needed at that moment. Leadership requires an outgoing personality coupled with the ability to retreat and take time to think things over.

What is Introversion, Really?

Along a similar line, Business Insider critiques the concept of introvert versus extrovert from a scientific point of view. As the article states boldly, “Think You’re An Introvert? You’re Probably Wrong.” Picking apart the mythos surrounding modern conceptions of introversion and extroversion, the article shows that many introverts are really closet extroverts who secretly crave social affirmation. The boundaries are not as firm as we often like to think. True introversion is not about hiding in a corner; it is about taking the time to think things out, to really consider what you have heard. That is why the balance between the two is needed in order to be a truly great leader.

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