We often think of the most successful business people as being extroverted, wildly charismatic, expressive and confident. But why are these traits so valued in businesses, and viewed as a prerequisite for business success?
Well, as developed nations shifted from an agricultural economy into corporate ones, perceptions of what it took to succeed in this new market also changed. Our earlier agricultural economies used to promote a sense of wholesomeness and honesty, sincerity and authenticity and as a result these qualities were widely valued.
A popular self-help book that was published by Orison Swett Marden in 1899 called ‘Character: The Grandest Thing in the World’, is reflective of these highly esteemed qualities. Whereas today, self-help books (especially those aimed towards business success) focus on confidence, and how to be dynamic and influential. This is largely a result of industrialisation, and subsequent significance placed on more magnetic personality types.
But why do we continue to almost exclusively value extroversion in business?
Within a group of people, the opinions and ideas of the loudest and most confident people are heard. The assurance and confidence in which these types of people present their ideas, also results in them usually being most respected, or their contribution being perceived as the most logical and innovative. The voices of quieter individuals, are either completely dismissed, or if spoken without complete assurance and persistence in their tone, are perceived by a collective as being less reliable or risky. Regardless of whether or not that’s the case…
When modern society as we know it today, shifted towards industry… we began to value charisma and confidence associated with more extroverted behaviour. These behaviours are constantly encouraged in institutions such as universities, the workplace, and schools. On school reports, shy children are told they need to ‘speak up more’.
Why don’t we respect, even discourage and reprimand introverted behaviour when it is in so many ways is a positive quality. In business, the developers, creatives and inventors are often inhibited and reserved….
When you think of Apple, or the iPhone, who do you associate with being the mastermind behind these innovations that so many of us cannot live without? I’m sure the person that comes to mind is Steve Jobs, a vibrant individual who attained celebrity status, who branded not only Apple -but himself. An incredible businessman, who built an enormous empire associated with products that are so successful, have become necessities as opposed to a luxury.
Yet what most of us don’t know, is that Steve Jobs is not at all responsible for creating the iPhone. The creator of the iPhone is actually a man named Steve Wosniack… a recluse who spent months creating what we now know as the iPhone. He partnered with Steve Jobs, who then suggested they start a business, and became the pioneer of all Apple products. This partnership resulted in the multibillion dollar empire we know today.
One type of extroverts that we come across is the leader. These people are motivated and show initiative. They are driven and often make fabulous leaders, setting the pace of a workplace for other employees, they often become unofficial leaders that others turn to when challenges arise.
Another is the animated, this is someone to hire when it comes to business sales. They draw in customers. Their charm, wit is magnetic to consumers and is highly effective in boosting sales. They also tend to be motivated by their competitive nature, and are excellent communicators, especially when dealing with customer complaints!
When it comes to reserved individuals in business, they tend to be driven by logic. They are also often perfectionistic and meticulous, which is essential in organisation and maintaining consistency. They are often the voice of reason, making them perfect to turn to prior to making a risky business decision.
Lastly there is the relational. While employers are always drawn to extroverts and leaders, the reality is that if a workplace is full of exclusively dominant personalities, there is likely to be conflict, and tensions could easily run high, which creates a toxic environment and is essentially detrimental in business. Therefore, there is always a need for the relational type. One that is content to follow instructions. They work effectively in a group environment and keep tensions to a minimum. They are easy going, and are usually positive in their outlook, so they lighten the pressures in a workplace
Now let’s think back to Steve Jobs and Steve Wosniack….
Apple is one of the most successful businesses that exists. Their initial success lied in a balance between embracing the introvert and the extrovert, and merging the advantages of these qualities to create a global, billion dollar empire.
So what does this mean? It means both the introverted and extroverted should be embraced in business. The reality is that both have their advantages and disadvantages. And we should have a balance of both in the workplace. That balance is essential for a workplace to be efficient, functional and thriving.