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The Isolated Leader: Extraverted and Introverted Styles


When an executive moves up the hierarchal ladder in the
organization, the promotion is often accompanied by an
increasing sense of isolation and loneliness. Goleman,
Boyatzis and McKee coined the phrase 'CEO disease' to
describe the isolation of top executives in their book
Primal Leadership. It refers to an information vacuum
around leaders, created when people withhold important and
sometimes unpleasant information.

Life is indeed lonely at the top. People may appear more
reluctant to share information, staff members may be less
forthcoming about emerging issues, and colleagues don't
engage as openly in dialogue. As executives struggle to make
sense of this loneliness, it is important to understand how
the personality preferences for extraversion and
introversion contribute to a leader's isolation.

The psychiatrist, Carl Jung, observed that people have a
preference for introversion or extraversion. Extraverts
prefer to direct their energy to and draw energy from the
external world whereas introverts prefer to direct their
energy to and draw energy from the internal world. Each
preference has its' own strengths and pitfalls, which play
out in communication styles and habits.

Extraverted leaders are drawn to interact with the external
world and to bounce ideas off people. They tend to make
quick decisions and move into action, sometimes before
enough time for reflection and analysis. They often think
out loud, and share ideas without forethought. Thus, there
is more transparency with extraverts 'what you see is what
you get.

They like to bring people together to explore issues.
However, the extraverted executive may overwhelm and
intimidate people, push ideas prematurely, and
unintentionally reveal confidences. When ideas are leaked or
taken as decisions rather than mere brainstorming
possibilities, the executive feels betrayed. The extravert
may then stop sharing information and self-impose a cautious
isolation.

Introverted leaders, on the other hand, may continue to
reflect when it is time for action and their preference for
internal processing may exclude others. Furthermore, their
communication style is often more indirect so that others
don't always understand what's most important to them, and
they are often perceived as 'hard to read - .

While introverts seek out solitary time in order to process
internally, whether gathering information or reflecting,
this may cause others to perceive them as aloof, distant,
unapproachable and even arrogant. The introverted executive
typically develops strategies for creating solitude even in
the midst of busy organizational life. Thus, appointments
may be difficult to get, meetings may be highly structured
and organized, and there may be little room for spontaneous
sharing and brainstorming.

Both types of leaders can become isolated through externally
created conditions or self-imposed ones. They either move
toward isolation because their colleagues and staff pull
away, or they remove themselves from the interactive field
when problems arise.

With self-awareness, feedback, and coaching, both types can
learn to balance out their natural styles. The introverted
leader can learn to involve others and to share information
more frequently. The extraverted leader can learn how to
continue to work with others without the dangers inherent in
sharing information prematurely or dominating the
conversation and missing the input of the quieter
introverts.

(c) Copyright 2003. Manya Arond-Thomas, all rights reserved.

About the Author

Manya Arond-Thomas, M.D., is the founder of Manya
Arond-Thomas & Company, a coaching and consulting
firm that catalyzes the creation of 'right results' through
facilitating executive development, high-performance teams
and organizational effectiveness. She can be reached at
(734) 480-1932 or e-mailed at manya@arond-thomas.com
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