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Extroverts Don't Always Win

Workspace chameleons: why ambiverts make more successful leaders than extroverts.

The distinctions between extroverts and introverts are well-known, with many of us categorizing ourselves as one or the other. Yet, a surprising revelation emerges: 68% of individuals actually fall into the category of ambiverts. These people can oscillate between being the center of attention at a social event one moment and seeking solitude for a Netflix binge the next.

So, which personality type holds the advantage in the workplace, and who emerges as the more successful leader? The answer points to the adaptable ambiverts. By blending the best qualities of both extroverts and introverts, ambiverts become invaluable team members and leaders, as highlighted by research from Adam Grant, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Continue reading to explore the ambivert personality, learn how to capitalize on your innate strengths, and improve your leadership skills.

Extroverts vs. Introverts vs. Ambiverts at Work

Extroverts are energized by social engagement, making quick decisions and taking risks in pursuit of success. They boast strong communication skills, easily connect with others, and bring enthusiasm to their work. Known for excelling in teamwork and often stepping into leadership roles, famous extroverts include Winston Churchill, Whitney Wolfe Herd, and Richard Branson.

In contrast, introverts are observers by nature, with keen listening skills and a thoughtful approach to decision-making. They excel in roles that require detailed focus and can lead teams effectively, sometimes even outperforming their extroverted counterparts. Introverts recharge in solitude and prefer deep, meaningful conversations over large social gatherings. 

Studies suggest that introverted leaders can outperform their extroverted counterparts, leading to teams that are up to 20% more profitable. Notable introverts include Bill Gates, Larry Page, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Ambiverts, navigating both social settings and solitude with ease, display a balanced blend of listening and speaking skills. This adaptability marks them as versatile players in any team. Figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, and Mahatma Gandhi are believed to be ambiverts.

Karl Moore, who has extensively studied ambiverts, found that among top business leaders, 40% are extroverts, 40% are introverts, and 20% are true ambiverts. He also notes that recent challenges have encouraged all leaders to adopt more ambivert-like behaviors.

Stepping Back from the Brink: Extroverts Don't Always Win

In 2013, Adam Grant unveiled the concept of "the ambivert advantage." This idea challenged the longstanding belief that extroverts are inherently more successful and productive, particularly in sales roles.

Grant's study, which analyzed 340 call center employees, discovered that those who achieved the highest sales revenue were positioned in the middle of the extroversion scale. Interestingly, the lowest performers were those who exhibited extreme introversion or extroversion.

"Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale," Grant noted. Ambiverts also tend to listen more to customers' interests and are less likely to appear overly excited or overconfident.

Are you wondering if you might be an ambivert? Here are some indicators:

  • You appreciate both solitude and social interaction. Imagine ambiverts as individuals who are ambidextrous—they are at ease in social scenarios as well as in moments of quiet reflection. It's natural for their preference to shift from one day to the next, and it's perfectly fine for them to seek solitude when needed.
  • Being overly social for extended periods can lead ambiverts to feel drained. Similarly, spending all day in a bustling office can be tiring for an ambivert, whereas remote freelancers may miss the interaction with colleagues.
  • You find satisfaction in both in-depth conversations and casual small talk. Ambiverts are adept at engaging in light banter but also value deep, meaningful connections.
  • Whether working within a team or independently, you adapt well. Ambiverts are self-sufficient in tackling work challenges but are equally willing to collaborate with others when the situation calls for it.
  • You are equally skilled as a listener and a speaker. While extroverts excel in speaking and introverts in listening, ambiverts seamlessly combine these abilities. Attentive listening helps them gather insights, and effective communication aids in achieving their objectives.
  • You cherish your independence but also value insights from trusted friends, family, colleagues, and leaders.

Adam Grant developed The Ambiversion Scale as a tool to assess one's ambivert qualities. It consists of 14 items designed to measure an individual's tendency toward social engagement.

What Is the Ambivert Advantage?

Ambiverts excel in various environments, including sales, leadership, and negotiation, due to their unique qualities.

Flexible and Intuitive Nature

Ambiverts possess an acute intuition that enables them to quickly perceive subtle changes in their environment and in people. This sensitivity allows them to identify issues promptly, facilitating natural problem-solving. Their adaptability makes them highly versatile, capable of adjusting their behavior to suit different scenarios.

Emotional Stability

Where extroverts might not be significantly affected by external stimuli, and introverts could be highly sensitive to their surroundings, ambiverts find a middle ground, balancing these extremes effectively.

Moreover, when it comes to risk-taking, ambiverts employ a balanced approach, unlike the potential recklessness of extroverts or the excessive caution of introverts. They thoughtfully assess situations, weighing both pros and cons before making decisions or taking action.

Independence and Effective Teamwork Skills

An individual who embodies both extroverted and introverted traits can be regarded as highly independent. Yet, ambiverts also shine as team players, capable of motivating and leading others while preserving their sense of autonomy.

Fearless Approach to Making Mistakes

Ambiverts face setbacks with equanimity. They view challenges as opportunities for growth, not as deterrents. Unlike introverts, who might engage in self-reflection, or extroverts, who could feel disheartened, ambiverts adopt a proactive stance, learning from their experiences and seeking solutions to overcome hurdles.

The evolving demands of our world necessitate that leaders draw upon both their extroverted and introverted characteristics. For instance, creating flexible and empathetic work environments requires managers to listen carefully to their team's feedback and act decisively. Concurrently, they must maintain a level of enthusiasm to motivate and steer their teams through periods of uncertainty.