afr-amer-woman-for-blog-pic When are introverted leaders stronger than extroverted leaders? And vice versa? It depends on a few things. We’ll get to that answer in a moment. Let’s change the question. As leaders, do we inspire others, or do we motivate them?


Would we prefer, ourselves, to feel inspired (from within) or motivated (externally driven)?

Is there really a difference?

I know that my personal answer to that question is that I prefer inspiration conceptually overall.

As a leader, I prefer to work with people who are energized, inspired, and don’t need me or some external force to push, drive, or motivate them.

Motivation generally occurs when someone else persuades, cajoles, or coerces someone into doing something. It can be positive and uplifting or as a result of consequences looming.

As an introverted leader I prefer to set a vision, create a strategy, align resources, and guide and support a team of talent.

I appreciate collaboration with other inspired individuals who think critically and with depth while pushing previously perceived limits.

I like to recruit and hire people that I see have their own spark and can contribute to the success of a team or project from this self-drive that they naturally carry within them. This way I can focus on the big-picture ideas, vision, and growth strategy.

There is much written about introverted and extroverted leaders and where each finds the greatest success. The answer, of course, is multi-faceted, but let’s explore one key aspect here.

Consider this excerpt from the work of Adam Grant at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Extroverts are more likely to be attracted to and selected for leadership roles, but they’re not better leaders than introverts. When we tracked leadership effectiveness we found that extroverts and introverts were equally successful overall—and excelled with different types of employees. When employees were passive, looking for direction from above, units led by extroverts had 16% higher profits. But when employees were proactive, voicing suggestions and improving work processes, units led by extroverts had 14% lower profits. Extroverts had the enthusiasm and assertiveness to get the best out of passive followers, but they hogged the spotlight in ways that stifled the initiative of proactive followers, leaving them discouraged and missing out on their ideas. Introverted leaders thrive by validating initiative and listening carefully to suggestions from below.”

Extroverted leaders work well with teams who need a more highly directed style. Motivation is more commonly structured into this leadership style.

Introverted leaders achieve greater satisfaction and results by working with individuals and teams who thrive with space to create, innovate, and explore their ideas proactively. This is when introverted leaders are stronger.

Leading a team requires an understanding of the difference between inspiration and motivation.

Getting the two tangled up can bring about confusion as to why the team is not performing the way they might be expected to, and what needs to be adjusted in the approach of the leader.

Inspiration has been defined as, “the internal ‘process’ of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative”.

The “internal process” is key.

It means that our deepest intentions are awakened from within by the process of being exposed to ideas, things, locations or events. Process, of course, is neither something you can hold in your hand nor measure so it may seem elusive in this context.

Wayne Dyer said it this way,

“It is very hard to enroll people in anything. And there is a very big difference between the words motivate and inspire. Motivation means we have an idea and we are going to carry through on that idea. We work hard at it, and we are disciplined. A highly motivated person takes an idea, goes out there, and won’t let anybody interfere with them. Inspiration is exactly the opposite. If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration is the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.”

Working with a team of individuals who are fueled by their own inspiration is ideal. These individuals work well with introverted leaders who are inclined to give them the space to pursue what they are inspired to do.

Obviously, this scenario isn’t always the reality we face in leadership.

Often times we are leading teams that need us to motivate them and help them see the vision and the path to take each step along the way. They need direction and more management.

Strong leaders of any personality type must be able to tailor their approach to the style of the team in order to get the desired results.

If you are leading a team, take stock of who makes up your team.

Would you describe them as motivated toward their work, inspired in their work, or neither?

As an introverted leader myself, I aim to cultivate an inspired self-driven team. I’m still content to lead a team of individuals who can be motivated through my efforts as a leader. It requires me to utilize different skill-sets.

If neither quality are present, I need to assess why.

What is causing the overall lack of forward movement and energy? Can it be remedied or do changes need to be made?

If you are an introverted or quiet leader, you can use this understanding of the difference between motivation and inspiration to optimize the team’s potential.

How about you? Are you inspired in your work? Are you motivated towards specific outcomes?

Have you considered the difference in how you feel in your work and the types of things you think about?

How is your internal dialogue?

Throughout the following week, think about this concept and notice the differences in approach for yourself and others.

What do you notice? Will you adjust your approach as a result?

Write back and let me know what you think.

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