To Lead, or Not to Lead


Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you work best alone or in a group? Your personality traits and personality type might say something about your creative personality, and how you approach your design work. It might also say something about the kind of leader you are—or the kind of leader you could be.

Traits & Types

Personality traits are attributes that you consistently exhibit. Positive traits might include being accessible, decent or elegant, among others. Negative traits might include being abrasive, careless or cynical. Personality traits are the ingredients that compose one’s personality type. If you’re active and outgoing, you might see yourself as an extrovert—or others could see you as one. If you’re quiet and reserved, for example, you might be classified as an introvert.

In Carl Jung’s Psychological Types, Jung defined Furneaux Jordan’s “less impassioned and more active” type as an extrovert—or extravert, as spelled by Jung—and the “more impassioned and less active” type as an introvert. So you have to be one or the other, right? It isn’t as clear cut as you’d think. Introverts can be reflective, but they can also be active. Extroverts can be immediate in their actions, and they too can be contemplative.

If you’ve defined yourself one way—or if somebody else has defined you or categorized you—you’re more apt to behave in a certain way, either consciously or unconsciously. But there’s also a middle ground. If you’re not feeling like one or the other, an introvert or extrovert, you might be what’s known as an ambivert: one who has characteristics of both personality types. You might adapt to the situation, being an introvert or extrovert. As an ambivert, internal or external factors could drive you to be one or the other. Your mood or surroundings drive you to be either an introvert or extrovert.

creative personality image from Getty | Klaus Vedfelt

The Power of Inversion

We generally expect creativity to happen in a closed session, and this is where introverts are thought to operate best. Susan Cain touches on this in her book Quiet, excerpted at NPR in “Quiet, Please: Unleashing ‘The Power Of Introverts.'”. Cain’s comments about the benefits of working quietly and independently might make you reconsider your own process—especially if you’re an extrovert.

But sometimes you have to work in teams. Extroverts are perceived to work best in groups, and it’s the fire that fuels their performance, which is why extroverts are often seen as better leaders since introverts—presumably—prefer solitude and quiet. But in her NPR interview, Cain cites research from Wharton management professor Adam Grant and two colleagues that suggests how introverted leaders “are more likely to listen carefully to suggestions and support employees’ efforts to be proactive.”

Grant and his colleagues found that inversion—a leader who’s personality is opposite from the staff—seems to help production. An introverted leader and an extroverted staff can be a recipe for success. A leader who’s an extrovert, overseeing a staff of extroverts? That could be a problem.

Effective Leadership

Truth be told, you could be a great leader who’s an introvert or extrovert. As an ambivert, your flexibility could also help you be a great leader. But most importantly, you need good communication skills. A good leader knows when to listen or speak. When to motivate others or stand back and watch. When to use words or use actions to get the team moving forward. Integrity, reliability, sincerity, courage, courtesy, readiness, and so much more, go into being a great leader.

Sometimes leaders are chosen. Others will nominate themselves to take charge. And then, sometimes leadership happens on accident. No matter how you become a leader, or grow into a leadership role, the biggest question might be, “Do you want to be a leader?” If the answer is “Yes” then make sure you know how your personality will play into things. And above all, make sure you put in the work to become a great leader.


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