Confident, gregarious people don’t actually make better managers

Extroverts can be engaging bosses, but are more likely to feel threatened by new ideas

Leonardo DiCaprio in a still from The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio’s character was a classic extrovert in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, but a more reserved type is likely to be a better manager in the long run. (Paramount Pictures)

Ask people to name the traits they associate with a great manager or CEO, and most will say confident, gregarious, assertive—more Wolf of Wall Street than Walter Mitty. But don’t underestimate the benefits an introvert brings to a leadership team: That shy, quiet type you dismissed as anti-social could be the next Marissa Mayer, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

A recent  U.S. study of management styles reveals that our notions of leadership may be misguided. The study’s findings suggest that, overall, extroverts and introverts are equally successful in leadership roles, and in certain situations, introverts actually make better bosses. When a team had workers who were proactive and offered ideas for improving the business, for instance, an extroverted leader felt threatened, whereas the introverted leader was likely to listen more carefully and showed greater receptivity to suggestions.

Karl Moore, a management professor at McGill University who has conducted research on CEOs and introversion, has written that introverts tend to be better listeners. “They wait for others to express their ideas before they jump in with theirs; they don’t need to be at the centre of every conversation; and when they present ideas, they tend to come out more fully formed and well-thought-out.”