Julie Thorson
Julie Thorson

As a recovering extrovert, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we all work together. There are all sorts of ways we are divided these days; I won’t go into all of that.

One factor that makes communication interesting is our approach as extroverts and introverts. It’s pretty easy to see these personality styles, and yet all of us have a little of the other in us.

Extroverts are easy to spot: We are loud, tend to take over conversations and feel comfortable around people. People actually give us energy.

Introverts, in my opinion, tend to be quiet, observe and take things in. This dynamic is fascinating to me and one I need to study more. Can you tell who the “innies” and “outies” are in your organization? Have you asked? Do you know?

One of my team members (we will call her Margo) claims to be an introvert. She laughs all day long. She’s loud, makes people feel important, listens, loves and is very personable. And yet she is an introvert. How can this be?

Another introvert (let’s call her Sally) is super helpful, quick witted, kind beyond words, friendly to everyone and mostly quiet.

Two different introverts and two very different personalities. The same, of course, is true with us crazy extroverts. My point is we need each other.

In leadership there is sometimes a misconception that leaders need to be extroverts to be successful. This is simply not true. Aspects of leadership may come easier for us because we are extroverts, but I know plenty of extroverts who make terrible leaders. I also happen to know many introverts who are amazing leaders.

We need to stop, regardless of what “category” we fall into, believing if we were only more like __________ , we would be a better leader. Leadership is about truly learning your strengths and weaknesses and doing more of what you do well. Lean into who you are and embrace the differences in your team members.

Give the “innies” grace and time when they are quiet. Let the “outies” roll when they are laughing so loud you want to close your door. These colorful personalities make culture in our organizations so fun and exciting. We can’t all be “innies” and we can’t all be “outies.” And we shouldn’t be.

We need each other. We need balance. We need different personalities and perspectives. Instead of pulling out what makes our personality styles so different, let’s embrace and celebrate each of our unique personality traits and gifts.

Margo and Sally are two very important team members. We find strength in each other. They appreciate my over-the-top humor, and I appreciate their sometimes-quiet strength. Understanding who we are as leaders is about much more than labels or titles. It’s about having deep respect and appreciation for each other.

Editor’s Note: For more on introverts (and extroverts) check out this article: “Introvert vs. Extrovert: A Look at the Spectrum and Psychology.”

Julie Thorson’s was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. Her McKnight’s “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and has been a participant in LeadingAge’s Leadership Academy.