What’s more, when Grant plotted total sales revenue against the scale, he found that revenue peaked in the center and fell off considerably as personality moved toward either the introverted or extroverted poles. Those high in extroversion fared scarcely better than those high in introversion, and both lagged far behind their counterparts in the moderate middle.
What holds for actual salespeople holds equally for the quasi-salespeople known as leaders. Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little. They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities. Sometimes they care too deeply about being liked and not enough about getting tough things done.
But the answer — whether you’re pushing Nissans on a car lot or leading a major nonprofit or corporation — isn’t to lurch to the opposite end of the spectrum. Introverts have their own challenges. They can be too shy to initiate, too skittish to deliver unpleasant news and too timid to close the deal. Ambiverts, though, strike the right balance. They know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.
Here’s the best part, however. The distribution of introverts and extroverts in the population looks eerily like the results Grant found plotting revenue across his 1-to-7 scale. Some of us are heavy introverts. Some of us are stalwart extroverts. But the vast majority of us are ambiverts.
The good news, then, is that in some sense we are all born to sell and equipped to lead. And that means a hidden but urgent challenge for organizations of every kind is to shatter the stereotype of who’s an effective leader. When we choose leaders, as when hiring managers choose salespeople, we’re understandably drawn to the gregarious, friendly types with their comfortable patter and ready smiles. But are they really the best?
We’d be far better off with those who take a more calibrated approach — who can talk smoothly but also listen keenly, who know when to turn on the charm but also when to turn it off, who combine the extrovert’s assertiveness with the introvert’s quiet confidence. In other words, when it comes to picking leaders, perhaps we should look for people a bit more like us.
Daniel H. Pink is the author of “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.”
Myers-Briggs: Does it pay to know your type?