One of the most extroverted persons I know is the global chief technology officer of a manufacturing multinational: I’ll call her Sue. One of the most introverted is the chief information officer of a large public sector organisation: I’ll call her Mel. Both are engineers by training and, in my view, at the top of their game.
But they could not be more different types of business leaders.
Whether in New York, London or Tokyo, Sue is out on the town, meeting and dining with colleagues, clients and partners. In business meetings, you usually can’t get a word in when Sue is in the room (or on Zoom these days).
Mel’s defining trait is her aversion to public speaking. She once started a presentation at a conference by telling her audience — close to 40,000 attendees — that she was more afraid of giving speeches than she was of dying. In meetings, Mel listens intently but rarely speaks.
We could ask them to take a Myers-Briggs test. Or, we assume that Sue is driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) and that for Mel, the fear of going out (FOGO) takes precedence.
Ambiversion — the new centre ground?
I admire them both, not least because they inspire fierce loyalty among their respective teams. Each is also held in high regard by her boss and peer groups.
Thinking about it, there’s another thing they have in common. That is a heightened awareness of their personal preferences. Thanks to this self-knowledge, they can bend their natural style to adapt in real time to circumstances. I’ve observed, on more than one occasion, how they shift on their personality continuum, from the extreme edge they tend to live on to a more ambivert position.
This is more than a basic coping mechanism. Mel and Sue excel, as you’d expect, at making the most of their strengths. As this paper by TED author and organisational psychologist Adam Grant reminds us, introverted leaders do remarkably well at the helm of proactive teams — those who are self-propelling. By contrast, extroverted leaders are a good fit for teams that want direction from the top.
As ever, the answer is creating — with great care — a balance in the team. In other words, ambiversion occurs at both the individual and the group level.
Engaging with B2B buyers: Balance FOMO and FOGO
In a business-to-business (B2B) context, decision makers tend to share similar imperatives that have little to do with their psychologies. A priority for all may be to tighten budgets, for example. But the more astute C-level executives are looking beyond the horizon, saving now with the intent of investing later.
Another priority — particularly for tech execs — is to manage keeping the lights on while staying up to speed on critical as well as emerging technologies.
Regardless of whether they are extroverts or introverts, the most innovative B2B decision makers, like Sue and Mel, share the same top motivations. These are:
- Building relationships
- Influencing the strategic direction of their technology suppliers and the solutions they are building
Quite clearly, these three drivers will be manifested very differently, depending on the personal preferences of the individuals in question. For example, Mel can take longer to build relationships and is quieter in exerting her influence on her digital providers’ roadmaps. Those suppliers will make sure they adjust to her pace, as well as shifting up a gear when working with Sue.
As the examples of Mel and Sue show, it doesn’t matter whether you fall into the introvert or extrovert camp to win the day. You’ll do it in large part by assembling teams that get the balance right.