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What doesn’t work: less successful development interventions for introverted leaders

Common dislikes were:

  • examples of good practice which favoured extroverted over introverted styles of leadership

  • training that involved continuous active engagement with groups of other people, especially where the people are unknown to each other

  • residential training where the event continued into the evening with an expectation of socialising.

Extroverted learning:

  • “The CEOs that appear on the conference circuit giving presentations about how wonderful a leader they are – always extroverts! - can be dispiriting. There is clearly a stereotype of what a CEO is expected to be – and it is not an introvert! For this reason I have tended in my career to portray myself as an extrovert, which is something I am clearly not.”

  • “Most training and workplace development simply assumes that people are extroverted so no allowance is made for introversion.”

  • “Numerous corporate training programmes that I have attended over the years tend to assume that assertive equals extrovert equals successful.”

Learning in groups:

  • “I really, really don’t like being sent off in breakout groups at training sessions particularly when you don’t know the people… Almost invariably the groups take forever to focus on the question and discuss anything else but what they are supposed to be discussing…”

  • “I loathe interactive ‘all of the expertise / knowledge is in this room’ type of workshops.”

  • “The traditional classroom full of people approach can be unhelpful as I can either hide away or struggle to speak up in front of so many people. I find the group work on leadership programmes difficult as it tends to suit the extroverts best and they dominate, meaning I withdraw. I perform best when people know me and respect my strengths which you don’t get on short duration courses.”

  • “Formal education really did not address any aspect of my personal development. Events that imitate that model – conferences, formal seminars and so forth are of limited value.”

  • “Seminars at university where large groups engaged in debate were very unhelpful as a vehicle for making considered responses unless the tutor was adept at drawing in opinion.”

Mixing learning with socialising:

  • “Very intense training where the idea is you spend all hours of the day in the company of colleagues.”

  • “The ‘corporate’ in corporate leadership became increasingly a word that implied that everyone would do the same thing in the same way during the eighties. Oddly this happened at a time when people were speaking in increasingly positive ways about diversity, it never added up. For example, there was an expectation that you would stay in the bar talking with his/her colleagues until all hours as part of a conference / meeting with an overnight stay. It always felt burdensome and those who acted differently were made to feel different.”

  • “Leadership training and team-building training assumes automatically that everyone is outgoing / sociable / extrovert / party loving. Training courses that deliberately go on late into the night because it is good to pressurise participants and press people to socialise and ‘bond’. It actually is just exhausting for introverts and gives no time for absorbing the learning and recharging batteries for the next day.”