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Introverts may miss leadership chances because they overestimate how stressful it will be

06 October 2017

There are certain situations where it’s advantageous for an introvert to take charge. For instance, perhaps they are better qualified than their extroverted peers.

The trouble is, most introverts tend to shy away from seizing informal leadership opportunities when they arise (psychologists call this “emergent leadership” – when someone takes charge in a team without a formal hierarchy).

A new study in Personality and Individual Differences suggests this might be because introverts expect to find group tasks and situations unpleasant, which inhibits them from displaying the kind of behaviours required to take charge of their group.

By helping introverts to realise they may enjoy leadership more than they expect, Andrew Spark and his colleagues at Queensland University of Technology say it may be possible to encourage more introverts to step up to the plate.

The findings come from a study of nearly 200 undergrad business students who completed personality tests prior to a group task devised by NASA which involves making decisions together about survival priorities on the moon.

Before they started the group task, the students rated how much they thought they would find it fun and exciting or scary and stressful. Afterwards they rated each other for signs of emergent leadership during the task, such as “he/she influenced group decisions” or “he/she led the group conversation”.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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