Not all successful CEOs are extroverts

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Not all successful CEOs are extroverts

Post by Haydnseek » Thu Jun 08, 2006 9:22 pm

Not all successful CEOs are extroverts
Tuesday June 6, 11:33 pm ET
By Del Jones, USA TODAY

Chris Scherpenseel, president of Microsoft's 140-employee FRx Software subsidiary, is an amateur astronomer. "I hate to call astronomers lonely, but most people don't want to be up at 1 a.m. when it's cold outside," he says.

Alone is the way Scherpenseel likes it. So does his boss, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. But rather than being the exception, they have plenty of company among corporate brass in their preference for solitude.

It seems counter-intuitive, but introverts and closet introverts populate the highest corporate offices, so much so that four in 10 top executives test out to be introverts, a proportion only a little lower than the 50-50 split among the overall population age 40 and older.

There are many ingredients to success, and one of the most obvious has always been an outgoing, gregarious personality that lets fast risers stand out in a crowd of talent. But successful introverts seem to have mastered the ability to act like extroverts. Some liken it to an out-of-body experience that lets them watch themselves be temporarily unreserved. They remain introverts to the core, and if they don't get down time alone or with family, they feel their energy being sapped.

The list of well-known corporate CEO introverts reads like a Who's Who, starting with Gates, who has long been described as shy and unsocial, and who often goes off by himself to reflect. Others widely presumed to be introverts include Warren Buffett, Charles Schwab, movie magnate Steven Spielberg and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes.

"I've always been shy," Barnes told USA TODAY in an interview early this year at her Chicago office. She turns down most speeches and nearly all interview requests. "People wouldn't call me that, but I am."

Former Sun Microsystems executive Jim Green, now CEO of Composite Software, has jogged the streets solo from London to New Zealand to recharge. SkyeTec CEO Chris Uhland was at a wedding recently where he snuck off by himself to watch golf on TV. His wife was not happy. Patricia Copeland, wife of former Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CEO James Copeland, understands. She told USA TODAY three years ago that even at family get-togethers in Georgia, her husband will soon be found taking refuge in a book.

Copeland sent an e-mail of clarification last month from a ConocoPhillips board meeting in Houston. He says he is insecure in social settings, but enjoys other people when there's a problem to be solved.

"I tried to deal with my weakness" by being active in such endeavors as the United Way, he wrote. That seemed to work, but throw Copeland into a cocktail party and watch him squirm. "In purely social events, I just toughed it out and did the best I could."

Many CEOs rise from marketing and other arenas of extroversion. But they're just as likely to come from the finance or information technology disciplines. The software industry might have the highest proportion of CEO introverts, starting with Gates, says astronomer hobbyist Scherpenseel, who began as a certified public accountant.

Introverts say they succeed because they have inner strength and think before they act. When faced with difficult decisions, introverts worry little about what other people will think of them, Uhland says.

Although reclusive by nature, shy CEOs seem to have been making more than their share of news lately. When USA TODAY ordered up handwriting analyses two years ago of CEOs facing criminal charges, three different experts called former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling an introvert and inhibited loner. The other former Enron CEO on trial, Ken Lay, was often seen making small talk with strangers in the courthouse hallways. But Skilling typically restricted himself to speaking to his wife or his lawyer, Dan Petrocelli, who in his closing argument last month called Skilling anti-social. A jury convicted Skilling and Lay of hiding Enron's true financial condition from investors.

Another CEO to make headlines, William Swanson, says he was "extremely shy" when he first joined Raytheon as a young engineer. He rarely spoke at meetings, but rather scribbled notes of observations that he said led to his publishing decades later of Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, a booklet recently discovered to be so plagiarized that the Raytheon board of directors denied him a pay raise.

Typing test

Research on introverts and extroverts in leadership goes back at least to World War II and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test now given to about 2 million people a year.

Introverts are not shy by definition, but they become drained by social encounters and need time alone to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized when with people and find time alone to be draining. Extroverts typically have many friends. Introverts prefer to know a few people well, which fits many CEOs who often say that it's lonely at the top and that they confide in a small circle of friends.

It's not fully understood why some people are introverts and others extroverts. The ratio is changing over time. CPP (formerly Consulting Psychologists Press) is the publisher of the Myers-Briggs assessment and has testing data going back 50 years. It plans to release research showing younger generations are becoming increasingly extroverted. Those born before 1964, including baby boomers, are split about 50-50 between introversion and extroversion, but 59% of Generation X (born 1965-81) are extroverted, as are 62% of Millennials (born after 1981).

Introversion might be partially explained by culture, genetics and upbringing. More men are introverts than women. Masatoshi Ono, who resigned as CEO of Bridgestone/Firestone during the tire scandal of 2000, lived in Nashville for seven years but was practically unknown even by neighbors when he returned to Japan. Avon Products CEO Andrea Jung told USA TODAY in a rare interview in 2000 that she is not shy, but grew up in a traditional Asian household and was, therefore, "reserved."

Jim Collins, in his 2001 bestseller Good to Great, was one of the first to dispel conventional wisdom that successful leaders climb to the top because they're naturally outgoing. He found that the most successful companies rarely had so-called celebrity CEOs, but rather had CEOs who were self-effacing and humble to a fault. Charisma was a handicap, he concluded.

A study of 2,300 people in 12 industries released last week by Cleveland human resources firm PsyMax Solutions looked at "sociability," or the ability to relate to others in a "highly-engaging, expressive and lively style," says PsyMax CEO Wayne Nemeroff. Extroverts would score high in sociability. "They're almost the same thing," Nemeroff says.

The median sociability score for division heads and vice presidents was 72.2, slightly higher than the median score for all workers. But sociability among the 242 CEOs was much lower at 57.9, suggesting that if sociability leads to early success, it may be an impediment to those trying to take the last step up the ladder, Nemeroff says.

A separate PsyMax study of 240 presidents, CEOs and chief operating officers found creativity to be the one trait most common to highly successful executives. Past research, not associated with PsyMax, has shown introverts to be among the most creative people.

The sociability study also found scores vary widely by industry. Those in the insurance industry scored a median 78.8. Those in research and scientific industries scored a median 18.4.

In just-published research in the Academy of Management Journal, lead author Brad Agle of the University of Pittsburgh uncovered little that would discourage introverts from aspirations of climbing to the top. The study followed 128 large companies for an average of 11 years and asked 770 top managers to rate their CEOs (some of whom are now former CEOs) on charisma. Among those examined were Dan Amos of Aflac, John Bogle of Vanguard, Paul Allaire of Xerox, Bill Marriott of Marriott, Christie Hefner of Playboy Enterprises, Robert Johnson of Black Entertainment Television, Wayne Huizenga of Blockbuster and Tony O'Reilly of H.J. Heinz. Confidentiality agreements prohibit Agle from saying which CEOs scored high in charisma. The study found that the charismatic CEOs make more money, but make no difference to corporate performance.

Charismatic and extroverted aren't precise synonyms, but there is a close association, Agle says. "You don't have to be this big, magnanimous, extroverted, charismatic CEO. I think my study is good news for introverts."

However, an unscientific online survey by TheLadders.com job site for USA TODAY of 1,542 senior-level managers making at least $100,000 a year found that only 6% think introverts make better CEOs, vs. 47% who say extroverts are better. A sizeable 47% say it makes no difference and that other factors matter more, but 65% say introversion is an impediment to climbing the ladder.

Shyness = wisdom?

In some organizations introverts might not rise because they are seen as uninspiring, but the same personality trait is embraced elsewhere as calm, unemotional and wise. Scherpenseel says he often stays quiet at meetings while others debate into exhaustion. When he finally weighs in, the room falls quiet with attention.

"Shyness, if you know how to use it, can masquerade as wisdom," says executive coach Francie Dalton. Effective introverts can get away with saying little, but they must speak up at some point, she says.

Introverts aren't necessarily reclusive. Vic Conant, CEO of motivational tape company Nightingale-Conant, says he's an introvert who enjoys cocktail parties as long as he gets to be the person asking, not answering, questions.

Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli sounded energetic during an interview with USA TODAY last month. Does it come naturally? "You just kind of develop it over the years. I don't think I was born this way," Nardelli says. Is he an introvert? "Even if I said I was, the first person you asked would say no."

Nardelli has dined with both Gates and Buffett and says he doubts if sitting home alone at night in Omaha reading annual reports is a sign that Buffett is an introvert. "I think he's just a passionate businessman. I think Bill Gates is the same. He's just a very enjoyable guy," Nardelli says.

SkyeTec, in the business of evaluating homes and buildings for mold and water damage, was the fastest-growing private company in Jacksonville when it surged from $1.4 million in revenue in 2003 to $7.2 million in 2004.

CEO Uhland says he brings a lot of energy to work and that most of SkyeTec's 100 employees will be "baffled" to read that he is an introvert. "In meetings, I look at myself and say: 'What are you doing?' It's not faking it. It's a skill I've learned," Uhland says in a phone interview from his car.

Given a choice, Uhland says he would prefer down time with his family. But he expects his receptionist to greet people with a smile even when she doesn't feel like it. Likewise, he attends cocktail parties and does interviews out of a sense of duty.

"No offense," he says, "but I'd rather be driving down the road listening to music."

http://biz.yahoo.com/usat/060606/13582592.html
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Ralph
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Post by Ralph » Thu Jun 08, 2006 9:34 pm

Interesting. Do we have more introverts than extroverts here? Can anyone be sure solely through online exposure to a person?
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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Thu Jun 08, 2006 11:15 pm

If so, then their propensity to inflict managerial courses in participative team bonding - by pretending to be lizards or a Sepik River Tribe or whatever - for their workforce is pure cruelty and an obstacle for future success. I always suspected as much. :evil:

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:07 pm

I took that test some time ago and I am an introvert! And sure enough, now I am the CEO of my medical office--6 employees and counting.

I recall my entire personality type was INFJ. Probably best suited for lonely sessions playing the piano by myself until I have mastered the Rach 3 for my ears only, interspersed with posting introspective little messages on websites. :cry: :cry: :cry:

Teresa
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 09, 2006 8:51 pm

Teresa B wrote:I took that test some time ago and I am an introvert! And sure enough, now I am the CEO of my medical office--6 employees and counting.

I recall my entire personality type was INFJ. Probably best suited for lonely sessions playing the piano by myself until I have mastered the Rach 3 for my ears only, interspersed with posting introspective little messages on websites. :cry: :cry: :cry:

Teresa
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I'm an INTP. The analyst took a look at my results, 3 of which were clustered around the border between the contrasting pairs, and pronounced that I could fake the opposite of everything I was except the T because I was practically off the charts in the T characteristics.

I used to have this sign on my desk at NASA:

"Hi! I'm an INTP. If you want me to pay attention to pesky details, be sure to deliver them in a big-concept vehicle."

INFJ
The INFJ takes his/her energy from the inner world of thoughts and emotions. He/she prefers dealing with patterns and possibilities, particularly for people, and makes decisions using personal values. His/her life is organised on a personal basis. He/she often has a private sense of purpose in life, and works steadily to fulfil that goal. He/she demonstrates a quiet concern for people, being interested in helping them to develop and grow. He/she is good at developing insight into people, though it can often remain unexpressed.


INTP
The INTP takes his/her energy from the inner world of thoughts (and, maybe, emotions). He/she prefers dealing with patterns and possibilities, and making decisions on a logical basis. His/her life is flexible, following new insights and possibilities as they arise. He/she is quiet and detached, and adaptable (up to a point - sometimes he/she may stop adapting, insisting that there is a clear principle at stake). He/she is not interested in routine, and will often experiment or change things to see if they can be improved. He/she operates at best when solving complex problems that require the application of intellect.


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Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Sat Jun 10, 2006 7:18 am

Very, interesting, Corlyss! (I love that sign--perhaps I could borrow the quote for my desk? :D )

I was very close to the midline on J vs P, but on the others I think I had a pretty definite leaning. My son Zell took a version of the test in one of his classes. The teacher had a show of hands as she read off each type, and he apparently was the lone INFP among about 30 students. (We I-N combos are evidently either rare gems or weird oddballs. 8) )

Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Corlyss_D
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:42 pm

Teresa B wrote:Very, interesting, Corlyss! (I love that sign--perhaps I could borrow the quote for my desk? :D )

Please! Feel free.
I was very close to the midline on J vs P, but on the others I think I had a pretty definite leaning. My son Zell took a version of the test in one of his classes. The teacher had a show of hands as she read off each type, and he apparently was the lone INFP among about 30 students. (We I-N combos are evidently either rare gems or weird oddballs. 8) )
When my buddy, the career Army JAG, took the test in his early days in the Army, the counselors called him aside and told him he a real strange bird, one of only 2% in the military, and none of them did well in their careers, and he might want to consider getting out. He didn't. :D
Corlyss
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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 5:19 pm

Philologically, the correct spelling is extravert. The misspelling which is now widely accepted comes from a confusion with introvert.

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