Do introverted CIOs face particular leadership challenges?

The majority of CIOs are introverts… but does this cause problems?

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A few years back John Brandon, contributing editor at Inc. magazine, wrote an absolutely fascinating piece entitled: “Confessions From an Introverted Leader”. In this he analyzed the impact his introverted personality – INFP according to the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator [MBTI] – had on his leadership abilities.

“I remember having many intense conversations with employees when I worked at my first startup,” he wrote. “One of them was so upset with me when I called her into my office that she dumped her work onto my floor. In a few cases, especially when it came to firing people, I dreaded confrontations so much that I'd re-schedule meetings multiple times.

“In some ways, this was all related to my own immaturity,” he continued. “Yet, looking back, I can see that my reactions also showed empathy. The fact that I dreaded those tense meetings meant I cared about the employee. While I probably should have won the award for the Worst Boss of the Week many times, I also did plenty of one-on-one mentoring. Often, my style was to lead by example, not commandment--and that actually seems to work in a small company.”

What is the MBTI Indicator?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is based on Jung, currently used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies and is probably the most ubiquitous personality test out there. It has also proved so ludicrously popular that a range of t-shirts, mugs and other memorabilia are available to interested parties.

The flip side of course, is it has received a lot of criticism (excellent PDF from 1992). This has ranged from the way it is used by businesses to hire and pigeonhole people, through to skepticism on the scientific validity of the test itself. One of the chief censures levelled at it is that many of those profiled emerge a different ‘type’ the second time they take the test.

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