Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.


Extroverts and introverts

Q: University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams, who was just voted ACC Coach of the Year, gets so frenzied during games that he sweats through his suits. How does that arm-waving, finger-jabbing style contribute to his team's success? And why do other successful coaches pride themselves on their composure?

Carl Jung said that one of the greatest discriminators from one person to the next is her or his preference for extroversion or introversion. Extroverts are pre-disposed to focus on the external world and to interact with that world readily and frequently with gregariousness, action and emotional expression. Introverts, on the other hand, are more energized by an inner world, which leads them to be and look more contained, reflective and reserved.

University of Maryland's Gary Williams -- with his dramatic expression, animated arm waving and yelling -- is a great (though extreme) and public example of extroversion in a coach.

As with most people preferring extroversion, Williams wears his emotions on his sleeve and it would appear that most of his thoughts and feelings are out on Main Street. What you see is what you get with most extroverts, and the impact of this on a team is knowing what the coach wants, where you stand and what is expected. This expression, talk and action-orientation tends to be an energizing force for teams when it works. When it does not work, extroversion from the leader can be overwhelming, exhausting and draining.

Leaders preferring introversion tend to have a very different impact on the groups and teams they lead. As for introverted coaches, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Joe Torre (formerly of the New York Yankees) comes to mind.

Torre's behavior is staid and reserved. There certainly are many thoughts, feelings and emotions within the man as he watches his team play, win, and lose, but these are all cards played very close to the vest. This Introverted behavior, when it works, tends to have a calming, focusing effect on those being led, and when it does not work, introversion from the leader or coach can seem withholding and disconnected.

One of the reasons that psychological type (best known through the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment) has become so popular is that it gives leaders insight into all the ways in which their type preferences both help and hinder their performance.

By Hile Rutledge  |  March 15, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  coaching Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree this analysis is a little simplistic. Williams, I bet, though I don't know, is probably on the quiet side off the court. The problem with simplistic extrovert/introvert is that it assumes some sort of consistency in behavior. I would offer that many who qualify as introverts become quite extroverted under stress. I have seen the phenomena all my athletic life. Guys, off the court, quiet and deferential and on the court they are ruthless leaders.

Posted by: Daedulus | March 15, 2010 6:24 PM
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Good points, but a bit of an oversimplification. I've taken Myers-Briggs multiple times, so I'm familiar with it. When it comes to basketball or many other activities, it doesn't take so much introversion or extroversion to be successful as much as passion for winning. Either personality types and all of the variations in-between can be successful. But I do think that it makes it easier being an on-the-floor leader if you tend to be extroverted, and that could explain why you can get very bad extroverted coaches and very good introverted coaches (not Gary, of course).

Posted by: djl2357 | March 15, 2010 4:41 PM
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