Introvert…That Word May Not Mean What You Think It Means

I heard a statement one time that introverts make good developers and extroverts make good managers. This preconceived notion stems from the fact that people tend to think of developers as sitting by themselves in front of a computer with headphones on, and managers on the phone or in meeting rooms all day. Thus, the train of thought is that since introverts enjoy being alone and extroverts enjoy being with other people, that this is a natural fit.

So first of all, I believe that this notion of introverts is wrong. Introverts may like talking with other people just fine and may have no problems interacting with other people. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not good at talking with other people, or even that you don’t enjoy it. It just means that interacting with other people takes energy and can make you tired. But I have met introverts who have studied and practiced hard to have good social skills, and in a meeting room or at a social gathering have a strong presence and excellent interactions.

Furthermore, the notion of developers being by themselves is not necessarily correct, either. In fact, in a lot of modern development teams, the engineers are in frequent contact and conversation with each other. Developers need to be able to talk together in front of a whiteboard or across a conference room table, and clearly communicate their thoughts and ideas. Conversely, managers don’t necessarily spend all their time in meetings, either. In many cases, the manager must spend a lot of time authoring plans, reports, briefings, metrics, presentations, and so forth. There is typically a lot of reading as well. Managers can spend many hours in front of a computer screen by themselves, just like a software developer would. And the nature of work can be just as analytical and challenging as software development when it comes to financing, planning, scheduling, and other sorts of activities that a manager may accomplish.

All that being said, it is important to know what kind of person you are. Do you enjoy talking to people? Do you enjoy social interaction? One thing about being a manager is that it’s more than just talking to people. You need to learn to be able to read social cues, to understand the other person at an empathic level so that you can adjust your communication and leadership styles accordingly to best lead that person.

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