Posted: 11 Jul. 2022 10 min. read

When an extrovert isn’t just an extrovert, nor an introvert just an introvert

This is the second post in a two-part series that is an excerpt from our book, Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Powerful Work Relationships (Christfort & Vickberg, 2018.) Read post one here.

We left off in the last post with Carl Jung’s statement: “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” So what does that look like in Business Chemistry terms?

People typically have both a primary Business Chemistry type and a secondary type. They might have an introverted primary type and an introverted secondary type, extroverted primary and secondary types, or one of each. These type combinations are a clue to just how introverted or extroverted a person is. Someone with introverted primary and secondary types may not be purely introverted, but they’re likely to be more so than someone with mixed primary and secondary types. Likewise, someone with extroverted primary and secondary types is probably more extroverted than others.

As with introverts and extroverts, there is no universally agreed-upon definition of an ambivert. We use the term to describe a person who quite easily moves back and forth between these introvert and extrovert orientations, similar to how an ambidextrous individual can fluidly switch between using their right or left hand. Chances are it’s easier for someone with a mixed primary–secondary combination to move back and forth, but it’s possible for anyone, particularly if their type is more moderate than extreme.

While we do recognize this complexity, we consider one’s primary type to determine whether they’re in the introvert or extrovert category. And as always, we acknowledge that when we label people we’re generalizing a bit for the sake of simplicity. Of course, all that you are cannot be captured in a single word. Not you, and not anyone else.

More fraternal than identical

So generally we refer to all primary Guardians, Dreamers, and Scientists as introverts, and to all primary Pioneers, Commanders, and Teamers as extroverts. And yet, we’re not suggesting that all introverts are the same (nor are all extroverts). Indeed, we see real differences between the Business Chemistry types within these introvert/extrovert categories. For example, Guardians, Dreamers, and Scientists all tend to be more reserved and deliberate than the extroverted types. However, Guardians are much more methodical and meticulous than the other two introverted types, while Dreamers are more empathic and relationship-oriented than the others, and Scientists are more cerebral and technical.

Similarly, Pioneers, Commanders, and Teamers are all more adaptable and energetic than the introverted types, but there are differences between them. Pioneers have a more fluid, less structured working style, and they are more spontaneous than the other two extroverted types. Commanders, meanwhile, are more logical and disciplined than the others, and Teamers are more traditional and place more importance on reaching consensus.

Despite these differences within the introvert and extrovert categories, we sometimes find the introvert–extrovert distinction to be clear and important in relation to our research findings. 

Who’s better? Who’s best?

So is it better to be an introvert or an extrovert? Well, you probably know us well enough already to assume we’re not going to argue that one is better than the other—they both make valuable contributions in most any situation. But we hinted in the previous post that in today’s business environment there are some ways in which being an extrovert might be a bit easier or more rewarding than being an introvert.

If that’s a surprise to you, then you are probably an extrovert and you probably haven’t read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which we mentioned in the previous post as well. We’ll return to Cain’s work here because it has direct relevance to creating work environments where all types thrive. She argues that society in general, and the typical workplace specifically, undervalues introverts and all their strengths, leading to “a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.” She outlines how Western culture has transformed over time from a culture of character to a culture of personality in which an “extrovert ideal” dominates, and introversion is viewed as inferior. She goes on to highlight the ways in which institutions today are built for extroverts and how that often contributes to the introverts’ talents remaining largely untapped. You can read Cain’s book for yourself, so we won’t belabor the point here, but we will mention that our research findings support Cain’s perspective in multiple ways.

We’ll close this post with a little thought experiment. Imagine an organization made up exclusively of strong introverts. What would that be like? Is everyone waiting for everyone else to say what they think? Do opportunities expire because decisions take too long? Can teams keep up with the pace of change or do they lag behind? And who the heck is in charge around here?

Now what about an organization made up exclusively of extreme extroverts? Are people fighting for control? Who will do the work that doesn’t place them in the spotlight? If everyone adapts effortlessly to the latest trend, might teams lose track of their North Star, change course too often, and end up going in circles? And if everyone is talking at once, who is listening?

The point is obvious, but we’ll state it none the less. Great teams and organizations need introverts and extroverts to excel. The challenge is in creating an environment that supports their different needs, takes advantage of their unique strengths, and promotes their working effectively together. 

If you missed the first post in this two-part series, read it here.


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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.