Feb 18, 2019

Why Introverted COOs Make Great Leaders

Are you the CEO of a small to medium-sized business who is ready to hire a Chief Operations Officer (COO)?

You know that you need a second-in-command, but do you know what qualities to seek?

If you are an extroverted, gregarious CEO who enjoys external relationships and making deals, you probably don’t want to hire someone who shares these same characteristics. Your second-in-command needs to be satisfied with a backstage role because you are not willing to give up the spotlight since you relish bringing in business. There could be many benefits to looking at some introverted candidates who are very different from you. 

What Motivates Introverts recently ran an article about introverts making great leaders and noted that Harvard Business Review research that has shown that introverts are more effective leaders in complex and unpredictable settings.

Ilya Pozin noted in that:

  • Introverts are motivated by productivity, not ambition
  • They build meaningful connections
  • They don’t get easily distracted
  • They solve problems with thoroughness rather than in haste

“An introverted leader will be less likely to approve a project if other team members have objections or misgivings,” wrote Pozin, “The leader will want to ensure its success by addressing those concerns directly before moving forward.”

Pozin added, “The best leaders aren’t always the loudest and most noticeable ones, and the idea that introverts can’t make the cut is a dangerously misleading one.”

Do you need a COO who will take care of your business’s day-to-day details, and make sure that the team is working well together? Pozin also noted that an introverted leader “gains more satisfaction from maintaining the team’s productivity and high-quality work.” Sounds like great qualities for a second-in-command!

CEOs and COOs can Assume Visionary and Integrator Roles

In their book Rocket Fuel, Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters described good CEO – COO partnerships as Visionary and Integrator roles. While the CEO is the Visionary, the ideal COO is an Integrator. They wrote, “Integrators are typically very good at leading, managing, and holding people accountable. They love running the day-to-day aspects of the business. They enjoy being accountable for profit and loss, and the execution of the business plan. They remove obstacles so that people can execute.”

Wickman and Winters cited the example of when Keith Walters joined Ron Johnsey at Axiometrics, a 28-person analytics firm. While Johnsey had built his firm to develop market-leading solutions concerning multi-family commercial real estate, running the business left him less and less time to plan for the future. He hired Walters, and “a huge burden was lifted from Ron’s shoulders.” Walters was good at operational matters, and Johnsey could return to seeking the future in their market, coming up with new and exciting ideas for expansion.

For another example of a CEO and COO who represented the Visionary and Integrator roles, Wickman and Winters cited Walt and Roy Disney of the Disney company. Walt was described as the creative man, the authors wrote, and Roy was the guy who kept the business stable. “As business partners, Walt was the inventive dreamer, Roy the financial wizard,” the authors quoted Bob Thomas’s biography of the Disney brothers. It was the brothers’ teamwork that built an empire.

Whether you describe a COO candidate as an introvert or an Integrator, some of the qualities that he or she embodies will create results in your organization.

If you are looking for a COO who can give you:

  • Clarity
  • Communication
  • Resolution
  • Focus
  • Accountability

Then you will be looking for an Integrator, says Wickman and Winters.

Also, a COO candidate who is ready to act as a filter, to prioritize, and to provide direction, keeping the team focused on goals, is also one you want to hire.


As the CEO, your drive, imagination, and understanding of your market has made your business flourish. Now, to take the company to the next level, you need to hire a COO who may possess qualities that you do not manifest. That’s OK. Let her/ him be the Ying to your Yang. Work in partnership with someone whom you respect, and who can take the burden of day-to-day details off of you.

Is it time for you to hire a COO? If so don’t shy away from introverts and recognize what great leaders they can make. It may just be what your business needs to grow and prosper.

Next Step:

Check out our Abridged Guide to Hiring a Chief Operating Officer, containing top considerations for CEOs and Business Owners when hiring a COO.

The Abridged Guide to Hiring a COO


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