Does your introversion hold you back from “going for it” at work sometimes? As it turns out, science may know why.

A new study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that “introverts fail to emerge as leaders as often as extraverts because they engage in higher levels of forecasted negative affect and that these forecasts impede their emergent leadership potential.”

In other words, they tend to predict that group experiences will be harder for them than they might actually be, so they don’t try to take control during “informal leadership opportunities,” according to a writeup in the The British Psychological Society Research Digest.

Putting things in simpler terms, the writeup breaks down what the researchers mean by “emergent leadership” in the study, writing that it’s “when someone takes charge in a team without a formal hierarchy.”

Here are some of the findings from the research, plus what you can do to feel more empowered as an office introvert.

What the researchers found

The researchers took a look at how much 184 business students acted like leaders during an unstructured group task.

According to the writeup, before doing the group activity (developed by NASA), participants described how they thought they’d fare. Then they assessed others’ leadership performance afterward.

It’s clear that introverts can express their personal leadership through things like personal branding, but in the study, they reportedly didn’t demonstrate their leaderships skills as frequently as the extraverts during the activity — and also predicted it being more unpleasant beforehand.

Although the research couldn’t conclusively prove that introverts predictions prevented them from being leaders, the evidence seemed in line with his concept: “[T]hese two factors seemed to be related: when fully accounting for any differences in participants’ negative expectations, introversion was no longer associated with less emergent leadership.”

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