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You’d hardly think it a compliment if someone described you as “boring.”
After all, most of us strive to be more engaging and charismatic in our daily lives.
But in the workplace, there’s reason to believe that being boring has its advantages. In a recent article for The Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D., a professor of business psychology, writes that managers who are perceived as predictable and reliable tend to be the most effective.
Chamorro-Premuzic says the term psychologists use is “emotional maturity,” which means being emotionally stable, agreeable, and conscientious. He cites a study led by Timothy A. Judge, Ph.D., which found that effective leaders tend to be extroverted (sociable) and conscientious (hardworking).
That personality type, Chamorro-Premuzic says, is the exact opposite of the legendary figures we typically associate with successful leadership, such as Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos. Those individuals tend to be more volatile and self-centered, and few managers could get away with behaving the same way.
In a Fast Company article, Chamorro-Premuzic elaborates on the potential upsides of being a boring manager. “Popular writing on leadership emphasizes the role of charisma, yet charisma is just a politically correct term for narcissism, and its benefits are almost always short-lived, and benefit the individual rather than the organization,” he writes.
“[T]he best managers in the world tend to be stable rather than excitable, consistent rather than erratic, as well as polite and considerate,” he adds.
Chamorro-Premuzic goes on to say that the term “boring” is actually a stand-in for “emotionally intelligent,” which is a key trait in today’s workplace. Someone who is emotionally intelligent never loses his or her temper and maintains a consistently calm demeanor. In other words, the person is boring because he or she is reliable and trustworthy.
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Research supports Chamorro-Premuzic’s theory. An analysis by Google, which was highlighted on Inc., revealed that the best leaders are predictable and consistent.
“If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want,” Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president of people operations told The New York Times in 2013. “If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”
Keeping these ideas in mind can help companies spot managerial potential in their employees. The best leaders aren’t necessarily those who are combative or spontaneous, but stable, agreeable, and dependable.