The Introvert Product Owner

The second day of my Professional Scrum Master training we do a recap of the Scrum Framework, where one of the questions is: What characterises does a good product owner have? Quite often people state that a good product owner is extrovert. Which may sound logical but in fact is not always the case. Raising the question: Can a good product owner be introvert?

To be clear, an introvert person is not an antisocial or shy person. Introvert means being internally focussed, they are more reserved and reflective. The assumption would be that an extrovert Product Owner would be better in articulating the vision and managing the different stakeholders and is able to work together proactively with a Development Team in creating a great Product Backlog.

The assumption is that extroverts are better leaders. In a study done by Adam Grant it turns out that extroverts are more often in a leadership position. However, there is no data on whether they actually perform better. So after investigating the effectiveness of leadership, Grant found that there is a relationship between the characteristics of a team and their leader. Extrovert leaders scored above average (16%) in achieved results when leading a passive team. However, an extrovert leader with a proactive team will surprisingly perform below average (14% below average to be precise). A follow-up study found out that introverted leaders achieve better results when working together with a proactive team.

So what does this mean for Product Owners? Basically you can conclude that when you have a very pro-active Development Team, they might benefit from having an introvert product owner. Still being able to make decisions and to manage stakeholders. However, managing stakeholders might be a challenge as well. Ideally, a Product Owner is an Ambivert, knowing when it is time to stop talking and listen or when they should speak up and motivate. Bottomline, look at the characteristics of your team and find a complementary product owner.