The preferred measure of central tendency often depends on the shape of the distribution. Of the three measures of tendency, the mean is most heavily influenced by any outliers or skewness.
In a symmetrical distribution, the mean, median, and mode are all equal. In these cases, the mean is often the preferred measure of central tendency.
For distributions that have outliers or are skewed, the median is often the preferred measure of central tendency because the median is more resistant to outliers than the mean. Below you will see how the direction of skewness impacts the order of the mean, median, and mode. Note that the mean is pulled in the direction of the skewness (i.e., the direction of the tail).