Is the phrase “introvert leader” an oxymoron? We mostly think of a leader as a spotlight-hugging extrovert blazing a path to glory while building an incredible fan base with their motivating speeches. Angela Hucles, President of The Women Sports Foundation, says introverts “supply only 4 percent of our leaders.”
This is quite a clichéd imagery though, because introverts are just as likely to make outstanding leaders. Only, they lead in their uniquely quiet style.
So, if you’re not an out-and-out extrovert, and find yourself in a position of leadership, or you’re looking to climb the corporate ladder eventually, here are 5 great suggestions to help you become a better, greater, introvert-leader:
- Focus more on listening
- Lead with equal action
- Step outside the comfort zone
- Stay true to yourself
- Rely more on written words
- Focus More On Listening
1. Focus More On Listening
Many leaders make the mistake of thinking their job is to do a lot of the talking, making inspirational speeches to motivate the team, and preferentially carrying out the tasks that need a lot of talking. While they tend to fix the problems in ways they intuitively feel are the best, they also are very vocal about the way they feel and deal throughout.
However, leadership is much more subtle than this blustery approach that some extroverts might take. Unfortunately, this reigning notion of leadership creates a ton of pressure on the introverts to behave similarly rather than take it in their introvert leadership style. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet, says:
There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.
A common failure of leadership is when they don’t properly listen, and think everyone else in their team moves forward on the path they, as a leader, have chosen. If you’re doing this, it means you’re no longer hearing the advice of those around you in your team. That can prove to be quite a costly leadership mistake.
The good news is introvert leaders are much less likely to make this mistake as they naturally spend more time listening to their team members and less time talking to or at them. This quality of taking in the opinions of their squad is a far better and acceptable way to find a better way forward.
So, if you’re an introvert, you will possibly have a greater capacity for listening than your peers. Use that power to add to your introvert leadership book.
2. Lead With Equal Action
Leaders are tested only when the going gets rough. Leadership gets its truest test when intricate obstacles arrive on the scene. Most people can lead successfully when it’s all smooth sailing and there are no drastic changes to the plan, but the moments of adversity reveal genuine leaders. In these cases, introverts are on the same footing as their more vocal extrovert peers. The way they prove their mettle in such moments is great introvert leadership examples remembered for a long time by their group.
That’s because when there are tough times, the leader that will get his team through the storm is the one that leads by example — by doing what needs to be done and being the first in the fray. It’s not the leader who just blusters and becomes the center of attention, calling out to those around.
The introvert leader will look at the challenge squarely to analyze how it can be resolved, and tow in their team to sail through with determination and strength. These actions are what get the job done in these times of adversity.
Now, since introverts can take action whenever it’s needed, equally well as extroverts, why do would any introvert place themselves on a lower leadership pedestal? If it’s action time, then you introverts are as talented leaders as any extrovert.
So, lead with equal action, and equal conviction, as any other leader.
Here’s Angela Hucles, President of The Women Sports Foundation, talking about why we need introverted leaders:
3. Step Outside The Comfort Zone
A comfort zone is a dangerous place for everyone—leaders, teams, extroverts, and introverts. Anyone can find themselves in a comfortable place and get stuck there. Why? Because everything inside a comfort zone is predictable to almost perfection.
Leaders are the ones who most need to challenge themselves and explore spaces outside their safe zones. If you’re an introverted leader, it means pushing yourself to go into group meetings, speaking to a roomful of eager listeners, mingling with an unfamiliar crowd.
It doesn’t mean you need to push yourself to be an extrovert. All it means is you need to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while and show your introvert-leader-self to the world. To do this, put your name into a few lists to do something you normally wouldn’t, or stand up and make yourself heard in a meeting.
So, try being in the spotlight from time to time. Rather, force yourself to take the spotlight sometimes.
4. Stay True To Yourself
It’s important to challenge yourself as a leader and move out of your comfort zone when occasions demand, but you also don’t want to forget the qualities that got you where you are today. As an introvert leader, you don’t have to lose your identity in trying to become an extrovert.
Introverts tend to be influential thinkers; they are mostly in their heads. But for that, they need their solitude from time to time. And when they don’t get it, they tend to become mentally drained and frazzled. There’s a scientific reason behind this:
Introverts have high sensitivity to dopamine — which is the brain’s feel-good chemical.
Too much dopamine rush that comes with excitement and activity, makes introverts overstimulated.
Another reason, as a study showed, extroverts are more stimulated by seeing faces, while faces do not make such a powerful impression on the attention of introverts.
So, the introvert leader must learn to step out of the noise and bustle at regular intervals. It helps them concentrate and look at the issues from many angles. On its very basis, this ability to do the layered thinking is the principal reason introverts can be such good thinker-leaders. Once again, we bring in Susan Cain (Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole):
Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
For these reasons, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a step back from a situation sometimes. Take advantage of a bit of quiet alone time to think and strategize about the best way forward.
These alone times, as introverts know innately, are critical for recharging your batteries so you can come back to lead with energized actions.
Don’t make yourself go everywhere as a pretend-extrovert. Never be ashamed of who you truly are.
5. Rely More On Written Words
Because you’re so good at thinking things through and coming to good resolutions, you can’t forget the importance of communicating those things effectively with your team. This step is a bit difficult for a purebred introvert because oral communication through meetings and presentations can cause some anxiety within introverted leaders.
What’s important to remember, however, is that verbal communication is only one form of broadcasting your ideas and opinions. You can easily share your thoughts with your team via written words, like emails, memos, or any other such type of document.
The written form of communication is a more effective way of sharing ideas because it creates a permanent record for later reference. Writing things down also helps take away a chance of misunderstanding or misinterpretation further down the road, and you can always refer to it for proof.
With this strategy, you can feel reassured to know you can express yourself properly, avoid misunderstandings with the team, or even if some team members aren’t present, and also feel comfortable doing it. However, while it’s okay to have this written communication style of approach, don’t forget to challenge yourself occasionally with some meetings and presentations, and get more used to public speaking.
Even when in an obligatory meeting, you — the introvert leader — can take down notes, ask for some time to think things over, and brief the team later on via electronic communication.
To become an outstanding leader, you don’t always need to be a pretend-extrovert. Anyone, regardless of their personality type, can work on their strengths and weaknesses to become better leaders. That “anyone” includes the introverts, too. Your introversion has got nothing to do with your leadership skills.
Three of the most famous introvert leaders of our times are Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. If you follow them, they are all about making decisions and solving problems, without trying to be flashy icons of extroversion.
By following your journey of self-awareness and self-improvement, you too can become an introvert leader others look up to and decide to follow, in the same capacity as an extrovert. Just don’t forget what makes you an influential leader, and you’ll be on your way to becoming an even better one.
Do you know about the best three methods of setting goals in business and life? Here are those: 3 Most Effective Goal-Setting Techniques.
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Authors’ Bio: Aimee Laurence specializes in HR and writing, specifically at EssayRoo. Helping companies to bring in the best possible talent and writing informational articles are two of her greatest passions. Sandip Roy is psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related topics.
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