The Power of an Introverted Leader

Introvert-coffee-cupIn last week’s post, we talked about how to unleash optimal performance from your introverted team members. This week, let’s talk about how to unleash your own potential as an introverted leader.

While it is true that extroverts are over-represented in leadership roles, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for introverts in the C-suite. In fact, many admired leaders such as Bill Gates, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Larry Page have proven that introversion isn’t a quality that hinders success. There are several aspects of introversion that are strengths in a leadership role. Here are a few examples:

  • They’re great listeners. While some people may be uncomfortable with how quiet an introvert seems during a conversation, there is actually a beautiful thing happening—listening. Instead of formulating their next statement, an introvert focuses their energy on actively listening to the other people involved in a conversation and truly hears not only what is being said, but how it’s being said as well. They take time to process what they’re hearing. From a leadership perspective, this intense ability to listen and process what is being said can help foster truly meaningful relationships and help build trust on a team. They are seen as empathetic and actively engaged in others’ needs.
  • They think before they speak. From a PR perspective, an introverted leader is a dream. They rarely speak off-the-cuff and unintentionally say something offensive. An introverted leader carefully weighs their thoughts internally before they share externally. They don’t usually “wing it” in a conversation, so while their responses may not seem as charismatic or charming as those given by an extrovert, you can be sure that they say what they mean, and they mean what they say. When an introvert does speak, the information they share is seen as thoughtful and meaningful by others.
  • They put it in writing. Because an introvert puts so much care into the thoughts they share externally, they often prefer to communicate in writing. Memos and emails give an introverted leader time to not only perfect the message, but also the delivery. Through their writing, they clearly communicate their thoughts and thought processes so little is left to be questioned. In addition to the benefit of sharing an articulate message, there is a sense of transparency and accountability tied to communicating in writing.
  • They are well-prepared. If there’s anything that gives an introvert anxiety, it’s being unprepared. For that reason, an introverted leader will often think through their goals, mission, plans, and concerns over and over in their minds. Prior to a meeting, they will brainstorm all of the questions that may be asked of them so they can spend time processing an answer. This exercise gives an introvert an edge in many scenarios like a negotiation. Also, because they’ve spent so much energy thinking through possible scenarios, they seem calm even during chaotic situations because they’ve mentally prepared for several possibilities. This calming presence helps create a peaceful and trusting environment for everyone on the team to do their best problem solving.
  • They take risks carefully. It is a common myth that introverts are risk averse. In fact, introverts take just as many risks as extroverts, the difference is in their degree of impulsiveness. An introvert weighs risks very carefully. They don’t just look before they leap, they look, think, assess, calculate, and then leap. Followers of an introverted leader can be sure that as they pursue a risky option, they’re doing so after all variables have been weighed and measured very carefully. They are not easily impressed with instant gratification, so they tend to pursue risks with long term rewards. Introverted leaders also actively self-reflect, so they are known to create escape routes for their plans if their assumptions prove to be untrue.

With everything in life, there is a trade-off. For introverted versus extroverted leaders, we often trade charisma and charm for careful, quiet strategy. There’s certainly a place for both leadership styles in every organization. The most important thing is to understand and value the significance of each personality style in the workplace.