When we think of leadership, we often think of the bold, the charismatic, the loud. Meanwhile, the word introvert brings to mind qualities like shy, socially awkward, wallflower or insecure.
But, as a society, we’ve got it all wrong. Introverts are not necessarily shy or socially awkward or insecure. In fact, I know several people, myself included, who I would call outgoing introverts — confident, engaging people who enjoy leading but who recharge with quiet, alone time.
You might recognize the names of a few famous introverted leaders, according to Inc.com:
- Barack Obama
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- Elon Musk
- Rosa Parks
- Bill Gates
- Hillary Clinton
Even Lady Gaga has said that she identifies with introversion. I mean, Lady Gaga?! She most certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of an introvert and, if you look into her work she’s more than a pop-singer but also a leader of social movements among her fans.
The bottom line is that introverts are different than extroverts. They experience the world in a different way but these differences are what can make them incredible leaders when their powers are leveraged properly.
Here a few typically introvert strengths that can translate to powerful leadership…
Introverts tend to consider decisions thoroughly
Introverts often need more time than extroverts to reflect, consider, and think deeply. They spend more time observing and listening and then go away to let everything percolate before presenting their thoughts or conclusions. This process can be confused with indecisiveness but can also be a highly valuable leadership trait that can help organisations make smart, strategic decisions.
Introverts excel in small groups and one-on-one relationships
Introverts are excellent at paying attention to the details of individuals and catering communication to suit individual needs. When you’re leading a team, there are many, many ripple effects to morale and productivity when your team members feel seen, heard and understood.
Introverts leave space for others
Introverts don’t typically strive to be in the spotlight. They’re happy to be there if it serves their purpose, or if they’re called upon in need, but because they don’t seek to be the center of attention, this can mean more space for sharing credit and accolades with their team.
There is incredible power in leading by listening. Listening to what the team wants, what the stakeholders want, what the clients want, hearing about problems before they explode.
Introverts have the capacity to listen intently not only for what is being said, but for what isn’t, which can help them deliver more of what’s needed.
I recently met with a client who is a very driven, productive, extrovert. He shared with me how astonished he was recently when one of his team members had a personal breakdown despite having told him she was fine. He was confused why she didn’t just acknowledge her struggles and ask for help, but saw it as a learning opportunity to pay attention to more than the words being said.
If you’re more extroverted, what typically introverted qualities will you incorporate into your leadership style? What can you do to support your introverted colleagues and team members?
If you’re more introverted, are you letting your leadership strengths shine? Are you allowing yourself to confidently follow your heart to lead others? How can you support your extroverted colleagues and team members?