A SECRET WELL HIDDEN
When I get the courage to tell people that I am introverted, the comment is usually met with a hearty laugh followed by…”Common…there is nothing about you that is introverted.” Little do they know that it is simply NOT true. Don’t get me wrong. I know why others would see me as being extroverted. I have been in senior leadership positions for years. I have made countless graduation and special event speeches in front of hundreds of people that were well-applauded. Certainly none of these actions would be associated with an introvert. And…aren’t all good leaders extroverts?
What I have come to learn is that being introverted or extroverted has less to do with the quality of leadership and more to do with how different people “recharge their batteries”. More specifically, extroverts tend to gain energy when they are in the company of many people, when they are in the lime light, and when there is a lot of stimulus in the outer world. Conversely, introverts gain their energy when they are able to spend time alone, be in the quiet, and connect with their inner worlds. This last statement definitely holds true for me.
GREAT LEADERS ARE EXTROVERTS
The ability to speak publicly and network with the right people are two essential abilities of the modern leader. According to a poll conducted by USA Today, 65% of executives believe that introversion is a barrier to effective leadership. However, the perception that extroverts make the best leaders is being challenged. In fact, there are some qualities of introverted people, that if leveraged appropriately, make them stronger as leaders of modern global businesses and corporations. The following characteristics are most noteworthy:
- Judiciousness: Unlike extroverted leaders, introverts tend to spend more time thinking about the decisions they want to make before taking action. While they are not afraid to make quick decisions when they are called for, they will take more time on decisions that have the potential for massive impact. They tend to be less impulsive risk-takers and very deliberate in the choices they make.
- Superior Listeners: Introverts listen to what people say and internalize it first. It is not that they are unable to respond or trying to think about what they should say, they are simply in the learning process. The introvert is a tremendous auditory learner and enjoys learning new things.
- Speak With Authority: When introverts finally speak they are often said to have an even tone, are deliberate with their words, and are pointed in their messages. When an introvert speaks, people listen.
- Humility: Because introverts spend a lot of time in their head, they are very aware of who they are and what makes them tick. They know what their strengths and weaknesses are and what they need to advance their learning.
- Managing Change: Introverts are also more likely to persist in finding solutions to challenging situations instead of trying to hold on to what they know has worked in the past. This is a highly advantageous quality in this global economy.
- Lone-Riders: Introverts prefer to work in isolation or in small groups. It gives them the greatest sense of focus and is not overwhelming to their senses (an energy drainer).
- Empathetic: Introverts are naturally good at deep thinking and demonstrating empathy. They are better able to communicate with their team and drive positive results.
YOU WOULD NEVER GUESS THESE PEOPLE ARE INTROVERTS!
Honestly, I would have never suspected that these famous leaders are introverted. In fact, it gives me a sense of confidence to know that despite my small group of friends, my desire to work in solitude, and my passion for reading and learning, that I too am a great leader. Here are some of the famous introverted leaders who have inspired us.
Former US President, Barack Obama– Barack Obama doesn’t have a wide circle of friends and can often appear as aloof. However, he is very introspective, uses thoughtful and deliberate communication, and carved out very specific time in his daily schedule for silence and solitude.
CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer– Marissa Mayer has a very specific set of strategies she uses to navigate large crowds and and situations that make her feel uncomfortable. She often forces herself to stay in situations that she finds cumbersome.
Warren Buffet– He is the classic example of an introvert and a very thoughtful man who takes well-calculated risks.
Former President Elect, Hilary Clinton– Hilary Clinton continues to work at developing a thick skin that “can still breathe”. She is a private person and deals with the public and the media in very thoughtful ways.
Mark Zuckerberg– He is described as shy, introverted, and not warm to people that he is unfamiliar with. However, he has a deeply caring heart and spends a lot of time with the people who are for him.
Evangelist of Canva, Guy Kawasaki– He looks at his job as a series of roles that he must take on and describes it as being an actor. However, it doesn’t mean that it is who he really is on the inside.
Founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates– Bill gates is said to be quiet and bookish. However, he holds to his passions tenaciously. He believes that if you are clever, you can learn the value of being an introvert.
GREAT STRATEGIES FOR THE INTROVERT
Are you or some of your team members introverted? Don’t sweat it! This is a great quality when you know how to leverage the gifts you and your team members have! Here are 5 practical strategies to make the most of these strengths:
- You may want to arrange teams in small groups, or set up paired tasks for job completion.
- Give introverts time and space to think and reflect. When introverts are given an opportunity to reflect before taking action, it can lead to greater decision-making and clarity.
- Introverts lose energy in over-stimulated environments or being around people 24/7. Allow employees to take frequent breaks and set boundaries around your time in the work setting.
- Be prepared to consider the feedback and points of view being offered in the way that they can give it to you. They may not be able to participate overtly in a group but may share invaluable information in a one-on-one meeting or an email.
- Empower other introverts with the space they need to contribute knowing that they are not rude, aloof, or disrespectful. They are just thinkers.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR SUPERPOWER
If you are an introvert or you are looking to increase your introverted leadership superpowers, here is a list of recommended books for you.