Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

Why Introverts Make Great Leaders

Leadership | Posted by YouInc.com - July 15, 2016 at 12:30 am
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Ask an introvert and an extrovert what defines a great social evening. Introverts enjoy spending time with one or a very select number of individuals. In-depth conversations are rewarding. Extroverts love talking to many people; the more they engage, the more they are fired up. They are like solar panels sucking up energy. An introvert needs time to reflect, percolate on ideas and carefully consider their options. They do reach out but also need to pull in and weigh the data. Society has popularized extroverts; society values extroverts. Think of most of our advertisements. Fun is always in the context of a party, large gatherings, and big venues. Fun is never portrayed as putting on your noise-cancelling headset to listen to Drake’s latest CD, or watching a movie by yourself on your iPad, or completing the world’s largest crossword puzzle. Introverts get a bad rap; they are seen as shy, cool and detached. Society has read introverts wrong.

Think of the composition of great teams. Teams with synergies require balance. If a team was made up of all extroverts, great ideas may get lost with all that static. As it is, introverts need to work hard to interject themselves. A significant number of my executive coaching clients are introverts; they are being asked by their leaders to have a voice at the table, which is not always easy for them. Many believe it is important to be polite and wait their turn. By then it’s too late; a peer jumps in and takes the glory. One of my coaching clients generally resists speaking up; she worries she doesn’t have all the answers. I asked her to think about her colleagues’ contributions. I challenged her and suggested that their input may indeed be of value or at times there may be lots of bravado with minimal business rationale. Should she want to advance as a leader, she will be required to challenge her peers. If not, she runs the risk of being a follower. This is echoed by one of my most senior clients when he stated, “If members of my executive team do not speak up, I assume they have nothing to say.”

It is in many ways easier for an introvert to shift towards being more outward than for extroverts to restrain themselves. Extroverts work hard to stay still, however, a majority is advised by their managers to work on their listening skills. Here’s a case in point. One of my clients decided I needed some feedback. He stated that I should formulate my leadership guidance in the context of “he shoots, he scores.” I asked him what he meant by that and he said, “Talk faster. I should get what I need from you within 5–10 minutes.” I reminded him that the platform for our coaching engagement was designed to enhance his stakeholder capabilities. This meant actively listening and learning to incorporate other views so as to produce more robust solutions.

When we watch introverts, their leadership style does not fit the stereotype of front-of-the-room charismatic presence. Their energy is not bouncing off the walls. They have a different vibe; it’s cool, it’s down low. I would argue vehemently that introverts are indeed charismatic, just in a different way. They are experts at lobbying for support; they do it by attracting one vote at a time. Before they know it, they have created a groundswell. They are great listeners, they are methodical, they vet ideas, and they provide the necessary due diligence. So all of you introverts take heed. You have earned an equal place as impactful leaders.

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Tags: charisma, energy, extroverts, introverts, leaders, profiles, business, entrepreneurs, mental health

Cindy Wahler
Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in succession planning and talent management. For additional information or to get in touch with Dr. Wahler, please click here.
Comments
Abbas Jeraj
January 27, 2014 at 11:54 am
Agreed. You can be an outgoing introvert!
Ms. Dale M LeBlanc
January 28, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Yes, I would agree that Introverts are Great Leaders -
I sincerely and most strongly believe that each and every introvert has an extrovert side and vice versa. That's what we need to reach; grab and put in motion based from a strategic incentive especially if an introvert. At first, if an introvert, we need to learn from their inner class wisdom and appreciate their restricted well-being.To choose to be silent in facing or confronting certain issues means deep concentration and listening before taking a position which is clearly a great sense of clear thinking and applied wisdom. It may be the moment, the situation, the person's state of well-being or another reason of time-being why it is not the right time to speak up. If a person is classifying themselves personally as being an introvert, then, we may offer them a lend of hand and reassure them that their input is of significant importance and that if minor barriers exist in leading them to impacting an issue. No issue is not an issue which cannot be addressed by another means of transmission, either by a close individual/member or by another means of planning if an issue of importance needs to be put across the table or dealt-with. If applied correctly, gradually and surely, the building and tactful process of an introvert will initiate, slowly unlock and eventually deliberate an output of results. We need to work with the greatness of each individual either introverts or extroverts and it simply remains the uprising challenge of special unique individuals to see the hidden qualities of these introverts and extroverts and help them reach the top of their attainable intellectual skills in being Entrepreneurs; Leaders, etc...Encouragement is a great finishing touch.
Inner Peace calls for an Abundance of Positive Insights for both the Introvert and Extrovert. Perfect Example;
If an Introvert needs to ride a motorcycle to become slightly Extroverted let them go for a motorcycle ride. If an Extrovert needs to take a moment of silence to value Peace and Appreciate Introverts let them take 5 minutes to reflect.

The Science Law of Concerted Effort.
Anonymous
January 31, 2014 at 5:10 pm
I would agree that introverts (thinkers) make great leaders. the problem is that the rest of the world sees them as passive and not action go getters. What also is an issue is that introverts tend to be so comfortable with the status quo they do not challenge themselves to move outside of their comfort zone. Most introverts are seen as not speaking up or not being engaged they are quiet they are shy.. yet they are not seen as great listeners or thinkers and when they problem solve it is right on the money
Liz Snell
February 1, 2014 at 8:17 pm
I think that both introverts and extroverts have their strengths and weakness and neither is defined simply by their "vert" if you will. I know extroverts who are brilliant, engaged, quick thinking, awesome leaders and managers, yet I know others who are so consumed by their need for attention, action, networking that they cannot slow down enough to see what's right in front of their face or event to consider options or consequences before acting. I know introverts who, as Arlene describes very well, are brilliant and choose the right time to be heard after they have thoroughly considered a situation, sought input from others and made sure they fully understood the issue. I have also know introverts who may be smart enough, but as one commenter here said, are comfortable in their zone and not willing to disturb it for the sake of contributing to a conversation. So all that is to say, there is more that defines a great leader than whether they are introverts or extroverts, we all need to dig a little deeper.
Beth Craig
February 3, 2014 at 11:57 am
There is an excellent Ted Talk by author Susan Cain about The Power of Introverts with a message about the importance of a better "ying and yang" of introverts and extroverts in society...well worth listening to http://youtu.be/c0KYU2j0TM4
Anonymous
February 13, 2014 at 9:15 am
I am an introvert, and I disagree with some of the comments here. Introverts do not tend to be comfortable with the status quo as one poster commented. There seems to be some confusion by extroverts on what it means to be an introvert. Yes we tend to think things through more and may spend more time evaluating all the possibilities, but usually that will result in the best decision being made. When there is something of value to say, we speak up, we are not going to chatter about something just to hear ourselves talk or to try and impress others in earshot. Most are just as effective speakers as extroverts even with large crowds, it just isn't our preference to do this.
Joe Wasylyk
July 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm
I am the Founder of the Seniorpreneur Project. I started out as an extrovert believing it is natural for Seniors 50+ to become entrepreneurs. How can they miss? Older entrepreneurs have the experience, skills, maturity, knowledge, resources and business ideas. However; most Seniorpreneurs tend to work alone as introverts. The challenging question is- If the older entrepreneurs had business support groups to help them would this create more extroverts in this group? Also, ageism leads more seniors to become unimportant, isolated, socially discountable, politically weak and economically unsuccessful. Saying all that, I was once an extrovert and now I'm becoming more of an introvert. I am presently disillusioned regarding the present eco-system for older entrepreneurs. Still I will not quit until I see a more level playing field for ALL the potential entrepreneurs regardless of age.
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