Why Introverts Also Make Great Leaders
There is a tendency in our busy, workaholic North American culture to think all of our leaders must be extroverts. But I would like to build the case for considering the introverts who are all around us for the leadership roles you need filled.
Introversion and extroversion are simply personality traits, which make each of us extra special.
Take into account what Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” reported in her book: A third to maybe half of us are likely introverts by nature. You must not cut off that rich supply of talented people from being considered on your leadership team. Where would our world be without leaders such as Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, or business leaders such as Douglas Conant of Campbell Soup, Steve Wozniak at Apple, or Larry Page from Google? All are regarded as introverts.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT EXTROVERTS
If you are an extrovert—or know any—you know they have a tendency to talk out loud when they think. Their overt display of behaviors causes us to think extroverts are more charismatic, friendly, and sociable in nature.
Extroverts are much more action oriented and are observed getting others moving on completing tasks and assignments. They tap into people’s energy from being with them and become energetic themselves.
However, as with all things in life, there is a downside to extroversion. Sometimes extroverts can come across as seeking attention and are easily distracted by outside stimulation. In fact, they often have a hard time being on their own.
They can drown out ideas and the potential of people by highlighting their own thoughts and strengths. It is done with no wrong intent, but the quiet ones in the room tend to shut down.
NOW FOR THE INTROVERTS IN THE ROOM
Naturally, most people are not a pure extrovert or introvert. There is usually an extroversion-introversion continuum.
But let’s get a quick grasp of introversion. To be an introvert, you are someone who tends to turn mentally inside of yourself. If you are one, you know you are more likely to avoid large groups and you can be happy and even energized by being alone. You don’t need external sources of stimulation to be fulfilled. You are at peace in your own skin, and you focus on your feelings.
Leaders who are introverts will formulate their thoughts first in their own mind before ever voicing them to others. They take time to think and process information before generating ideas or expressing them. Only then will they make the effort to share them out loud, and even then, they may do so through others.
So don’t question introverts as not being smart simply because they don’t say much or speak up right away. When they do speak, just make sure you’re paying attention to what they say and write it down because it likely will be powerful.
DRAWING UPON YOUR INTROVERTED LEADERS
Today’s biggest asset is new ideas and the demand for innovative ways of doing things. Our introverted geniuses need solitude to generate their creative ideas. This may mean you have to reconsider the open office set-up and the constant demand for working in teams.
Researcher and Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant discovered that introvert leaders have a tendency to deliver better results than extroverts because they give employees greater freedom to explore their own ideas without dominating or railroading the thoughts of others with their own ideas.
In our increasingly digital age, you will need leaders who can humanize technology and connect well with your global customers. Introverts are the best listeners and can engage in thoughtful discussion by asking great questions of people and not talking over them.
DEVELOPING YOUR INTROVERTED LEADERS
In her book, “Quiet Influence,” Jennifer Kahnweiler speaks of six strengths of introverts you should use to help develop leaders whose personality is more introverted.
Strength #1: Taking Quiet Time. Don’t be surprised when introverted leaders have more of a closed-door policy. Developing new ideas and procedures that can change business and people requires having solitude at different times. Allow this change in the workplace.
Strength #2: Preparation. An introverted leader needs time to think, ponder, and prepare. No rush makes for no rash or regretted statements. Give leaders ample time for preparation and they will give you their very best work and exceed your wildest expectations.
Strength #3: Engaged Listening. Introverted leaders listen before they speak and are great at creating scheduled, one-on-one sessions with their direct reports. They initiate two-way discussions and will hold you accountable for doing what you say you will do. Watch out!
Strength #4: Focused Conversations. One of the strengths of introverted leaders is their depth of thinking and self-discipline to complete tasks. With consent, you can tap into what they discover as internal trends. They are great strategic thinkers, so use them well.
Strength #5: Writing. The best introverted leaders are great writers and tend to be better at writing their thoughts and ideas than speaking. That makes them great storytellers. Make sure they have the opportunity to contribute their content internally.
Strength #6: Thoughtful Use of Social Media. Instead of just broadcasting and telling everyone to “look at me,” introverted leaders engage their audience by creating community. They are there to assist people and give full attention to those who need help. They interact best one on one versus one to many.
While our North American history may have dictated men and women of action in the past, today’s world requires us to bring into the mix leaders of contemplation and concentration.
Don’t neglect the strength of the quiet ones, the introverted employees who can add a powerful voice to your leadership roster.
Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: http://AuthenticRecognition. com. For more information, e-mail him at RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit www.Rideau.com.