Not every leader is a cliched, type-A personality. Some of the more talented, technologically oriented people are those who are quiet, more contemplative and less assertive. That doesn’t mean they’re not qualified to lead a project, it just means they lead it differently.
There’s a movement called the Quiet Revolution, which even has a manifesto that promotes the idea that “solitude is a catalyst for innovation” and that “quiet leadership is not an oxymoron.” But there are even more experts that tout the power of the introvert. Could that be you?
Introverts Can Lead
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, the idea that introverts can’t be good leaders is a myth. In an interview with Scientific American, Cain said, “According to groundbreaking new research by Adam Grant, a management professor at Wharton, introverted leaders sometimes deliver better outcomes than extroverts do. Introverts are more likely to let talented employees run with their ideas, rather than trying to put their own stamp on things,” she added, “and they tend to be motivated not by ego or a desire for the spotlight, but by dedication to their larger goal.”
You just have to look back over the recent past to see that this is true. Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks were all introverts who changed the course of history. Introverts have even made a mark on the business world, from Douglas Conant of Campbell Soup to Larry Page at Google.
Three Tips For Introverted Leaders
Leaders may be born, but they’re also taught. A leader isn’t going to pass up on an opportunity to learn. Introverts can lead even if being in that position doesn’t come naturally to them. They have a great deal to offer the project and can more comfortably do so by adapting their management style to their personality.
#1 Play to Your Strengths
You’re introverted, so don’t pretend to be an extrovert. You’re not going to be at your best in front of a large group of people, leading a discussion at a big meeting. That means you’re not likely going to get the recognition you deserve for the work you’ve done, because you’re not going to broadcast those achievements like an extrovert might.
Introverts tend to not only be better one-on-one, but when they have conversations they tend to want to dive deeper, providing more details and depth to the discussion. Therefore, make it a point to have more of these one-on-one meetings. Consciously take time out of your day to meet in such a manner with your stakeholders and team members. Remember, communication is the bedrock of leadership.
#2 Quality Over Quantity
This step speaks to the residual effect of following the previous step. That is, by dealing with people individually you create stronger bonds with your team and your stakeholders. You can share your ideas, make relationships and develop the groundwork for strengthening team loyalty and a having platform in which people feel more at ease speaking freely to you, which can provide more insight into the project and potential problems.
You can apply this company-wide. Rather than host large meetings where an extrovert might use their natural talents of speaking and sharing in a group format, you can approach various sectors of your organization and speak individually to people. These conversations are inherently more personal, and because you choose to explore topics more deeply, you’re likely to gain better insights from your team, which can help communication and innovation.
Listening is an unheralded skill that many leaders neglect. Listening is as crucial to good communication as being articulate and speaking clearly, traits that are often seen as a foundation of productive leadership. As an introvert you’re likely a better listener naturally, if only because you’re not filling up the pauses in conversation with your own words.
Another benefit of a good listener is that they take the time to not only hear what is being said, but contemplate and digest it, often returning with another angle on the discussion that sets it moving forward in ways otherwise unforeseeable. This is something introverts excel at, listening closely and sharing the important takeaway.
It’s important that preconceived notions of leadership be re-examined so that leadership can be nurtured in a multitude of ways, both for yourself and your team. Organizations that fail to recognize that talent and leadership come in many shapes and sizes, are likely to suffer from poor communication and lack of innovation and foresight. Nurture the introverts and if you are introverted, too, hopefully these tips will help you find strength in your inherent talents so you can express them to their fullest possible extent.
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