What Introverts Need To Know To Become Great Leaders

31 Dec 2018 Posted in ⟨For Business Leaders⟩

If you’ve ever thought that “introvert” and “leader” were two diametrically opposite words, then take a look at the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Mahatma Ghandi. Each and every one of these influential figures were introverted leaders – and you can be one too!

According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, introverts make great leaders because they tend to “think before they act, digest information thoroughly and stay on task longer, give up less easily and work more accurately.”

So if you are an introvert with aspirations to lead, then yes, it is possible for you to become a great leader. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Both introverts AND extroverts can be great leaders

Although the overall perception of introverts has improved in recent years, it is still easy to fall into the trap of thinking that only extroverts can make great leaders. In truth, both personality types can flourish depending on the individual and circumstances surrounding them.

If one environment calls for someone who can thoroughly plan and work independently, then an introvert may possess more appropriate leadership qualities. However, if the environment is constantly changing and requires high amounts of interaction, an extrovert may be better suited.

Rather than viewing leadership as something that lies in the domain of one personality type over the other, see that everyone has the ability to lead in their own way, then set about cultivating your own leadership style.

2. Silence is power

In a noisy world, one of the most powerful traits that one can have is to reside in silence. And fortunately for introverts, silence comes naturally!

In clinical psychologist, Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, she proposes that introverts have an internal power to birth fully formed ideas, insights and solutions. Thus, although an introvert may seem untalkative during a meeting, their minds could very much be at work solving the problem at hand.

It might sound simple, but this habit of thinking before talking is a frequently overlooked leadership skill. So if you are an introvert, use your tendency towards silence to your advantage. Use it to replenish your energy reserves and to give yourself the mind space to find the most effective course of action before proposing a solution.

As the introverted leader Mahatma Gandhi once said, “in a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Silence may be gentle, but within silence there is power.

3. Relationships are about quality over quantity

Although an introverted leader may not have the infectious charm of their extroverted counterparts, nor will they always come home with a pocket full of new business cards, they do hold an upper hand when it comes to the quality of their relationships. Given that introverts are generally great listeners, they are much more capable of developing deeper more meaningful relationships. By listening and empathising to those around you rather than asserting your own views, you will be able to uncover deep talking points and create a solid foundation of trust. This is especially important when moving into higher leadership roles where it is imperative to win over key decision makers.

4. Extroverts are your friends

While we often separate leaders into being either introverts or extroverts, it is when they come together that mountains are moved. History is scattered with powerful introvert-extrovert duos including the likes of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg, and Paul McCartney and John Lennon. These synergies don’t just happen though. According to Jennifer B. Kahnweiler PhD, the author of The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, the key is to “remember that these relationships are most successful when opposites stop focusing on their differences and use approaches that move them toward results.” If you’re an introverted leader, stop viewing extroverts as different and start viewing them as people who possess complementary leadership skills.

5. Find your own way to communicate

While it may be tempting to emulate extroverted qualities, trying to communicate like someone else will only drain you. If you enjoy public speaking, do not feel pressured to mingle with everyone afterwards. Introverts generally prefer directing their attention inwards and find alone time to replenish their energy reserves, thus activities such as small talk will only deviate you from what feels natural. If public speaking is not your forte, let your fingers do the talking so that you can take time to yourself to articulate what you want to say. This could take the form of company-wide memos or even a blog so that people can get an idea of what’s going on within your mind. In conclusion, find a form of communication that works with you and stick to it!

If you’d like to nurture your skills to become a great introverted leader, put your SkillsFuture credits to use and pursue leadership skills courses such as Attaining Personal Empowerment and Maximizing People Capital.

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