Are introverts just as suited to leadership roles as their extroverted colleagues? Our growing understanding of leadership tells us this is the case. When researchers first began studying and trying to understand leadership, they observed that many leaders shared similar traits. They tended to be (among other things) intelligent, taller than average, and great communicators.
This trait theory—the idea that leadership comes from aspects of your personality that you are born with—has been set aside in favor of the idea that leadership is something far more complex than a collection of personal attributes. In fact, leadership ability is something that everyone, including introverts and extroverts, can develop.
Introverts as business leaders
Being an introvert is not a barrier to being a leader today. We are currently part of the most diverse workforce in history, and research has shown that leaders who can foster an inclusive environment and leverage the strengths of their team members ultimately are more successful. But there are a few things you might want to consider as you work with your team:
Show team members that different is good. As an introverted leader, it’s critical for you to recognize and model that differences in communication styles are assets for the team. If we all think and work the same way, innovation is much harder to achieve, and we won’t see the flaws in our plans.
Prepare for conflict as an introvert. Conflict is natural to teamwork. Healthy conflict, including disagreeing about how to approach an issue, is an important part of improving the end product. Unhealthy conflict, including arguing over trivial things or having hidden agendas, is a sign that your team isn’t collaborating well. Understanding how teams evolve and learn to work together is an important element of being a successful manager as an introvert.
Model open-mindedness. As an introvert, you might feel uncomfortable presenting to the team or speaking up. Let your team know that sometimes you have to do things that are a little outside your comfort zone, and ask them to do the same.
Partner up. Introverts and extroverts work better together. Encourage the members of your team to find their opposite and work together on projects to leverage the best of both ends of the communication spectrum.
Be yourself. Many times, introverts feel like they have to put on an act of being more extroverted, either to get or maintain a leadership role. But the most important thing you can do as a leader is to be yourself. Like any effective manager, you must develop an authentic style that is based in your own strengths and your ability to develop the strengths of your team members.
Leadership is a skill, and it is made up of your own natural strengths, the mindset that puts the development of your team members first, and skills such as project management, communication, and delegation. Everyone’s personal leadership style is different, and learning to be a leader as an introvert is all about understanding how to leverage your own strengths, and the strengths of your team, to get things done.
When you learn to harness your strengths as an introvert, you can raise your visibility, communicate with confidence, and position yourself as a valued insider.