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Quiet Strength: 5 Ways Introverts Can Become The Best Leaders

Being an introvert in the workplace certainly has its challenges - but the power to move up to a leadership position lies within you.
by Rosamund Mather | Sep 1 2017

Introverts share the same potential for leadership as extroverts, though revealing it can be more of a process. Given that 60% of executives identify as extroverts, the 47-55% of the general population made of up introverts can find proving themselves as leaders something of a challenge.

The difference between introversion and extroversion was introduced by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the early 1920s. Extroverts tend to draw energy and meaning from the world around them, including the people within it. Introverts derive the same things from within themselves. Later thinkers developed Jung’s ideas further and gave them the focus on sociability we find today.

It is easy to assume that extroverts are better-suited to leadership roles in a company. Their outgoing personalities help them connect with people, leading companies to assign them roles coaching employees and directing initiatives within and across teams. Jennifer B. Kahnweiler looks at how introverts can achieve the same level of success as their extroverted counterparts in her book The Introverted Leader.

1. Speak Up

Your ideas may not be heard in a meeting. You may be overlooked for a role or promotion you are well-suited for. As an introvert it is easy to keep your ideas to yourself. However, this also means what you want to say might be passed by in favor of a more extroverted colleague who owns the room. If the number of people in the meeting puts you off, see if you can arrange one-on-one time with your supervisor or boss to go over your performance or ideas.

2. Alone Time is Still Important

With open-plan offices being the hip layout trend and managerial methods that focus on team brainstorming and meetings, asking for some alone time may seem like you are violating the corporate culture. Extroverted colleagues may feel rejected by an introvert’s lack of small talk or informal socializing. Since introverts often opt to speak less, clarity is key. Without this alone time, say a short walk outside, stress can start to build up and impact performance.

3. Cultivate your Reputation

The differences in social approaches between introverts and extroverts also tend to apply to how they solve problems. An extrovert might want to talk things out during a meeting while you may prefer finding a quiet spot to work towards finding a solution. This isolation might strike an extrovert as aloofness, being overly cautious, or even scheming.

An introvert’s thoughtful approach can help identify potential issues and consequences within a given problem. When these ideas are presented, you will also have thought-out arguments and counterarguments throughout the discussion. This lack of impulsiveness also helps introverts develop trust among colleagues and supervisors. As a result, an introvert may be supplied with a greater amount of information or information with greater depth that helps you to leverage your within the company.

Listening and observation are key leadership skills and introverts seek important pieces of information in what they hear and read, cutting through banter and chit-chat. With these key data points in mind, they can meet the team’s needs. Listening and being responsive are also means of showing respect for others’ time and concerns, which can make introverts effective members of the sales team.

4. Network on an Individual Level

With their preference for alone time or small groups, introverts can find networking quite the chore. Networking also tends to lean heavily on small talk, also a put-off for introverts. Networking websites can remedy some of these issues with their interactions taking place through writing. Communication can be better thought-out and you can have a better sense of the individual than if you were in a group setting.

At the same time, introverts do need to learn to push their boundaries. Work socials are a common part of office culture these days and missing out on them can deprive you of the chance to feel a part of the team and build greater connections within the company. You never know when or how those moments will help you later on.

5. Be Prepared

The old adage of “Practice. Practice. Practice.” applies to introverts building their leadership skills. Having a few basic questions and answers at the ready for during small talk can help you to avoid awkward silences or making the impression you are aloof, rude, or uninterested in what your conversation partner is talking about. People tend to judge others’ competence on how quickly they respond. By getting used to small talk and public speaking, you will also help to boost your confidence in these situations.

Introversion can make leadership challenging, but that doesn’t make it a hurdle you can’t clear. With some practice and boundary-pushing, introverts can assume the leadership responsibilities often associated with extroverts. Introverts’ listening skills and careful expression style can in fact produce leaders superior to extroverts!

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