A previous post about extraverted leaders explores some of theory behind Extraversion and Introversion. In brief, an extravert prefers to orient attention on the outside world ?€“ people and activity. An introvert prefers an orientation of the inner world ?€“ reflection and thoughts. In both cases, this is where people with that preference get energy. For instance, an extravert may feel energized after a party; an introvert may feel drained.
A minority of Americans are introverted ?€“ 40%. According to Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D., a workplace and careers expert and author of “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength“, that is also the percentage of introverts that we would expect in positions of leadership in organizations.
It is surprising to some, even the introverts themselves, that introverts can be leaders. Introverts bring great gifts to the world of leadership. I`ve also observed some behaviors in introverted leaders I`ve worked with that they should take notice of, which may detract from effective leadership as well.
Gifts of the introverted leader:
- Provides well thought out strategies and decisions
- Exhibits calm in the midst of calamity
- Focuses on what matters to them with great determination
- Enjoys listening to others
You can see that these strengths can be of great value in our organizations and communities. However, the introverts themselves often feel as if they don`t fit in; with some justification, since our organizations and communities tend to be largely extraverted by nature.
There may be some traits in introverted leaders that bear caution. If you identify with being an introverted leader, you might want to take notice of some of the cautions below, as they are the traits that can possibly cause trouble for you. I`ve included ways to mitigate the behaviors as well.
Can be underestimated when they don`t allow their voice to be heard: Your opinions and thoughts are important to the conversation. If you are unable to give them the proper thought in the moment, request permission to offer your opinions later, after you`ve had time to deliberate and think them through.
May not recognize the importance of connections and relationships in the workplace: Recognize that leadership is fundamentally relational, and if you aren`t out being seen and heard, your followers will make up their own theories and stories about you and what you are thinking. Schedule the time to get out and be seen, and build the relationships you need to grow a network of support.
Might not provide the detail behind their decisions: Because introverts do so much of their thinking by reflecting rather than speaking, there can be a perception that the decisions they make aren`t as well thought out as they really are. Your followers need to know what goes into your thought process. You might consider journaling the detail of your thoughts and practice saying them so that the people who need to hear them can understand the entire picture.
Can become stressed when they don`t pay attention to their need for time alone: Pay attention to the physical symptoms that indicate that you are draining your energy and not recharging your batteries. Finding strategies that help you to maintain this balance are important to avoid stress-induced illness. For many introverts, actually scheduling solitary activities or hobbies into their calendar may be helpful.
Introverted leaders, I wish you the joy of knowing the strengths you bring to your organization and community as well as the full understanding of the cautions that may be barriers to fully using them.