One particular group of leaders doesn’t get as much recognition for strength as the rest: the introverts. Many wonderful leaders know their industry inside and out but prefer to keep their know-how to themselves instead of being outspoken about their work. While the charismatic and boisterous leaders often make the front page, introverted leaders can have just as much success and then some.
There’s no secret formula to making introverted leadership work, you just have to recognize what you bring to the table. This guide will help you bring out your best self on your way to becoming the best introverted leader you can be.
1. Focus on Your Strengths
Introverts come with a skill set not typical to their extroverted counterparts. Focusing on these strengths will give just as much of a chance at success as anyone else.
You might find that you excel at some of the following attributes:
As they’re more hesitant to speak up, introverts tend to be better listeners. Being able to listen to employees, customers, and shareholders is a huge strength. People want to be heard, and in today’s world of hustle and bustle, few are given the chance.
Let this strength shine by focusing more on listening to your team as an introverted leader. This will be the most impactful part of your introverted leadership style.((Medium: Why listening to your team is so important and how you can be a better listening-leader))
When you open your ears to your employees, you’ll be more receptive to their concerns and ideas. Not only will they have some good suggestions for improving the workplace, but you’ll also cultivate a much more positive company culture as well.
Introverted leaders take the time to be more understanding. They’ll think about the people they oversee before fussing over the numbers. A display of empathy can take your team a long way.
Your empathy will allow you to put yourself in another person’s shoes. When you try to see from another person’s perspective, you become more understanding, less judgemental, and more willing to work with someone. This character trait is extremely valuable for leaders as it is both comforting and motivating to the people you work closely with.
The ability to take a step back also helps introverts with their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Rushing into a delicate situation guns ablaze is akin to throwing gasoline on a burning fire in an attempt to put it out.
Leaders are often in charge of making the biggest, most difficult decisions. It’s comforting to have a leader who is willing and can break down a problem to approach it with precision. While some decisions do need to be made quickly, more often than not critical thinking will come in the clutch.
2. Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
Don’t get too comfortable relying on your strengths alone. You should make a constant effort to break out of your comfort zone as well, focusing on the weaknesses you have. For most introverted leaders, this means being more willing to speak up in certain scenarios, such as meetings and presentations.
Public speaking isn’t the only weakness introverts should be aware of, though. In fact, for many introverts, this isn’t a weakness at all. Every person is unique, meaning their set of strengths and weaknesses is entirely their own.
Some introverted leaders will have difficult time building relationships with their team members. Others will struggle with discipline and confrontation, while others will have problems making quick decisions without being able to think them through. Whichever of these may be affecting you, look for opportunities to work on them by breaking out of that comfort zone for good.
3. Be Authentic
While striving to power through your shortcomings, don’t forget to embrace your true self. You are an introverted leader, so you don’t have to pretend to be an extrovert to find success as a leader. As a matter of fact, sticking to who you truly are is the best formula for your personal success.
Your team will appreciate your authenticity. As an introvert, they’ll likely see right through you if you put on a guise just to impress them. A leader who appears to be faking it until they make it is more difficult to approach and to work with than a leader who embraces their identity.
An important part of being an introvert is defining your level of introversion. Many introverts aren’t shy and don’t avoid people at all costs as one might think. Rather, introverts prioritize their alone time because social interaction is more draining for them than for extroverts. If your team understands this, they’ll be more supportive of your needs.
4. Build the Optimal Team
You won’t overcome your weaknesses easily, and some you might have to carry with you all your life. In the meantime, you can overcome your personal challenges by surrounding yourself with the right talent. Building a team that complements your own skills and weaknesses benefits the organization from the top down.
A study by the Academy of Management shows that extroverted leaders excel when leading a team of passive individuals. On the contrary, proactive teams do not mesh as well with extraverted leaders, but thrive under introverted management.((Academy of Management: Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity))
The different styles between leadership and the team can complement each other. When you come into a position of leadership, try to put together a team that builds you up. An introverted leader is better at spurring innovation and creativity from their more outgoing team members.
5. Build a Relationship With Your Team
It’s been mentioned a few times already that bonding with your team might be tough if you’re an introverted leader. However, introverts tend to build close, personal relationships. And the closer you are to your team on a personal level, the better you can guide them according to your personal style. You’ll be able to perceive their needs as they recognize yours, and you’ll be able to work together more fluidly.
You might have been thinking about this when picturing the challenges you had to overcome, but make some goals to connect with your team. Perhaps it’s a goal to ask more personal questions each week or attending more activities outside of work. The benefits certainly outweigh the struggle you’ll face by doing so.
6. Get Advice from Extroverts
While you shouldn’t be persuaded to change your introverted ways, you can benefit from the advice of your extroverted peers. An introverted leader can learn from extroverted leaders, too. Picking their brain to see how they approach situations differently than you do can be enlightening. With their help, you’ll be better equipped to tackle all of your leadership challenges.
For example, you can both look at a hypothetical scenario and share how you would approach it. Let’s say the scenario is a conflict between two coworkers that are affecting overall team productivity. As an introvert, you might try and resolve the conflict indirectly through team exercises changing schedules.
What would your extroverted friend do? Perhaps instead they would invite both parties into their office to discuss the problem with them. While this may seem uncomfortable to you, your listening skills could come in handy. After hearing your extroverted friend’s advice, try putting it into action to see how it helps.
7. Take Advantage of Technology
You can accomplish a lot without straying too far from your introverted ways by leaning on technology. This isn’t to say that you should use technology as a way to buffer your comfort zone. Rather, technology can help you establish a middle ground for the most effective level of leadership.
Project management software gives you just as much control as you’d like over your team and their assignments. It also provides online messaging which may enable you to communicate better with your team than your current capacity in person.
In a world of COVID-19, getting your video conference etiquette down will be useful in several scenarios.((ABC News: The do’s and don’ts of video conferencing etiquette)) Video communication can be even more difficult for some people than in-person communication.
With the rise of remote teams and social distancing, there’s no better time to hone this skill than now.
Ready to break out of your shell? Your team needs the best (introverted) leader you can be. Use this guide to unlock your introversion as a method for success instead of trying to be someone you’re not. You’ll start to note how your team benefits from your authentic leadership and how much happier you are with yourself as a leader.