Duck image courtesy of Pierre Amerlynck/FreeImages.com
Can introverts make great leaders? Of course! For me, this is not even a question. I believe the better question to the introverted leader is, “What are your natural gifts and how can you use these to lead?”
As an introvert, I’ve found that I need to be true to myself. As a leader, this means using your own unique strengths to help your team accomplish tasks and projects, while you inspire and support those around you. I have learned over the years that by understanding and using my natural strengths and abilities, I am so much more successful and happy than when I tried to act like someone else.
For me, this means that I engage in work that I am passionate about. My passion drives me to become an expert. I challenge myself and those around me to get better. I naturally analyze things and am constantly looking for innovative ways of doing things. My mind never stops thinking. I see connections between things and am always putting things together to improve. I am very good at preparing for meetings, projects, and presentations. These are some of my strengths. You might have some strengths that are similar to mine, but you will also have some of your own that are unique to you. What are your strengths? Are you using them?
I also have learned that introversion can be misunderstood by the introvert themselves, extroverts, and even fellow introverts. Gaining a greater understanding of your introverted gifts can help make you strong.
Susan Cain offers some great advice in “Quiet Leaders— 5 Tips for Success”:
- Know that the force is with you.
- Use your energy strategically.
- Connect with employees your own way.
- Schedule a time to walk the hallways.
- Use your solitude to make great decisions.
I implement most of these each day. In particular, I have learned to be strategic with my energy and that I do better with a little solitude each day.
I also really relate to this statement by Cain:
“If you’re not a natural schmoozer, it can be easy to let the day go by without ever leaving your desk and talking to people.” tweet
I always have a lot of work to do and often put in long days rushing from meeting to meeting. Working hard shows people I care about them, right? I thought that for a long time, but have come to realize just “working hard” is not enough. As human beings, we want to know that we matter. And while I get great “work” done sitting alone in my office or attending meetings, as a leader, I have to make sure my staff feels like they and the work they are doing are valued.
It is critical for me as a leader to make these connections with staff one on one. I honestly want to make connections, but this part is not natural to me. Even though it may take me a little longer, I can be true to myself AND still make connections. I don’t have to fake being gregarious when I am not. This would probably come off as superficial or maybe even creepy. I can show I care by taking an interest in someone both on and off the job. I am constantly looking for ways to do this, including taking time to leave my office to walk around to check in and visit each staff member at his or her desk. I make an effort to remember things that are going on with them, and work hard to help them feel that they can come talk to me.
Both introverts and extroverts can be great leaders, but each personality type and each person is going to succeed a little differently. Be authentic and use your own unique gifts! Understand the strengths and needs of those around you and you will be a great leader!