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Are you an introverted leader? You may be wondering how you can thrive in a leadership role?

Many people mistakenly believe that in order to be a successful leader, you have to be extroverted. But that’s not true! There are many introverted leaders who thrive in their roles.

In this episode, David and his guest Karolien Koolhof explore how introverted leaders can thrive by leveraging their strengths. We’ll also dispel some common myths about introverts and leadership, and discuss cultural differences between introversion and extroversion in different parts of the world.

If you’re an introverted leader looking for ways to succeed, this episode is for you. Listen now and learn how to thrive as an introverted leader.



Karolien Koolhof (MA/MBA) is a coach, trainer, and author of the book Introverted Leadership. The book is about what introversion is, what cultural views exist around good leadership, and what prejudices introverted leaders have to deal with. Based on interviews with introverted leaders from all over the world, she describes the power of introverted leadership. Karolien has her own practice as a coach in which she helps introverts to better deal with their daily challenges, including leadership and managing people and teams. She also provides training and team coaching in the field of personality.

Get Karolien’s Book:

Introverted Leadership: Thriving as a Quiet Leader

Website: quietquality.org
Note: click the “Translate to English” button on the upper right to translate from Dutch


Other Books Mentioned

Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking



Contact the host of the Quiet and Strong Podcast:

David Hall
Author, Speaker, Educator, Podcaster
quietandstrong.com
Gobio.link/quietandstrong
david@quietandstrong.com

Take the FREE Personality Assessment:
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Follow David on your favorite social platform:
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Get David’s book: 

Minding Your Time: Time Management, Productivity, and Success, Especially for Introverts


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Podcast Transcript:

00;00;00;15 – 00;00;22;23
Karolien Koolhof
Do they even exist into her leaders? Because at that point I thought, hmm, it’s not that logical because a lot of people don’t link introversion and leadership. So do they exist? So I started to look for them and I found quite a lot of them because yes, they do exist and they are quite successful. So that was really the starting point.

00;00;22;23 – 00;00;45;03
Karolien Koolhof
And then I started to speak to all of those great leaders all around the world. I heard about their experiences, the strengths that they use, the challenges that they’re facing. And I found that so inspiring.

00;00;47;21 – 00;01;10;12
David Hall
Hello and welcome to Episode 83 of the Quiet and Strong Podcast, especially for introverts. I’m your host, David Hall, and the creator of Quiet and Strong Dot Com. It’s a weekly podcast dedicated to understanding the strengths and needs of introverts. Introversion is not something to fix, but to be embraced. Normally, while each episode on a monday, be sure to subscribe on your favorite platform.

00;01;10;22 – 00;01;34;12
David Hall
Leave a review. Tell a friend. Help get the word out there. Cool. Off is a coach, trainer and author of the book Introverted Leadership. The book is about what introversion is. What culture abuse exists around good leadership and what prejudices introverted leaders have to deal with. Based on interviews with introverted leaders from all over the world. She describes the power of introverted leadership.

00;01;35;00 – 00;01;55;26
David Hall
Kathleen has her own practice as a coach, in which she helps introverts to better deal with their daily challenges, including leadership and managing people in teams. She also provides training and team coaching in the field of personality. All right. Well, very excited to have my guest. Caroline, welcome to the Quiet and Strong podcast.

00;01;57;20 – 00;01;58;23
Karolien Koolhof
And thank you for having me.

00;01;59;14 – 00;02;15;07
David Hall
Absolutely. So today we’re going to get into the coaching and the training and that and the book that you wrote. But before we do that, tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey through discovering that you were an introvert and how you embraced that.

00;02;16;09 – 00;02;45;01
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, sure. So I’m gordie. I live in the south of the netherlands. I’m 36 years old. I was born and raised in the netherlands, in the south as well. And already as a kid, I somehow knew that there was something out there because teachers used to say to my parents like, yeah, she she could be a bit more out there, like be more outspoken.

00;02;46;16 – 00;03;13;03
Karolien Koolhof
They even wrote in the report at some point, like here, if she goes to the next school after this one, make sure that she isn’t overwhelmed by everything because that is that might happen there. They really thought that I was some kind of fragile human being because I was quiet. And at some point, they even linked it to intelligence.

00;03;13;03 – 00;03;37;11
Karolien Koolhof
They said, like, yeah, maybe you should aim for a level lower because of the overwhelm the world. And I, I started there like an intermediate level. And within two weeks, I worked my way up to like the highest level because, well, let’s face it, introversion has nothing to do with intelligence. Right? But that is something really early on.

00;03;37;19 – 00;04;05;20
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. Made an impression. The last lasting one, I would say. I started my career in journalism. I also studied languages and journalism and the journalism world is quite extroverted as well. And there are two. Whenever I have a meeting like the yearly talks that you have with your manager about how you’re doing. She used to say to me, like, Yeah, you need to be more out there in your past.

00;04;05;25 – 00;04;31;07
Karolien Koolhof
Outspoken. So I felt like, Oh, no, there we go again. This is like a pattern that is like following me throughout my life. And maybe if it’s several people, they might be right that there is something in me that I need to work on. So what is it that is wrong then? What with me? So really, at that point I started to see it as something that I needed to work on.

00;04;31;22 – 00;04;57;13
Karolien Koolhof
So I did that. I made, like, a heavy choice to do an extensive MBA program in order to do that, because I wanted to be a media leader. So I did sessions in Berlin, in the U.S., in Asia. I learned a lot about leadership, but also about myself and my introverted side even more. And that is actually the turning point.

00;04;57;13 – 00;05;22;28
Karolien Koolhof
Or I started to see it as a strength instead of something that needs to be fixed. Like I used to look at it for that. So that really has been a turning point for me. And also the starting point of my own company to help other introverts see it as a strength instead of something that is hindering you or something that you should get rid of.

00;05;23;07 – 00;05;26;02
Karolien Koolhof
So that that’s the story, in short.

00;05;27;10 – 00;05;52;25
David Hall
Yeah, definitely. There’s a lot of strengths that come from introversion. It’s sad that anybody might think that it’s less intelligence because, I mean, it’s definitely not about that. There’s a very intelligent introverts out there. What was the catalyst for that turning point? Like, how did you connect with the term introvert and how did you realize this is something that I can embrace?

00;05;52;25 – 00;05;59;01
David Hall
This is something that’s good. This is something that’s good about me. What was the turning point? What instigated that?

00;06;00;03 – 00;06;25;09
Karolien Koolhof
Oh, I think that the first thing that led me to think about it more and to read about it more was the personality test that we did during the MBA program where I came out as introverted, and then I had some fellow introverts in the program. One of them was from England. He gave me the advice to read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet.

00;06;26;20 – 00;07;01;00
Karolien Koolhof
So I did that and thought, Hey, that’s interesting. That’s just really a book about me. And that also like emphasizes the strengths of introversion instead of seeing it as an imitation. And so I think there are several steps. First, the realization, like, I’m an introvert, and then after reading a lot about it and yeah, like forming my own opinion, seeing it as a strength and then yeah, accepting it as a part of myself.

00;07;02;07 – 00;07;18;18
David Hall
Yeah, definitely. And that was part of my journey to take in a personality assessment. A lot more to it than that. You mentioned Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. That’s been mentioned by many, many of my guests and definitely is a great book that I highly recommend.

00;07;19;23 – 00;07;21;08
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, it’s an eye opener, really.

00;07;22;06 – 00;07;37;13
David Hall
So what would you say are some of your strengths? Sometimes I say superpowers as an introvert or or maybe some other ones that you’ve seen in interviews that you’ve done for your book or clients that you’ve worked with so far?

00;07;37;24 – 00;08;07;29
Karolien Koolhof
Well, when it comes to me, I am quite calm usually. I also do presentations I teach and I always hear from other people that I, I stay very calm and that inspires them to also be calm and relaxed so that it’s like the atmosphere that I bring. If I’m somewhere, I’m well, I don’t take up a lot of space, so I love to give other people space.

00;08;08;06 – 00;08;52;25
Karolien Koolhof
So that helps me to listen really well, which is very useful as a journalist, but also as a coach. I’m doing that now, really listening to people trying to see like connections, analyzing things, really not looking at things from one perspective, but looking for several. And then like seeing which one is the best one. So they’re yeah, I need a little bit of time to do that, but if you give me time to do that, I will come up with like a solution that you have not thought about because I can go very deep and I look for a lot of information and analyze that and then helicopter above it to find like a pattern

00;08;52;25 – 00;08;54;28
Karolien Koolhof
which is useful to use it.

00;08;55;29 – 00;09;17;01
David Hall
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s that’s a strength that we do have as introverts, as is that deep thinking. But often we need some time. And that’s something that if you don’t realize you’re not able to fully use your gifts or let other people know, hey, you know what? Give me a little bit of time to think about that and then it’ll be well thought through, I promise.

00;09;18;04 – 00;09;42;03
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. We used to have meetings at the newspaper where I used to work, and I always had a train ride between Britain and Rotterdam where the newspaper is. And I use that 30 minute train ride to go through Twitter, to go to all the news websites to see like, okay, what is happening today? Can I find different angles, maybe something that hasn’t been covered yet.

00;09;42;04 – 00;09;57;27
Karolien Koolhof
So I really use that time to prepare. And then I came prepared to the meeting and I had already like three or four ideas for stories that I could then share with the other people. Because if I would do that, I’m prepared and they would ask me on the spot like, okay, what are you going to cover today?

00;09;57;27 – 00;10;09;13
Karolien Koolhof
It would be like, I don’t know, I can be some time for that. So I always worked around that by really preparing very well. So I’m also very prepared as a person usually.

00;10;09;13 – 00;10;31;14
David Hall
Yeah, yeah, that’s a great need that we have and that’s something that we need to understand because, you know, that’s not something I’ve always understood for myself. But if you can prepare before that meeting and know what the meeting’s about or what you want to contribute, what questions you have, that is all part of our success.

00;10;31;14 – 00;10;59;03
Karolien Koolhof
That preparation is key for everything, for meetings, for presentations, for job interviews, all of that. Also, all of my coaches, I always advise them like write it down what you want to say and then yeah, come prepared. And then maybe if you go for a job interview, think of some questions that are unexpected, for example. Yeah. That, that really helps to, to come across as someone who is capable of doing that.

00;10;59;28 – 00;11;21;13
David Hall
Yeah. And I mean sometimes even even with the best preparation, we still may need to ask for some time to think, but often with the preparation we’ve already done the thinking and that’s so valuable. And that’s something I realized is, you know, you might be working with an extroverted friend or colleague and they might not need the same thing, and that’s fine.

00;11;21;22 – 00;11;38;06
David Hall
They have different needs and you can’t compare yourself. You just have to think, okay, what do I need to do? How am I going to be my best? And yeah, you took advantage of your of your train ride. And that’s what we need to do is figure out how do we have that space to prepare for whatever it is that we’re doing.

00;11;38;06 – 00;12;05;27
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, you need to be wary of that, of not projecting your own behavior onto others because, well, extroverts might do that. But we’re introverts. We do that, too, because we say, hey, the extrovert, they go too fast. They don’t think enough about things, but they just do it in a different way. So it’s really about understanding the difference in behavior and then seeing how you can work together to get the best result out of that.

00;12;06;20 – 00;12;23;05
David Hall
Yeah, absolutely. So on this show, on the Quiet and Strong podcast, we talk about the strengths and needs of introverts. We use some strategies for success, but we also do some myth busting. So what’s what’s a myth or two that you want to bust today on the show?

00;12;24;26 – 00;12;56;26
Karolien Koolhof
I think main one. Yeah, I think the main one is that introverts aren’t shy. A lot of people think that shiners and introversion are the same thing, but they’re not. If you look at the Big Five personality test, it distinguishes between extroversion, which is a skill. So if you’re into her, you’re on the list. And also emotional stability and shyness is actually part of emotional stability.

00;12;56;26 – 00;13;25;27
Karolien Koolhof
So it’s a different part of personality. So what does that mean? Well, that means that you can be shy if you’re introverted, but also if you’re extrovert in this. Think about that for a couple of seconds. Like what does that mean for an extrovert who is shy? Well, that’s a person who wants to be in contact with a lot of people, but who might be too shy to actually do that.

00;13;25;27 – 00;13;27;15
Karolien Koolhof
So the thing that’s all different struggle.

00;13;28;13 – 00;13;34;12
David Hall
Yeah, I’ve said before that I think it might be harder for extroverts to be shy.

00;13;34;12 – 00;13;34;24
Karolien Koolhof
Mm.

00;13;36;03 – 00;13;37;10
David Hall
So was there.

00;13;37;12 – 00;13;38;08
Karolien Koolhof
That’s a big one.

00;13;39;08 – 00;13;44;22
David Hall
Was there a time when you felt more shy and did you overcome that.

00;13;44;22 – 00;14;13;06
Karolien Koolhof
Well I think I was only shy as a small kid after that. I was not really shy. I was always very daring. And I like to try new things, to do things out of my comfort zone. When I was 16, I took a flight on my own just because I wanted to do that. I switched jobs several times.

00;14;13;06 – 00;14;39;08
Karolien Koolhof
Now I just like trying out new things. I did improv theater where you really have to like react on the spot. And I really discovered there I do have some kind of gifts where I can improvise and use my lighter side or overthinking everything. But there was also an interesting realization that there was also like this spontaneous part that I can use without all of the thinking.

00;14;40;24 – 00;14;55;23
David Hall
Yeah, so I got to know, how do you do that? Because that the improv could be a struggle for many introverts, because we were just talking about how we need to prepare. So how do you how do you do improv as an introvert when when you don’t have the preparation?

00;14;55;23 – 00;15;21;11
Karolien Koolhof
Well, the good thing about introverts is that they have a good sense of their environment. They feel like what other people need, and they can adapt to that very easily. So with acting, it’s all about listening really well. What the other person is saying and then seeing what he or she is doing and then responding to that really on the spot.

00;15;21;12 – 00;15;46;15
Karolien Koolhof
So it’s all about intuition, really following that, not overthinking it, because as introverts we might well be in our heads a little bit too much to overthink everything. So in order to overcome that, you really need to use your feelings side and just start using your head for just a little while and just your gut feeling like, okay, what am I going to do?

00;15;46;15 – 00;16;00;21
Karolien Koolhof
Because it’s an improv. There’s no good or bad. There’s just doing something. The only thing that’s not good is not doing something. So yeah, that makes it easier to just do whatever is that.

00;16;00;21 – 00;16;04;16
David Hall
What helps is just not judging things as good or bad.

00;16;05;25 – 00;16;30;03
Karolien Koolhof
Definitely, yes. And it also helps me in my presentation now because a couple of years ago I used to overprepare presentations because I wanted to be in control and I wanted to do it like in a perfect way. But given the fact that I’ve done improv theater, that really helps me to see that even if I let go a little bit, things are all right.

00;16;30;03 – 00;16;59;28
Karolien Koolhof
So I also do that when I’m doing a presentation now half of it is presentation, but the other half is looking at the room, looking at the people in the room to see what’s happening there. They understand everything is there has to be like a side conversation that you can include in the workshop you’re doing. So I think that’s an important part as well too, to be sensitive and use that intuition that you also have as a as an introvert.

00;17;01;04 – 00;17;28;18
David Hall
Absolutely. And, you know, introverts, it does not equal shyness like you were talking about. I happen to think that some people can overcome shyness just by understanding their introversion, by understanding what’s going on, that they did their deep thinkers. They think before they speak and all that, that was the case for me because I definitely was shy as I was younger, like yourself, but it was overcome by just understanding who I was and the strengths that introversion brings.

00;17;29;00 – 00;18;00;18
Karolien Koolhof
MM Yes. Jonas is often linked to shame, so it’s about feeling ashamed when you’re faced with other people in certain situations. Or for example, if you did like the presentation at school when you were younger and it didn’t go as you wanted, well then that might be something that you wanted to avoid from that point. So that can make you shy to shyness is not inborn as introversion actually is for a larger bird.

00;18;01;17 – 00;18;18;01
Karolien Koolhof
So indeed China’s can be overcome barriers introversion well it’s really imprinted in your brain. So that is not something you can overcome. You can well learn to use the strengths of it and to deal with the challenges of it. But you cannot change it.

00;18;19;20 – 00;18;27;15
David Hall
Yeah. Or deep thinkers and it’s a good thing or deep feelers and it’s it’s not going to change, but we sure can embrace it.

00;18;27;15 – 00;18;30;03
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, sure.

00;18;30;03 – 00;18;39;24
David Hall
So you wrote the book. I’m going to read the whole title here. Introverted Leadership, Thriving as a Quiet Leader. Why did you decide to write that?

00;18;39;24 – 00;19;06;03
Karolien Koolhof
That was actually the theme of my thesis for the MBA that I did in Berlin. And yeah, at the end of the personal journey that I made during this MBA. So the question that I had think about all of that was, okay, so my idea was to be a leader. I now know that I’m an introvert. So how do other introverts do that?

00;19;06;25 – 00;19;29;03
Karolien Koolhof
Do they even exist in different leaders? Because at that point I thought, Hmm, it’s not that logical because a lot of people don’t link introversion and leadership. So do they exist. So I started to look for them and I found quite a lot of them because yes, they do exist and they are quite successful. So that was really the starting point.

00;19;29;03 – 00;19;55;26
Karolien Koolhof
And then I started to speak to all of those great leaders all around the world. I heard about their experiences, the strengths that they used to, challenges that they’re facing, and I found that so inspiring given my journalistic background. I thought, Yeah, if I just try to thesis about this, it’s going to land in some drawer like my other pieces that I formed.

00;19;56;21 – 00;20;31;04
Karolien Koolhof
That would be a shame. So I just contacted a publisher in the Netherlands first. Really? Yeah. I was doubting, like, is that even something that people are going to read because it’s such a niche search and great, but they were enthusiastic straight away. So yeah, we made a plan and nine months later the book was ready. But at the same point when I finished my thesis, I did that at the same time, writing the thesis, writing the book, and it’s already in its third edition.

00;20;31;04 – 00;20;54;05
Karolien Koolhof
And in Dutch, after the first edition came out, I decided to translate it into English as well, because I think that the message of it, which is that introverted leadership, is very powerful. I think that’s such a strong message that I wanted to share with, particularly the whole world. So that is why I also translated into English. And yet here we are.

00;20;54;23 – 00;20;55;07
Karolien Koolhof
It’s there.

00;20;55;08 – 00;21;15;04
David Hall
Right? Yeah. And that’s another myth that, you know, people try to say that introverts can’t be good leaders or great leaders. And the truth is, we both know introverts can be amazing leaders. And you interviewed so how many people did you interview for this book?

00;21;15;04 – 00;21;39;11
Karolien Koolhof
12 in the Netherlands and Belgium and then another 12 like worldwide? Yeah, some of them they overlap. So I took some of the the leaders from Netherlands and Belgium for the English version. So I think in total was 20 people and that was great to see that it was not that hard to find them. For some of them it was really gut feeling.

00;21;39;11 – 00;22;01;17
Karolien Koolhof
I had the feeling that person might be introverted than some other. I got them through connections that I have and I had all of them do a personality test, a prompt, because I wanted to be sure that they actually are introverts. And yeah, they all turned out to be introverts.

00;22;01;17 – 00;22;17;10
David Hall
So as you were interviewing, was there a lot of confirmation of things that you already felt like you had learned about introverts in leadership? Or was there some big takeaways that you learned?

00;22;17;10 – 00;22;44;03
Karolien Koolhof
Well, I think for half of them, I found out that they were still struggling with the fact that they are introverted in some way or another. Yeah, some of them really felt that they could not share that with the rest of the world because otherwise people would think that they’re not sort of suitable leaders. For example, I really had some people doubt about it or even changed their names.

00;22;44;03 – 00;23;07;19
Karolien Koolhof
Some of the names have been changed in the book because they did not want to be there with their own names. So just to give you an idea of how bad that still is for some people, too. Yeah. To really embrace the fact that they are introverts. I think that was the biggest eye opener for me. That was still such a struggle for a lot of people.

00;23;07;19 – 00;23;27;13
David Hall
Yeah, we still have a lot of work to do. Yeah, that’s that’s too bad because as we know, there’s some great strengths and there’s some that’s very interesting that some people are still I don’t know if ashamed is the right word, but they’re still afraid of who they are and being themselves.

00;23;27;13 – 00;23;28;12
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, definitely.

00;23;29;11 – 00;23;48;27
David Hall
So you interviewed people from from all over and you yourself, we were just talking and you speak seven different languages. That’s very impressive. What cultural differences did you find in introverted leaderships, in different regions, in different countries?

00;23;48;27 – 00;24;22;21
Karolien Koolhof
Well, there’s two aspects when it comes to culture. There’s culture between countries, obviously continents who wish. And what I found is that some continents are more introverted. That’s Asia and Africa and others are more extroverted. That’s mainly Northern America and Western Europe and the other countries are a little bit in the middle, not that outspoken. And so that is one.

00;24;22;21 – 00;24;52;17
Karolien Koolhof
And that has to do with the what we call Hofstetter dimensions of state. It is a means of seeing differences between cultures. There are different aspects to it. For example, individualism or collectivism or research and things, collectivism to introversion. So that’s an interesting finding as well. Right then we introverts, we think about the group, about we risk individualism is linked to extroversion.

00;24;52;22 – 00;25;23;07
Karolien Koolhof
So it’s more about personal success, personal gain. So if you look at it that way, yeah, well in America, for example, personal success and showing that that that’s acceptable, right. Is even like the American dream. I’m like, hey, see what I have achieved? It’s very important for us to look at, for example, China, the Asian country, what’s all about the group, but what do you contribute to the group as a whole?

00;25;24;20 – 00;25;47;26
Karolien Koolhof
I learned going to China for my MBA program. The Chinese people, they use their phone all day. You see all of them on their phones like everywhere right now. But it’s that important for them because it is part of who they are as a person. Is their identity like how they fit into the group, the bigger group, that’s what they were all like all day long.

00;25;48;20 – 00;26;23;27
Karolien Koolhof
It’s not just personal, it’s like the group aspect of it. Just to give you an example of that. So that’s, that’s like the country part. And then there is a smaller part which is like the company culture, right? Right. Because well, what’s a company culture? Well, the first people who start a company, they create the culture. And there you see that personality plays a big role because imagine that a bunch of more extroverted people start a company.

00;26;24;28 – 00;26;50;10
Karolien Koolhof
Then we see what we call affinity bias happening, which means that as human beings, we prefer to surround ourselves with people who are just like us. So that if you have a more extroverted group of people, that they look for a new person to fill a new role, they will probably look for someone like them. So a more extroverted person.

00;26;51;02 – 00;27;28;03
Karolien Koolhof
So for introverts then it is really hard to like become part of that group because they are seen as different, hence not suitable for that role. There are several cultures, for example, sales consultancy like the really outgoing ones which tend to be more extroverted because it’s also more about the individualism thing. But there’s others like education, health care, the ones that emphasized to the group aspect, people that are introverted.

00;27;28;03 – 00;27;33;05
Karolien Koolhof
So there are two you see big differences between company cultures.

00;27;33;05 – 00;27;52;21
David Hall
Yeah, absolutely. And you know, before we hit record, I also just ask you, I hadn’t thought about this because you know where I am in the US. It’s definitely more of the extroverted but in an a more introverted place. Is it the extroverts that might feel uncomfortable or out of place?

00;27;52;21 – 00;28;18;28
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, definitely. Because, well, the way the place is creates the expectations. Right? So for a more extroverted people, that means that they need to adapt more so in Asia or Africa. For the book, I also spoke to a Dutch person who travels around the world doing sessions, and he told me that in Japan he felt like an extrovert for us.

00;28;18;28 – 00;28;40;28
Karolien Koolhof
In the US, he felt like an introvert and he somewhere in the middle in the Netherlands, because it’s not that outspoken here. But just to give you an idea, and we also tend to think that people from from Asia are very introverted, right, when we meet them. But in fact, that’s not at all the case. It’s just the way they learn to behave.

00;28;40;28 – 00;28;49;28
David Hall
Right. Right. That’s very, very fascinating. So what would you say makes a great leader?

00;28;49;28 – 00;29;21;09
Karolien Koolhof
I think one of the most important things is for intensity to really be yourself, know your strengths, know your challenges, and to be honest about that, be firm, so honorable as well. Show that you’re a human, that that’s a big one. Can be tricky for introverted leaders if they’re in like a a culture where it’s harder to be accepted as an introvert.

00;29;21;09 – 00;29;51;19
Karolien Koolhof
So I think that really is a challenging one. And then there’s research because I ask myself this question as well, like, is extroversion actually an aspect of creative leadership? Well, research does not show that the most important aspect is altruism, caring about other people. That’s really the most important one for leadership effectiveness. Extroversion is only a factor for leadership emergence.

00;29;51;19 – 00;30;05;19
Karolien Koolhof
So being seen as a leader, so people tend to see extroverts as suitable leaders for us. If you look at effectiveness, well, that’s not at all the case then. Caring about other people is the most important one.

00;30;06;10 – 00;30;09;12
David Hall
Okay, we probably busted some more myths right there, too.

00;30;09;24 – 00;30;10;26
Karolien Koolhof
Yes, I hope so.

00;30;12;18 – 00;30;24;13
David Hall
You know, we’ve been talking about strengths, but specifically as we’re talking about introverts, what are some strengths that they bring into leadership that might look different than extroverts?

00;30;24;13 – 00;30;53;03
Karolien Koolhof
Well, their style is usually like a leading from behind one. So it’s not that they dominate the place, but they prefer to listen to their people to give a lot of space, give a lot of autonomy. So for autonomous teams, it can be very useful to have an introvert leader because introverts naturally don’t need to take up a lot of space as a leader.

00;30;53;03 – 00;31;24;20
Karolien Koolhof
So they can be helpful. They’re then I think they’re very strong when it comes to long term strategy because they love to go deep. They love to think of different scenarios from different perspectives. Take a helicopter view so that can really help to develop a long term strategy. That’s another one, I would say. Um, yeah. And then the personal aspect, they’re very strong one on one usually.

00;31;25;24 – 00;31;51;09
Karolien Koolhof
So for example, now with the times where people are working from home more often, yeah, they can check in with their people, talk one on one, what’s going on. And they’re the ones who yeah, sometimes people remember about the dog that that colleague has and what is going on out there. That’s, it’s really about quality instead of quantity.

00;31;51;09 – 00;31;54;06
Karolien Koolhof
I would say.

00;31;54;06 – 00;32;16;05
David Hall
Yeah. And I think that’s an important thing to remember. We’ve talked about a lot of myths today, but introverts, we value connection. It’s just we probably thrive in the one on one or small group more than than the larger group. Not that we can’t thrive there too, but when it comes to our preferences and our our gifts, the one on one or smaller group can definitely be our place.

00;32;16;22 – 00;32;25;12
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s also because of the preference of going deep, which is easier with one person than with a whole group, right?

00;32;26;04 – 00;32;52;21
David Hall
Yeah, definitely. So communication differs between introverts and extroverts. Introverts tend to think and then speak while extroverts speak in order to think. How is that important to understand as a introverted leader, you know, you might be leading introverts, you might be leading extroverts. How is that important to understand that different communication styles?

00;32;52;21 – 00;33;14;17
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. Just to go back to the meeting that I spoke about before, it’s very important to know that some people need preparation upfront so that you need to send them an agenda or maybe you even need to go to them and ask, we’re going to cover this and that. Is there something you would like to share to write that down?

00;33;14;17 – 00;33;48;01
Karolien Koolhof
And then when time comes, just ask like, okay, you told me that you wanted to share something, so now’s the time. So then they already had time to think about it and they can actually share something. And so that’s one. And then yeah, for the extrovert it’s, I would say, well the yeah, they, they speak and they think and sometimes that can make it hard for introverts to interfere because they feel that they need to wait until a person is done speaking.

00;33;48;01 – 00;34;11;04
Karolien Koolhof
And so it’s really to make both of them conscious of the fact that, hey, you can interrupt extroverts. They don’t mind at all because it might even help their thinking sense for extroverts to be mindful of the fact of, hey, there are people who are not speaking, but they might have something to say so well, so that I’ll give them some space now and then.

00;34;12;19 – 00;34;21;08
David Hall
Yeah. It’s just so important to be aware of all the different personalities of those that you’re leading who now.

00;34;21;08 – 00;34;36;20
Karolien Koolhof
And that’s just introversion extroversion, right? There’s other aspects to it as well. Like if you’re open to change or not, if you’re very organized or not. So there’s just so much to think about. You’re leading people’s thoughts. Really? Yeah.

00;34;37;03 – 00;34;37;14
David Hall
Yeah.

00;34;37;14 – 00;34;38;20
Karolien Koolhof
So interesting theory.

00;34;38;21 – 00;34;54;16
David Hall
True introverts, extroversion. That’s part of it. But there’s so many other gifts. It’s important to get to know our personalities, but also the personalities of others. You know, what are my strengths? Whether the strengths of those on my team.

00;34;55;16 – 00;35;27;00
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. How can you make it work? How can you use all of the strengths out there? And I think, yeah, when it comes to diversity and inclusion that we are talking about a lot right now at the moment. Right. That’s very important to overcome this affinity bias because it brings you so much to have like a diverse team with different ideas can help you solve problems way easier and faster because they’re different people might even help you in hiring because.

00;35;27;00 – 00;35;41;05
Karolien Koolhof
Well, the current market was quite tricky, right, finding new people. So I think that can be really something that can help move all of that forward. To be mindful of the.

00;35;41;05 – 00;35;54;06
David Hall
Yeah, so that’s a very interesting point as we’re having conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, how do you see our personality styles fitting into that?

00;35;54;06 – 00;36;29;19
Karolien Koolhof
Well, I think the ideal situation would be to check in with everyone who’s to try and understand all of your people, see what they need, see what their unique assets are that they can use, and then based on that, yeah, just divide all of the task tasks out there. That’s I think a better way of talent management is really not doing it the other way round and say like, okay, there’s this job that needs to be done and you just do that.

00;36;29;19 – 00;36;52;11
Karolien Koolhof
And I’ll just start from the people ask you like, okay, what do we have? What can they do? And is determined by a certain personality type missing we can include into the team in order to have like the perfect team that I think the same goes for leadership because I don’t believe in either or. I believe in together as well.

00;36;52;29 – 00;37;23;15
Karolien Koolhof
I think you can very well have an introverted leader work together with an extrovert of one because they’re complementary, because, well, the extroverted leader is like charismatic one. Often they love talking to people all day long. You can help them do that. They can do presentations like all day long. It doesn’t take that much energy for them. And you can have the introverted leader look at the long term strategy, do the one on one talking to people.

00;37;24;00 – 00;37;28;20
Karolien Koolhof
And yeah, that kind of combination I think is very valuable for companies as well.

00;37;29;22 – 00;37;41;12
David Hall
Yeah. As we’re looking at different strengths, it’s so important to partner, you know, it’s like, All right, what am I bringing maybe what am I missing? What is somebody else really good at? And we can work together like you’re saying.

00;37;42;10 – 00;38;07;08
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah. And in my coaching, I also spend a lot of the time on trying to understand what we can learn from other people who might annoy us, because there’s always like a quality behind that. For example, as introverts, we hate dominant people, right? But we can learn from them to take up a little bit more space and share our ideas as well because they’re valuable.

00;38;09;10 – 00;38;20;12
Karolien Koolhof
It’s also very interesting, one, to look at it that way and not to be annoyed by other people, but to see it as a quality that they have that might be different from ours.

00;38;20;12 – 00;38;37;11
David Hall
So you said in your interviews there were some people that probably hadn’t embraced introversion in their leadership, your coach and your trainer. How do you help introverted leaders gain confidence and leadership using their introversion?

00;38;37;11 – 00;39;04;22
Karolien Koolhof
Well, I always work towards a shift in the thinking because oftentimes they tend to only see the challenges and the disadvantages of it, like, hey, I’m very bad sharing my opinion or very bad at being in front of big groups, but what they forget is to look at the things they’re very good at. So we always start with that.

00;39;05;03 – 00;39;29;11
Karolien Koolhof
But whether your strengths do a personality test, oh, sometimes I do something about talent and motivation. Like where do you get your energy from? I have them talk to people who know them very well to ask like, okay, where do you see my strengths, my natural talents? Because we tend to not see them because it’s so natural to us.

00;39;29;11 – 00;39;53;15
Karolien Koolhof
We think, okay, everyone can do that, right? Is that even a talent? So in several ways we gather all of the talent and then I have them write like a self-portrait about them. That is already like a big confidence boost. Usually. And then the last thing I always work on is limiting the leads, because while you might know all of your strengths, but what are you telling yourself?

00;39;53;15 – 00;40;17;18
Karolien Koolhof
Especially introverts, they’re in their heads quite a lot. So then it’s interesting to see like, what are you telling yourself? Can you allow yourself to show those trends or are you telling like, it’s not okay to take up a lot of space, so I should not do that. So if that’s the case, well, we might need to change their thinking into, hey, I deserve a little bit of space because I have valuable ideas.

00;40;18;09 – 00;40;20;25
Karolien Koolhof
So that’s another thing that I work on my coaches.

00;40;22;09 – 00;40;46;16
David Hall
Yeah, that sounds great. Yeah. The first point you’re making too often, we we think everybody is the same, but that’s why these kinds of conversations are so important, because there’s many different gifts and we need to understand ours and then and not limit ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. But what are we bringing and what gets us excited about what we’re doing?

00;40;46;16 – 00;41;06;28
David Hall
Because it’s not going to be the same. You’ve mentioned strategy, and that’s one of my gifts as an introvert. I love that. Not everybody is great at it, but there’s also people that are better at things that I’m not as good at. But I love when I’m able to strategize about making new business plans or or making new plans for whatever is going on in my life.

00;41;06;28 – 00;41;13;28
David Hall
And I love that and I’m good at it. But there’s plenty of things that some other people are better at the me Yeah.

00;41;14;13 – 00;41;25;08
Karolien Koolhof
And it’s always you can never be good at everything, right? You need to know where your strengths lie and then use that to your advantage. That’s, I think, the most important thing there.

00;41;26;09 – 00;41;43;04
David Hall
So an important part of being an introvert is having some time alone. Again, most people want to spend all their time alone, but what are some strategies to get that time alone? What have you done or seen other people do?

00;41;43;04 – 00;42;14;15
Karolien Koolhof
I think an important one is to also plan it because that’s also a problem if you prefer to give other people space, then what might happen is that your agenda gets fully booked by appointments so that you don’t have any downtime at all. So for example, me personally, I always block like an hour for a lunch break so that I also have the time to like make a short walk where those kind of things are really planned.

00;42;14;15 – 00;42;36;08
Karolien Koolhof
Me time and it even goes as far as that. I took the vacation on my own a couple of months ago because I just felt the need to unwind. And is it that I went to a spa hotel in the north of Italy and it was lovely because I’m the kind of person I was like, okay, I don’t mind what other people are thinking about it.

00;42;36;22 – 00;42;55;17
Karolien Koolhof
I just feel like I want to do this or I’m doing it. And then if you convey that in the message, then people respond to it also in that way. Okay, that’s really great that you’re doing that. And now I get that from other young mothers and my son is only 15 months old and that’s actually a great idea.

00;42;55;17 – 00;43;04;22
Karolien Koolhof
I should do that too. So it’s just that one person has to start it and then others will follow. And I’m not afraid to to take on the responsibility.

00;43;05;18 – 00;43;07;05
David Hall
What was your solo vacation?

00;43;08;00 – 00;43;08;27
Karolien Koolhof
That was one week.

00;43;09;13 – 00;43;12;09
David Hall
Oh, wow. Yeah, I’ve done that. That sounds amazing.

00;43;12;20 – 00;43;31;03
Karolien Koolhof
I can recommend it. It’s perfect, really, to be able to have some time to process all of your thoughts. Yeah. Just do what you want to do. Even maybe don’t do anything at all. Because I also did that. Yeah, I can definitely recommend that.

00;43;31;26 – 00;43;48;15
David Hall
Yeah, that sounds great. And then the other point you’re making it is about our calendar. Definitely make it some time to recharge, but also making some time to plan. Think, you know, to have some dreams. You know, our calendars are very important places to set aside time from.

00;43;49;28 – 00;44;10;20
Karolien Koolhof
Yeah, I think my my most creative ideas came during COVID times when I was at home all the time and working here, I became very creative. I created like a whole e-learning. All of the part of the book was written that period too. So yeah, I think alone time is really key.

00;44;11;06 – 00;44;12;23
David Hall
Because you had some time to think, right?

00;44;13;03 – 00;44;16;24
Karolien Koolhof
Yes, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. The space and the time to do that.

00;44;17;01 – 00;44;24;29
David Hall
Yeah. So we got to carve that out. That’s that’s really important. And it’s even if somebody else that we’re working with doesn’t need that time, it doesn’t mean that we don’t.

00;44;25;25 – 00;44;27;09
Karolien Koolhof
True. Very true. Yes.

00;44;28;05 – 00;44;34;15
David Hall
Okay. Well, we’ve talked about a lot of things. Is there anything that you want to bring out that we haven’t hit on yet?

00;44;36;04 – 00;45;04;26
Karolien Koolhof
Well, I would just say and that’s what I always say is the main message of everything that I’m doing is that introversion is really a superpower. And as an introvert, just be proud of that and share it so that other introverts can embrace it as well. Because, well, at least one third of the population, the world population is introverted, but a lot of introverts still feel that they’re out there all alone.

00;45;04;26 – 00;45;22;06
Karolien Koolhof
So I think it’s really time to start sharing it a little bit more so that other introverts feel that they can be their authentic selves as well. It’s really a movement that we got to get moving a little bit more. It has started, but there’s still, I think, some space for it to grow.

00;45;23;02 – 00;45;48;07
David Hall
Yeah, so many people that I talk to either still don’t understand or when they do, they went through a long period of feeling like something was wrong. And that’s something that we are working hard to stop to help people embrace. I love how you put it there. Their superpowers, their gifts, you know. And of course, with the theme of your book, introverts can be amazing leaders, but they’re going to do it in their introverted way.

00;45;48;07 – 00;45;51;12
David Hall
They’re not going to do it acting like something that they’re not not.

00;45;51;19 – 00;45;55;21
Karolien Koolhof
Well, this is key, indeed. And to be proud of that, too.

00;45;56;13 – 00;46;02;24
David Hall
You’re doing some amazing work with introversion, with introverted leadership. Where can people find out more.

00;46;04;22 – 00;46;15;02
Karolien Koolhof
On my website, quiet quality or and while the book is available on Amazon, if people feel like reading it after this podcast.

00;46;15;25 – 00;46;19;19
David Hall
Thanks so much Caroline for being on the show today. It was so great to speak with you.

00;46;20;09 – 00;46;23;04
Karolien Koolhof
And thank you for having me. It was lovely talking to you.

00;46;24;10 – 00;46;48;27
David Hall
Thank you so much for joining me. I look forward to further connecting with you. Reach out to David at Quiet and Strong E-Comm or check out the website Quiet and Strong Gqom. It includes blog posts, links to social media channels, and send me topics or guests you’d like to see on the show. If you’re interested in getting to know yourself better, there is now a free type finder personality assessment on the quite strong website.

00;46;49;05 – 00;47;17;08
David Hall
This free assessment will give you a brief report, including your four letter Myers-Briggs code. You can also purchase the full report if you’d like more details, I’ll add a link to the show notes. There’s so many great things about being an introvert and so we need those to be understood. Get to know your introvert strengths and needs and be strong.

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